I have a sick family member. Unlike my contemporaries who in the next ten to twenty years will be looking after aging parents, both my parents are deceased. But a furry member of my household has been informally diagnosed with intestinal cancer.
I’ve known for some time now that something was wrong with my cat Hafiz but countless vets couldn’t get to the bottom of it. Finally, in light of all the tests he has had and the fact that he inefficiently digests his food, has dropped half his body weight and has chronic diarrhea, the writing is on the wall. And I finally found a vet who knows what she is doing and who will come out to the house.
Apparently, intestinal cancer sometimes reverses with the treatment of steroids. Regardless, steroids are prescribed to provide some comfort and quality of life to animals, and to stimulate the appetite and temporarily relieve symptoms. Hafiz now takes a half a steroid pill in the morning. When he received an additional one at night, he kept me up with his constant need for food and amped up energy.
Having worked in a nursing home years ago, I am well aware of the body’s decline with aging and/or illness. There is incontinence, decrease in appetite (or increase if the body can no longer metabolize well), organ deterioration and sometimes impaired hearing, seeing or memory. And so I see the signs in Hafiz. Sometimes he doesn’t realize there is food right in front of him and I have to show him a few times until it registers. And he goes through about five jars of baby food a day.
Hafiz is still happy. For a few hours he enjoys sitting by the screen door looking out and he still purrs when sitting next to me while I write. But he sleeps mostly on the floor now and in the closet. He has a new distressful meow that he calls out to me occasionally and all I can do is pet him and tell him it’s okay. I’m here. His brother, Rumi seems to know something is up.
We could go on for months like this but I have accepted what is happening. And I have carved out some time to be at home with him instead of traveling so much for work. Once he is gone, there will never be another Hafiz.