In Which My Little Guys Dwindle
My life seems to really be revolving around the
boys. We have quit horseback riding, don't see our friends, and
the house is a mess. We have gotten to where we hate to deny the
boys anything and the house reflects it. The sofa is draped with
blankets so they can lounge on it and Eugene can sharpen his claws
on the side without ruining the upholstery. (This from a cat who
has NEVER been a furniture scratcher.) A scratching post in the
middle of the living room floor, an item they hold in great disdain.
Mismatched area rugs all over the carpet, attempts to be "vomit
catchers." A fluffy pet bed in front of the fireplace, also
ignored. The box we carried Eugene to the vet in when he perforated
his bowel is under the coffee table. There are empty tuna cans
and scraps of food all over the kitchen from Gener's tuna/meat
on demand diet. Stools and benches are positioned so Austin can
get into his favorite furniture now that his neuropathy is so
bad in his hind legs. In fact, as I write this, I am so disgusted
by the mental image, I may go downstairs and clean house!
About midnight, Eugene got very restless and started pacing,
scratching in the litter box repeatedly, and crying. Paul got
up but Eugene didn't want food, he didn't want to go outside,
he didn't know what he wanted. Finally, Gene got back in bed with
Paul and tried to burrow into him. I could tell Paul was crying
again. Gene seems pretty happy most of the time, other than tiring
easily. Just yesterday we ran around the yard and had a good game
of "sticks." He looked pathetic this morning. Very pale
gums, nose, and eye rims. Kind of that fuzzy, old, sick look cats
can get that looks simultaneously adorable and pathetic.
Today is Eugene's 50th!! Cats with intestinal lymphoma have a
median 50 day survival, so that half are dead by 50 days (and
essentially all by 100 days). So Gene of the Jungle has made it
into the top group! I find it hard to believe it has been 50 days.
I wish we could be saying it has been 500 days. But all the worry
and money and time have been worth it to have this silly little
bunny around. He has been having a great time, too, in general.
He was so good this morning (or so sick, or so resigned?) that
he didn't even whine as we drove to the vet for his third round
of chemotherapy. He is such a trooper.
Both of the boys have been little cat angels. They often sleep
together during the day. One day last week when Eugene was having
kind of a tough post-chemotherapy day, I went downstairs and they
were on the sofa and Austin was cradling Eugene's head in his
paws, holding him gently! I am sure that I anthropomorphize tremendously
but Austin does do a lot of comforting. I find this remarkable
since Austin has been having trouble with his sugars and with
hind leg neuropathy and doesn't exactly act like he feels well
Chapter 12, In Which the Door Begins to Close
So many wonderful people are asking about
Austin & Eugene. Austin is okay, taking good care of his brother.
Eugene's time is drawing very close now. I have sent a few emails
out regarding his condition in the last two days and I am just
going to put excerpts from those messages here because I don't
have the energy to respond individually anymore.
Gene couldn't have his chemo on Tuesday due to an elevated white
blood cell count, indicating infection, and to being very anemic.
I hesitated before taking him to the vet that day, thinking he
looked so tired and knowing that it is a losing battle. He came
home on two new oral meds: vitamins and antibiotics twice a day.
I wanted to cry when the vet handed me those bottles and said,
"Are you trying to torture BOTH Eugene and me?"
Eugene looks VERY bad today. I can hardly bear it. He gets sweeter
and sweeter, wanting to be with one or both of us all the time,
snuggling and purring softly. He is getting quite weak, losing
his balance on uneven footings (like when he walks on me!). He
was standing next to the window today and his poor little belly
skin (still no hair) was sagging, and I could literally see right
through the skin. He is just a little feather. He still has tiny
spurts of energy but not many. Now I am the one crying all the
So strange that losing a pet could hurt so very much, but I feel
like I can't bear it. This is exactly like when my mother died
of cancer. Everything, the dwindles, the pain, the wanting it
to be all over, even the love. My mother would understand me loving
this cat as much as her!
And even though I know I will be crazy once he does die, I just
feel like I can't stand this anymore. We have had two months that
we didn't expect to have with him, but it just isn't enough. So,
I am depressed and uncommunicative. Have you noticed?
I just got off the phone with our vet. The vet said that Eugene
will very likely go into respiratory distress before he dies and
that unfortunately, cats with this don't die very quickly. JUST
LIKE MY MOTHER. For a day, we listened to her "percolate"
from the fluid in her lungs, struggling to breathe. It was horrible.
I will want to have Gene euthanized before that happens. The vet
gently suggested stopping the antibiotics, both to spare Eugene
the trauma of the medicine and maybe even to hasten the end in
a gentle manner.
And I looked at the picture of Kisa and the other little cat
angels in the Sugar Cat Gallery last night and cried and cried.
Then I read a note about Fletch sleeping around Marcia's head,
like Gene does to Paul, and cried and cried. Gene came over to
me last night in bed and hugged my head for about an hour, gently
purring into my ear. Gene never leaves Paul's side at night. I
told Paul this morning that Eugene is saying good-bye to me.
So many of you know how much this hurts. And I thought I knew
how much you have hurt when you have written that your cats have
passed on, but I was wrong. I didn't know. I'm finding out.
June 5, 1997
Eugene is just
a tiny feather these days. He isn't out of bed much but
still gets up and does Gener things periodically. He doesn't
seem to adjust quickly to his rapid weight loss and nearly
flies into the air when he jumps up on something or trots
across the room. It is very adorable. He is at about 7 pounds
now, half of Austin, who has gained up to 14 pounds as we
try to fatten up Eugene. Every day that Gene is with us,
we are thankful. And we are very glad that we stopped all
of his chemo and his other medications. Now he doesn't have
to worry about all those force feedings. He has been back
to the vet twice for enemas, as he gets terribly constipated
and agitated, but seems to do well and comes home in a good
I have put a lot of work (and sublimation) into creating a new
area in our yard that we are calling the "Eugene Memorial
Garden." Gene goes out and inspects the work periodically
and approves. It makes me feel much calmer about the impending
days when there is no Eugene.
June 18, 1997
Eugene is starting to grow
some hair back at his surgical sites: belly, neck and front
paw. Sure improves his looks! We realize that this probably
means that the tumor cells are growing, too, but overall
he looks pretty good. Well, he actually looks terrible and
I no longer take many photos of him because when they come
back I see a scraggly somewhat bleary-eyed cat instead of
the cute little bunny that I love so much. He does still
want LOTS of cuddling and plays with his brother occasionally,
so there's life in the little guy yet. It is nearly 3 months
after his surgery. We have been joking that Eugene is waiting
for his bench to arrive before he dies. I ordered an English
Garden Bench for the "Eugene Memorial Garden"
shortly after Gene's surgery and the bench still hasn't
arrived despite many promises by the company. I'm now almost
afraid for the thing to get here, like its absence is the
only thing keeping Gene alive!
|Awaiting the bench |
June 27, 1997
The mythical garden bench
arrived two days ago and fortunately Eugene isn't superstitious
because he is still alive! Austin actually went over to a screwdriver
and tried to pick it up while my niece, Amy, and I were assembling
the bench, just like he was going to help, too. That cat is scarey
sometimes, he is so smart! I hope to have pictures soon, including
one of Austin with the screwdriver.
Eugene's hair is growing back more quickly than the climbing
plants for his garden arch are growing though. Gener has looked
relatively great. His "Uncle John" is visiting for the
summer from Birmingham, Alabama so Eugene has lots of fresh catnip,
daily brushings, grilled salmon, and general love from John. Needless
to say, Eugene loves it! Austin is doing great, too, and really
likes THEIR bench, so we are enjoying the summer to date, with
a full house and two cats in the yard....
|Austin catches some rays
||John and the boys share dinner
July 10, 1997
Gene continues to look pretty
good but he is weak as a kitten. Whereas we used to have many
discussions about who is dominant physically (he always wins the
mental matches), when I was brushing Gene the other day he tried
to resist and I realized I was holding him down with two fingers.
I nearly cried at his physical decline. I think Paul and I have
been hoping that Gene was cured by surgery and a few weeks of
chemotherapy. But he still brings lots of joy to this household.
Yesterday morning, I opened the back door to take my coffee to
the backyard for consumption, and Eugene ran out ahead and jumped
up on the garden bench! Needless to say, I joined him there, very
July 30, 1997
Took Gene in to our vet last week because
he looks like he swallowed a watermelon. He is skinny with
a big huge tummy that sticks out all over. The vet says
his tumor is back, about the size of a small orange and
he has lots of ascites (fluid) in his belly. As long as
he seems ok, she says to do nothing, especially since Eugene
has outlived essentially all cats with intestinal lymphoma.
"All" cats are dead by 100 days; Eugene is now
on day 135, thank you very much. His stool is still quite
dry and he is constipated; Dr. Candace said to give Gene
solid pack pumpkin because it is high in psylium. I was
doubtful that Eugene the carnivore would go for this, but
he loves it! I haven't noticed if we now have beautiful
BMs but he loves it! I guess this makes him pumpkin boy
(another PB, or piebald phrase, as Paul points out) instead
of watermelon boy as we were calling him.
|King of the Garden
As I said before, Paul and I have been in
denial again, thinking that Eugene must certainly be cured.
Physical evidence of a tumor sort of dashes that hope, huh?
Gene still looks pretty good. We were sitting on the garden
bench last night when he suddenly jumped down and went racing
off, chasing a lightning bug! He then sat and watched all
the lightning bugs, with his ears perked up, looking so
cute. I sat in bed for an hour last night just watching
him sleep next to Paul, looking like a little angel, slowly
snuggling closer to Paul and under the covers. I hope we
wake up some morning and Eugene has quietly passed away,
snuggled next to his dad.
Austin and Eugene spend a lot of time snuggled to each
other, too. Austin's hind leg neuropathy is flaring up again,
so they both look like old men, hobbling around. But still
August 10, 1997
Pumpkin Boy continues to grow! He seems determined to eat so
much that he will pop. What a way for a greedy little cat to want
to go out!
We took Austin in for another glucose curve. He is ok, no change
in the insulin. The vet (not Dr. Candace, I think; Paul did vet
duty this time) told him that Austin doesn't have neuropathy,
but a loss of muscle mass from his diabetes. If Austin's diabetes
is under control, this does not make sense to me. Why would he
be in an anabolic state and losing muscle if he is controlled?
Also, my diagnosis of cataracts in Austin was confirmed although
Dr. Candy hadn't thought that was the problem previously. The
cataracts are quite visible on both eyes and Austin's vision is
definitely affected. Decreased vision has not interfered with
him lazing his days away on the garden bench, however!
August 27, 1997
Gene is so pathetic. It's like he isn't Eugene at all. He doesn't
even look like Eugene. Tonight I took him outside for a few minutes
(he won't go out alone) and Austin went with us. Austin lagged
behind to spray the rhododendron with big streams of urine. Anyway,
Austin was spraying the bush and Eugene walked right through the
spray, got it all in his eyes, all over, and never seemed to notice.
I got so upset, realizing how out of it Eugene is. When I wake
up at night now to check to see if he is alive, I often wish that
he isn't. I just want him to die peacefully. But it is so awful,
he is already gone. Today is the 5 month anniversary of his surgery.
His 13th birthday is in about 2-3 weeks (we don't know his exact
birthdate). I want Eugene back.
August 30, 1997
Gene had diarrhea all over the bed last night and is essentially
dribbling everywhere. I picked him up and got covered with his
poop. His legs are so weak that he can't even get up on the bench
to get in bed and has a great deal of trouble even going DOWN
stairs. I am carrying around a wash cloth and have baby wipes
so I can keep working on his little butt and legs to get the shit
off. He smells terrible! So bad I can hardly stand it when I am
first near him. We took his special pillow off the bed and put
a plastic bag around it before putting the pillowcase back on
and put the pillow in his favorite spot downstairs. He is a little
puzzled by the crinkling sound the pillow makes now, but he is
sacked out downstairs now.
We went outside for awhile this morning and Gene wanted to join
Austin and me on the garden bench. He got his front legs up on
the bench but couldn't jump even slightly to get up. I lifted
him up and Austin & I sat there and snuggled him for about
15 minutes while he covered the bench in diarrhea. I have called
the vet and as a result I gave him some Kaopectate; now he he
will be stopped up. He can only eat tiny shreds of chicken, hand
fed, and often those just fall out of his mouth. I also got some
fluids to give to him through an IV here at home but he doesn't
seem to need them just yet.
Bless Candy's (the vet) heart. On the phone this morning, I was
telling her that even though Gene is so bad we just aren't ready
to put him to sleep yet but we may be ready in a few days. She
started to cry but then took a big breath and composed herself.
How many vets cry over their patients? Gene tells me he wants
to make it to September, his birthday month, though! As long as
he can move around some and doesn't seem to be in pain, we will
keep handfeeding him and cleaning his butt. Paul is still bed-bound
with his back, but I made him move downstairs to the coach today
so he can be in the same room with Gene. I am sure the coach is
much less comfortable, but I think Gene is calmer with us around.
He seemed to like that we all gathered in the living room and
had dinner and watched a movie. Gene even got up and begged some
pork chop from Paul.
I now realize that Gene has been getting up at night to poop
and has been unable to get back in bed. I had thought he just
wanted to sleep somewhere else. Seems like a very precipitous
decline in the last week, and I THINK that I hope the decline
continues very rapidly. We are still hoping he will die quietly
on his own. Poor little guy. And I have been having little crying
fits all day, knowing that the final dwindles are here.
Chapter 13, In Which We Say Good-Bye to Eugene
September 3, 1997
I feel so sick as I write this. So sick and so sad and so lonely.
The living room became "Gene Central" this last weekend.
I slept on the floor next to Eugene on Saturday night so he wouldn't
be alone. He seems to want to stay on his special pillow. He was
so precious; I woke up at one point and my hand was up on Gene's
pillow and he had his little head resting in my hand, sleeping
Sunday night we watched TV and had pizza in the living room.
Gene was ecstatic! Ham and pineapple pizza is one of his favorite
meals and we of course gave him plenty. Eugene actually groomed
himself when he was finished! This was the first grooming activity
we had observed in weeks. Paul slept on the floor that night to
keep Eugene company.
That pizza turned out to be his last meal. Monday morning, September
1, Gene got up but could not make it to his food dishes, a distance
of about 20 feet, without resting at least once on the way. He
refused food and water. We knew this would be the day that he
I worked in the yard all day, trying to keep myself busy. Eugene
made it out to the back porch after a struggle and laid in the
sun for about an hour, with Paul sitting at his side. It was a
beautiful day but there was a hint of fall in the air. Summer
is Eugene's time. He always hated when autumn arrived.
About 5 pm, I discovered Eugene collapsed
next to his pillow in a death flop. He was breathing but
unable to move. I picked up his little head and it was totally
limp. I called Paul and we laid on the floor next to Eugene
and held his paws gently. I sang him songs and told him
funny stories about him growing up. He blinked his eyes
occasionally but never moved. After about an hour he started
having little twitches in his legs. We thought these were
just muscle spasms but they escalated so that after 45 minutes
they were getting more violent and we were very distressed.
We instantly decided that it was time for the vet to intervene.
I first called Dr. Candace, although I knew she wasn't on
call. She wasn't at home, so I paged the on-call vet, who
knows Eugene well. He said it would take about 30 minutes
but he would be over.
|Paul & Eugene say good-bye, 9/1/97
Paul picked up Gene and held him in his arms on the sofa, while
I supported Gener's head. The seizures got worse but Gene never
cried or whimpered. We cried a lot. I continued to talk to Eugene.
Paul said I talked about how great Gene was, how he made it through
the summer as I asked, how he lived to September as I asked, how
he didn't die while we were at work, and how he was letting his
dad hold him in his arms as the end drew near. I also told Gene
the vet was on the way and we were going to help him, but I asked
him to die before the vet got there. Paul said I kept saying,
"Go, go, go." Gene struggled but as the vet stepped
up onto the porch, Eugene gave two huge whistling sighs and left
I can't believe I can even write this now. I have been home today
without Eugene for the first time and I am miserable. He was cremated
yesterday. I want to write about what happened after Gene died,
but I can't now. I am so very, very sad. I can't believe our little
angel is really an angel now. I woke up constantly last night,
reaching for Eugene. He isn't there.
September 29, 1997
Last night I woke up 3 times convinced that there was a big solid
white cat sitting on my chest. I swear this was not a dream. Could
it have been Eugene's ghost? I was dreaming all night about Gene,
or rather about a piebald cat that looked like Gene, that I wanted
to be Gene, but wasn't Eugene.
Austin seems to be doing a bit better but I think he misses his
brother, especially for snuggling as the weather grows cooler.
He goes over a lot to the spot where Gene "camped" in
the days before his death. It breaks my heart now when I see Austin
take his little plush dinosaur toy and wrap all around it before
he goes to sleep.
Personally, a month after his death, I think I miss Eugene MORE
I debated on whether or not to add the following after I found
a scrap of paper with a few notes scribbled on it the day after
Eugene died. But I will.
After Eugene died, we held him and cried and were disbelieving.
He was truly a little angel. As usual, even worse then usual,
he was a very dirty and ragged angel. I brushed him and Paul helped
me wash him. Poor little thing, he had so much dried diarrhea
on his back legs, and mats in his fur. We made him look beautiful
again, this time forever. Paul took the top off Gene's pet carrier
and lined it with a dark green towel, then gently laid Gene down
and covered him up to his chin.
We put the carrier on the floor in front of the sofa and sat
there stunned. We decided to open a good bottle of wine and have
a toast to our sweet comic and curious cat. While we toasted a
life well lived, Austin walked over, touched his nose to Eugene,
then sat down by Eugene's head, as if to guard him.
Though it may seem morbid, we didn't want to let go of Eugene.
That night, we moved his carrier up to the bedroom and sat it
next to the bed. It seemed wrong to go to sleep without Gene in
the bed with us.
Taking Eugene to the vet the morning after his death was incredibly
difficult. I cried a lot and could not believe that I would never
see my furry little bunny again. Paul was numb with grief.
Then I had to go to work. And when I came home in the early hours
of the morning, the house slept quietly. And for the first time,
there was no little Gener to greet me at the top of the basement
stairs. Eugene will never be there again.
What a difference a sweet little animal can make.