Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What would you do?

I played God last week.

I made a life-altering decision regarding the health care of one of my oldest and dearest friends.

And I'm still not sure I made the right decision for the right reasons.

This is Horace.

You don't have to look too closely to see that Horace has a rather pronounced growth under his left eye. Up close it's about the size of a marble and resembles a blister, but it's firm. He's had it for about a year now. We thought it was going away at one point but he scratched at it and it swelled up large and angry before settling down to its current size where it's remained for a few months. It doesn't seem to bother him in the slightest.

I like to think of Horace as my first born. I swooped him away from a litter when he was five weeks old because I feared neither he nor his mother were being cared for properly in a party house inhabited by a rotating group of young 20-somethings.

Horace became instantly, inordinately attached to me, accompanying me daily to work and on errands and weekend trips to my parent's house. He was there that Saturday night when I invited in for a nightcap the shaggy-haired guy who had driven me home from a party on his motorcycle. Only after that shaggy-haired guy made a big fuss over Horace did I realize he might be the future father of my child.

Horace's vet says the growth probably isn't cancerous now but could very well become cancerous in the future. She also said that, because it's so close to his eye, the only way to remove it would be to knock him out completely with general anesthetic.

The procedure would cost over $1,100 and Horace would be at the vet's for two days.

Horace is 11 and a half years old. Horace is a homebody who hates to be out of our sight for more than a few minutes. Horace also has a heart murmur - something we determined a few years back, after several hundred dollars of tests.

Horace is not going to get his growth removed.

I can't face it, quite frankly.

I can't face watching him shake and cry (yes, he sounds just like a baby) with stress when I leave him to a doctor who will administer an anesthetic from which he might not ever wake (putting older animals under is always risky), to remove a growth that he's lived with happily for a year.

Animals don't understand that certain things we subject them to are for their own good: they don't understand that sometimes short-term pain now staves off long-term misery later. I cannot rationalize this to my Horace: all he will experience is sheer terror and confusion.

And Horace is getting older. And Horace is my baby. And I can't do it.

And $1,100 is a lot of money.

Rob thinks I am making a mistake. He thinks the growth could turn cancerous later and then it will be too late to operate. He thinks Horace has many good years left and that I will never forgive myself if he dies prematurely because I didn't give him proper treatment when he was still relatively young and healthy.

But Rob is deferring to me, because ultimately he knows that Horace is my responsibility and my baby. But I know he thinks I am making a mistake. I know he thinks I am taking the easy route because it is easier, cheaper and more convenient right now.

I wish I could be sure he was wrong.

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MarĂ­a said...

I would do it. I would have it removed. It's obvious that he means the world to you, and I understand your reasoning fully so if you choose not to I'd understand that too.

As far as cost, have you looked into pet insurance? We have VIP. It covered our boxer's preexisting hip dysplasia. It may help.

And I love that last picture!

Rachel said...

I would do like Maria says and look into insurance.
My parents put one of their dogs through all the surgeries and chemo and all of that stuff and it gave him a bit longer life, but it wasn't a pleasant one.
I understand where you're coming from. I probably wouldn't do the surgery either, because of his age... but I can't tell you what to do.
I can however, send you love and support via interwebz.

Adore that last picture!!!

Bekah said...

I certainly see the pros to doing it, I personally would not. Because of his age it is dangerous as you said, but even more so...right now, he seems perfectly happy. If he were in pain Id be the first one to say get it taken care of now! but he isnt. He is fine, and he is 11.

Pet insurance is a great thing as the other commenters have posted, but I doubt they would cover it since it would be pre-existing. Cant hurt to look into though.

Kelly O said...

The last picture made me tear up. SO. CUTE.

Me, I would not do it. We fight against death as if any alternative is better. That is our human fear, not our animals' fear.

Shauna said...

I think that Horace would agree with you in this.

At his advanced age, I personally would not do it either.

Awesome Mom said...

I would not do it and I think that you are doing the right thing for the right reasons.

I used to work at a vet clinic and I saw all sorts of pet owners doing all kinds of painful procedures to their pets just so they could have a tiny bit more time with them. Your pet does not realize that you are doing something for their own good, they just think that you are hurting them to be mean.

I got a kitten when my husband first joined the military. He was leaving for three months and I wanted to have a friend with me. We had not even owned him a year when he started throwing up his food. After eliminating all the "simple" things that could be wrong the only thing left was cancer. I put him to sleep before he got too thin. I did not want to have to watch him starve to death.

I could have spent a mint and gotten him chemo, but really all I would have been doing was torturing him. Plus we did not have that kind of money at the time (or now even). It was sad and hard, but in the end he got a nice and peaceful death with minimal suffering. I think the hardest thing about being a pet owner is knowing when to put the animal to sleep.

Pregnantly Plump said...

What a tough decision! It's obvious you love your cat, and I do think you are putting his needs ahead of your own here.
What a wonderful pet! Ours are 6 and a half years old and I wish I treasured them more. They can be such pains, but they are really great cats.

Anonymous said...

Oh, that's tough. We have a kitty that is getting on in years, and I don't know how we would deal with it should she be sick.


Kat said...

I completely agree with Kelly O. I think she said it right.
Good luck! I know it is a horrible decision to have to make.

AutoSysGene said...

I have no advice just sending (((hugs))). It's so hard when we have to make health decisions for our furry loved ones, huh?

The Rambling Housewife said...

Oh, I heart Horace . . .What a big and beautiful fur baby .. . *Hugs*

Chelle said...

Sad. We had to put some dogs to sleep when I was growing up. It stinks, and is like losing a family member.

Go with your gut feeling.

Love the pics!

Jess said...

I have a Chumba. Chumba is my Horace.Chumba is enormous, furry, grumpy with the kids and utterly, passionately devoted to me. (My husband knew he'd hit the jackpot when Chumba let him sleep next to me. TOUCHING me warranted growls from my pillow where my big yaller kitty was being my cat hat for several more months.)

Chumba is also eleven, and beginning to slow.

I hope I don't have to face the decision you're making. I think you're going with your heart, and I am impressed that you're thinking about his comfort as well as yours.

Anonymous said...

I think this is a really hard decision - and I don't know that I could feel 100% about it either... But the most important thing is for you to decide that whatever you do really is best for this particular cat. And not for anyone else.

So I won't say what I would do. I think it's irrelevant - and just a little too easy, in the way that theoretical decisions always are. said...

As long as you are at peace with the decision, that's all that matters. As many have said before me, he wouldn't understand, and it might not make a difference, anyway. It may NEVER become cancerous. Or, you could get it removed and he could STILL get cancer. There aren't any guarantees other than you are uncomfortable with the idea of removing it.

Hope he lives bunches of more healthy years.

Kj said...

what a handsome cat. i have two cats myself (and a dog) that i rescued as well. i empathize. i really do.

it doesn't sound like the cost is really the contributing factor in your decision but your love for him and concern for the experience he will have.

if it does not appear to bother him, i'd wouldn't do anything either. just give him lots of love, and take plenty more pictures.

i think horace will be around for much longer than you might think too. cats can live into their early twenties so there's a good chance he'll be able to watch graham grow up into a man that knows better than to use potty language at the dinner table;-)

Aunt Becky said...

I don't have any good advice or anything, but he's a lovely cat. And he looks well loved.

Vodka Mom said...

I think Horace (and YOU) needs a martini. I'll go fix them.

Heather said...

My cat is getting old too. The vet wanted to do some testing to see if she's got "something or other" that's making her lose weight...after they told me she needed to lost weight. I don't understand vets sometimes. They also said she's starting to get arthritis. I suppose there's a test they could do to find out for sure and charge me 200 bucks for that too.

So, even though I love my cat, I do not spend money like that on her. I need that money for things like milk for kids. If I had a ton of extra money, maybe I would do that stuff, but I don't.

Short answer? No, I wouldn't do the surgery. Not on a cat that old.

Anonymous said...

First of all, that last picture is hilarious!

I don't know what I would do. I struggle hugely with stuff like that.

But you know what? I'm convinced vets outline worst-case scenarios and then propose expensive solutions to every potential problem because they know a lot of us will be guilted into spending a whack of money.

I say trust yourself on this one.

Anonymous said...

I let my cat go last summer. I could have tried treatment that would have meant feeding tubes, and medication ... I said no, then I tried with all my might to help him get better. We lost him to the illness. My daughter still cries for him. She misses him so much and has grieved so hard for that dear sweet animal. I have regrets, yet I don't. I miss him so much, yet another sweet dear alley cat has entered our family, our hearts. We live we die. It is something that pet owners have to face sooner than we would like. I had my dear sweet cat since i was in university, before my husband ... I miss him, I also cherish all the time I had with him.

Trust your gut.

Brittany said...

Not that I don't love my pets, but I don't think I would do it either. At that age, and with there only being a chance of it becoming cancerous-- I just don't think I could justify the cost...

Kamis Khlopchyk said...

That's a horribly difficult decision to make. I think you know in your heart what the right one is for you and that's the one you should go with.

He looks like quite the character, that last picture cracked me up!

kittenpie said...

I think it's really tough having to make those calls. Which is why I'm actually kind of glad that Ginger went the way she did this summer, with none of the attendant heartache and guilt. I'm sorry to hear you have to make that decision - it can't be easy. Stick it out for a while, okay, Horace?

Kayris said...

I would do it too, but considering my job, that's probably not surprising.

11 is still young for a cat. My last cat lived until age 21. And it's just a growth, a noncancerous one. You could buy him another 11 years with this surgery.

Animal anethesia has come SO FAR and with the proper precautions (bloodwork, IV fluids) he could have a simple procedure.

Also, if your vet doesn't offer laser surgery, call around and find one who does. That thing looks like it could be lasered off in no time. At the practice I work at, we just removed a fairly large growth from the shoulder of a dog with minimal sedation and local anesthetic. She went home less than an hour later.

Feel free to email me if you have more questions. I just feel like that's an easily fixed problem that could save your cat and keep him around for many more years.

KathyLikesPink said...

What is your gut telling you? Not your brain or your heart. Trust me, the gut knows.

How will you feel if he does succumb to cancer in a year? Will you miss him terribly but understand that he was elderly and his time had come? Or will you feel horribly guilty and berate yourself for many months?

I'd recommend you take whatever action that the result will not haunt once he's gone. If you're comfortable as is, there you go.

I had to put our two cats down at the beginning of summer. Two, on the same day. It was hard. Yesterday, I went to the vet's to pick up their ashes (because yes, I did have them cremated). I thought I could handle it. I cried all the way to work, and again last night.

Anonymous said...

Wow this subject is close to my heart! One of our kitties has a weird thing.... he EATS everything in site. That usually means anything cotton. Well while my husband and I went on our honeymoon, we came back and realized that our housesitter wasn't doing her job and poor Luke had eaten something and it was blocking his system. He had lost 20% of his weight in 2 weeks.

We had to have surgery for him, and $2000.00 later he was our same ole lovable cat.

I know its expensive, believe me I know, but sweetie you gotta do it. Your husbands right. It's so hard, but its for the better of your sweet furry friend.

Big Hugs and Good Luck.

Anna said...

I hate tough decisions about pets! We had to put down two of our dogs about a year ago. One had arthritis and would never make it through another winter and the other had cancer...both were super hard on my entire family.

Anonymous said...

This is such a hard decision. Having owned cats for most of my life, and having two Maine Coons which I mostly pick on, but adore and would be crushed if anything happened to, I don't know how I deal with a decision like this.

You know your cat and how he reacts when put in certain situations and what would be best for him longterm. You also know your head and your heart. Sometimes it's hard to keep one from ruling over the other.


KG said...

A few months ago, I had a similarly awful issue with my cat who, I discovered, suffers from incurable bladder issues. And no matter what you decide, you end up with people who second-guess your decision and you wonder if you made the right choice.

Your cat looks wonderful and it sounds like you made the best decision for him and your family. Good for you.

Zip n Tizzy said...

I lean more with you. I understand why people go for expensive surgeries for their animals, especially when they are young, but I tend to feel the way you do and would go for quality of life for your sweet kitty. It's a hard decision. He's really lovely.

Stacey said...

I don't think I'd do it either.
If its not bothering him and you don't know for sure that its going to become cancerous, I'd leave it.
Horace is beautiful.

RiverPoet said...

I haven't read what the others wrote, mostly because I wanted to give you my unadulterated opinion.

Recently my son took it on himself to pay for some dental work for his cat. She is now 11 years old and has been attached to his side since we brought her home. As it turns out, she was fine from the surgery (had to have 3 extractions and was found to have a chronic, hereditary condition that will probably cost her most of her teeth, despite regular vet care). It cost him $700+, out of his own earnings, but I let him make that decision.

We have spent much money on keeping our animals healthy and trying to save them when they weren't. It's always a very difficult and personal decision. To me, it seems as though Horace would go through much more stress and a much greater risk by undergoing the removal of the growth. If it were endangering his life, then certainly I could see doing the surgery. However, with his anxiety and his murmur, I wouldn't take the chance.

I wish you and Horace all the best - Peace - D

Corey~living and loving said...

HUGS! This isn't an easy decision.

When my beloved dog was 11 she had a small lump on her shoulder. It wasn't cancer, but it was strange so the vet encouraged us to remove it. It had been there for a year...and hadn't grown, but we decided to do it.

two weeks after it was removed it started to grow back rapidly. within a month is was bigger than it ever was. The vet decided to go in again and remove it.

within a started growing and growing and aggresively. At this point it didn't stop growing. We either had to pay over $800 every month to remove it...or just let it grow and see what happened. :( it grew til it split her skin....and it wasn't good. We had to make the tough decision to constantly be removing it ($$$$) or put her down. it was horrible.

in the end....we wished we never had the first surgery.

I type all this to let you know...that we just never know what is best....and we can only do our best...and in the end...we may regret it, but who knows what would have happened if we made the other choice.

I say....just love him...and enjoy all the time you have with him. no matter what you choose.


Mandy said...

It's often hard to know the right thing to do with animals. Big hugs and kittie squishes.

caramama said...

That's so tough. And we've been in a similar place with cat and dog, so I totally understand. You just have to go with your gut on this.

Our vet says that if a growth is not growing or changing in size, it's probably fine and we can leave it. But if it starts changing size or shape, that's the time that we evaluate getting it removed. So it sounds like to me, removing the growth isn't necessary anyway. If it does change, you can always reevaluate then. But you'll still simply have to go with your gut.

Love that last pic especially! They are just so cute!

AdriansCrazyLife said...

Oh my goodness! Are you sorry you ever asked? Looks like the comments are running about 50/50 for and against. I won't give you any advice, but I will send you a hug. That's a tough decision to make, but I agree with the poster who says to go with your gut. You know your cat and you know what is going to be right for your family.

Damselfly said...

Oh, Horace is so cute!

I think it would be hard to know the right thing to do in this case. But you have to go with your mama instinct.

dawn klinge said...

(Hugs) to you...that's a tough decision. Horace looks like a very cool cat.

painted maypole said...

oh, oh, oh. having been mommy to 6 cats so far I know this struggle. you love your cat, obviously. enjoy him for however long you have him, and do your best to drop the worry and guilt.

flutter said...

ooooooof. My heart.

Do your best, love. Follow that big beautiful heart of yours

tinsenpup said...

There just isn't a right answer to that question. I'd be one of those putting him through all of that trauma and having treatment at any cost to him and your family. I really admire that you have made a practical decision based on ALL factors (including your love for him), rather than a purely emotional one.

Beth said...

I think you are making the right decision. I think 11 is getting up there for a cat's age.

That being said, you made me a bit concerned about having to live with my daughter's cat for MANY, MANY more years. Oh.. my... How long do cats live anyways? ;-)

Beth said...

I think you are making the right decision. I think 11 is getting up there for a cat's age.

That being said, you made me a bit concerned about having to live with my daughter's cat for MANY, MANY more years. Oh.. my... How long do cats live anyways? ;-)

Anonymous said...

I'm with you - I think you're making the right decision. I know Horace is your baby and you love him and he's wonderful. But, Horace is still a cat . . . that money needs to be spent on people. We had to do the same thing with our baby a little over a year ago. She tore her achilles attendon chasing a ball at the park (lab, not cat). This would have cost $2500 to fix and she would have been laid up for 6 months! And oh, she could never run again or go hiking or play ball with us. She was only 9. Toughest decision we've ever made . . . quality of life ultimately was the decision-maker. Putting her down when she was otherwise healthy was soooo difficult!

You know what you're doing . . . the very fact that you're considering Horace's feelings and fears shows how much you love him.

Stomper Girl said...

You can only do what feels right for you. Apparently white cats are far more prone to skin cancer but it's usually on their pink ears and noses. But fingers crossed for you! I love that photo of him and baby Graham.

Queen of My Domain said...

My parents had to put our older dog under to have some large growths removed. It was so hard on them and the dog. They were very worried for days after if he would make it or not. He did but they swore they wouldn't ever put him through that again. Do what is best for you all. But he looks like a very loved part of your family.

Mary Lynn said...

I wouldn't have him operated on. I totally understand the love we can have for our pets, but I think sometimes we do too much to extend their lives for ourselves, not for them...just because we love them so.

My parents had a diabetic cat that went on insulin for a little over a year before he finally passed away. I shudder to think how much the spent on his medication. At the time I was a teenager and he was my little baby...I don't think I really thought about how much it cost. But now I'm older and I realize how expensive it must have been. Was it worth it for adding a year to his life? A year in which he had episodes in insulin shock and such? I don't know...though I do know that after that year of watching him go downhill I was more than ready to let go when he finally did get too sick for us to help.

Unknown said...

Oh, Kelly! This post had me SOBBING!!!

Our pets are our first babies, aren't they? I can see how you feel, as I would feel the same way with any of our pets.

Sometimes the best decision at the time, isn't always the easiest.

I know my husband thought I was nuts when I forked out $600+ for Chance's last vet bill. It made me feel better that I knew I was doing what I could for him. He was at the vet's for 2 days and was really groggy when he got home. I had to carry my 65 lb. doggy into the car and into the house.

Sometimes I think of how hard it would be for me when any of my pets eventually go onto doggy or kitty heaven. Knowing how much it would hurt makes me think I don't have the strength to ever have pets again after that.

It is so clear that Horace is loved and that he loves you. I know that the decision you do make will be what is best for both you and for Horace. xoxo

Amy said...

This is such a hard thing! Putting them through something painful and scary when they can never understand - I really get this. I just don't know...

The picture of the two "babies" - OMG there are no words for the preciousness!!

Mental P Mama said...

I think all white cats have heart murmurs...mine does. And they are very susceptible to skin cancer. That being said, I would probably have it removed too...but if the vet isn't that concerned, I would go with her advice. Good luck with your first baby!

PS That last picture is the best!

Eternal Sunshine said...

I don't envy that decision.

Sparing Horace uneccessary pain and suffering may be the most important thing at this point.


OHmommy said...

Oh Kelly, what a hard place to be in right now.

I hate the "what ifs" in life. I am siding with Rob on this one. He might have a lot of years ahead of him.

Betsy Mae said...

Given his age, I probably wouldn't do it either. It's a tough call with cats because they sometimes do live really long lives.
We have spent alot of money on our dog over the past year ($2000 on dental work alone after having him for only six weeks) but he is 2 years old and a rescue...we sort of feel the circumstances warrant someone spending 'fixing him up'. If he was an old boy I wouldn't bother. You don't even know it will become cancerous, what if you go to all that trouble (and stress and money) when it may never have turned anyway? Besides, anasthetic is hard on animals...especially seniors.
I wish I could tell you that you've made your decision now stop worrying but let's face it, you will likely worry. If it means anything I think you've made a good decision.

Ellyn said...

What a hard decision. I think you are making the right one if it means anything to you. If it were bothering him or he were suffering then I would say do it. But you are right, he won't understand. It will just be pain to him.

Having pets is so rewarding but also can be very painful. They are worth it though. I love mine so much.

Autumn said...

I'm so sorry you have to make this tough decision. I have been in your shoes more than once with a beloved pet. My advice (I know you didn't ask for any.. appologies!) would be to do what you feel in your heart is the right decision, do not do something because you feel someone else believes you are making a mistake. Good luck to you and Horace, may he live a happy life, no matter how long.

Jenifer said...

I have had dealt with similar situations with my beloved pets. You know Horace best so I would follow your heart on this one.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I read all the comments and am wonderfully surprised at the lack of judgmentalism among the commenters. I thought sure someone would be smacking you down for even bring up the cost.

It's a tough decision and yours to make. We did a 1600 dollar surger for one of your dogs--but that was more clear cut, a torn ACL, and he was only 8 at the time.

Good luck with whatever your decide. That bottom photo is one-of-a-kind!

Anonymous said...

It's so hard to decide. My mom's dog - who was sort of my dog, too - developed a cancerous growth on his lip. She paid to have it removed, and it grew back bigger and badder than the first time. Then, she decided he was too fragile to endure surgery again. Each decision was difficult to make. You've just got to go with your gut on this one.

Kori said...

Well, there isn't anything more to add than what is already here, other than if I were in your shoes, I would choose to NOT to have the operation. You make the best decisions you can with what information you have at the time-that's it. You can't look into the future and project what may or may not happen, and oyu can't make decisions based on those "what ifs." My two cents.

Anonymous said...

My two cents? I would not do it.

Anonymous said...

As someone who spent $1700 on cat surgery I can relate. A hard decision. I would go with your gut- mama knows best.

~*Jobthingy*~ said...

so hard. i have a friend. her dog was about Horace's age. she had 3 cyst's under her neck. she chose the operation route and got another 3 years out of her.

but who is to say that had she not have had them removed the dog would have lived the same amount of time.

one never knows. you are following your heart. if it doesnt seem to be bothering him i would probably do the same as you and just let it be.


OH and *ear scratches* for horace of course.. unless youre into that sort of thing ;)

Laski said...

Here's hoping that Horace just has a little kitty beauty mark . . .

You take care, you . . . We can never, ever know. You just gotta go with your gut, you're heart.

Kelly said...

I think that you are doing the right thing. I wouldn't do it either. Sending big hugs out to you

I love that last picture - that is adorable!!!

BusyDad said...

I think you made the right choice. Why traumatize him for something he would not understand? Just spoil him rotten during his last days. That's what he would choose too, I'm sure. (oh, and our blogiversaries are less than a week apart! happy belated!)

John-Michael said...

Horace's life has thrived in response to your following of your magnificent Heart from the outset. Following the leading of your Heart seems (to me) to be an appropriate course even now. I trust you ... and I know that Horace does too.

Lovingly ...

Amy said...

I'ld go with your gut. I know it must be tough.

lattemommy said...

I've read through some of your comments, and I realize that there are going to be as many people who agree with you as disagree. I have a precious cat who is now 9 years old, and I can only imagine being in your situation. So, I'm not going to tell you what I'd do. I'm going to tell you to trust in your instincts and go with your heart. And I hope he has a good life that is many more years long.


Manager Mom said...

I don't know...I am allergic to pets so I have not experienced first hand that family history.

But no matter what you do, it is clear that he is loved and cherished. I wish you the best.

contemporary themes said...

Oh, I'm so sorry you are faced with such a decision. I would have a hard time with that one, too. I have two 11 1/2 year old babies, Charlotte and Emily, and boy, it would be a tough call, especially for Emily as she is so shy and hates to be away from home.

I do have pet insurance, though, and I would recommend it. I don't remember the company name, but they insure no matter what age. (I just got coverage this year because I knew they were getting old.) If you are interested, let me know and I'll find the info. and pass it along.

Karen MEG said...

Kelly, how difficult this decision must be for you. I don't have any advice, I think you'll do what's best.

Horace (and what a GREAT name) is adorable, and that last picture is so sweet.

Mandy said...

Horace is a beautiful kitty! Looks like my two cats. It's just such a shame that vet care costs so much. We'll just pray he will be ok. ((hugs))

Tonya Staab said...

I know I am WAY behind on your blog (I'll blame the month long vacation), but as I was skipping through my google reader I came across this post.

I had to put my beloved pet to sleep this week. I'm still struggling with my decision. I don't know if it was the 'right' one, but at the time I felt like it was my only option.

I hope you make peace with whatever your decision ended up being.