Monday, April 25, 2011

Not for Lack of Wanting

Assignment: Write and 1500 word essay based around & using the sentence "I have never wanted anything so badly in my life." Below is my essay.

I’ve never wanted anything so badly in my life. We were at the second specialist in a week and neither offered many options for the future. Though I tried to remain positive, it was becoming increasingly harder to keep hope for a treatment.

We’d been together, me and Roxy (or Miss Priss as I was prone to call her), for nine years—from the day I picked her out among the kittens available from the SPCA. A wee thing back then and only 10 weeks old, she melted my heart right off the bat when I found her curled up into a slightly older orange tabby. It was a ball of cuteness that even hardened men couldn’t ignore.

Two weeks earlier I’d asked my husband, Aaron, to take Roxy to the vet. She’d had a few questionable outcomes with trips to the litter box and I thought it should be checked out. I also instructed him to have her watery eye checked out. If she had an eye infection, she’d need antibiotic eye drops and I’d wrestle her to get them in as I always did.

The day Aaron took Roxy to her appointment I kept myself occupied with work. Though I didn’t believe there was reason to worry, I tended to find myself on edge whenever doctors were involved.

When I answered the phone expecting to hear news of what was ailing Roxy, I was greeted with a peculiar question from Aaron, “Did you notice this bump on Roxy’s head?”

“What bump? I never noticed anything.” I replied, confused by the question and searching my memory for anything I might have missed.

He went on to describe the protrusion the vet found on her forehead. It was palpable and even visible upon closer examination, but still easy to overlook due to her multi-colored tabby camouflage. The vet didn’t have a clear understanding of the bump’s origin or make-up and tossed around hypothetical diagnoses of a cyst or cancer. Before Aaron brought Roxy home, they performed a needle aspiration and sent the sample off for testing.

I spent the next few days trying to retain positive thoughts, talking myself through the options. If the bump turned out to be a cyst, the fix was easy—lance and drain. Should the test came back as cancer, we’d pick an aggressive treatment plan and take care of the situation. No problem.

Roxy’s doctor called after three days with news of what the biopsy uncovered. None of the scenarios I imagined could really prepare me for the diagnosis she delivered.


Cancer was in her sinus cavity, from what they could tell, but they had not yet done enough tests to determine the severity, the extent and the treatment options. Armed with the name of a veterinary surgeon, I immediately thanked the vet and called the number held in my shaking hand. After explaining the news I’d just received to the receptionist, I scheduled an appointment for the next morning.

Our time with the specialist proved to deliver even more dire news. The surgeon, a quiet man in his late 40s with balding hair, had a gentle demeanor. He spoke softly, but compassionately relayed the information we’d need in order to make our decisions.

“I’ve taken a look at the biopsy results your vet sent over and Roxy does have cancer. From what I can tell, it’s a mass in her cranial area where her sinuses are located. The mass is pressing against her left eye causing it to shift slightly from its socket. It’s also starting to crowd the area shared with the brain.” Dr. Trenton explained.

“Is there a treatment for her—surgery? Radiation or chemo?” I asked, inside praying for an easy answer from someone who had experience.

“I’m not sure which treatment would be appropriate or even useful in dealing with the cancer.” He went on to ask, “Has Roxy had any symptoms? Loss of appetite? Seizures?”

“No, she’s still eating and playing. She might be sleeping a little more, but she hasn’t had any seizures.” I answered.

“I’m very surprised to hear that. With the amount the mass is pressing upon the brain, I thought she would have had a few more symptoms. She really sounds like a miracle kitty.” The surgeon noted with surprise in his voice and further explained. “To really get a better understanding of what we are up against, we should get an MRI. I won’t know if surgery is an option until I get a clearer picture of where the mass is located.”

Agreeing with his recommendation to get further testing, I gave my consent to schedule the MRI appointment.

Aaron took Roxy to the clinic the next morning and dropped her off. She needed to stay there for a while in order for her to be put under anesthesia. It was the only way to keep her still enough for the images to come out clearly. I, again, took refuge in work and tried not to think about what she might be going through. Relief flooded me when the technician called to let me know Roxy woke up from the medication and could be picked up later. I’d happily spring her from the vet’s office as there’s a sadness only a pet owner can understand when they leave with their arms empty.

The results from Roxy’s MRI were explained to us the next day. The news left nothing to the imagination. As we were aware, the cancer had grown into her sinus cavity causing her left eye to shift. Because of the location of the cancer, surgery was not an option and the use of radiation and chemotherapy as a workable alternative had become very slim. Armed with additional information, we were referred to a veterinary oncologist in Northern Virginia. The doctor there was one of two in the state and she had become our last option for Roxy.

I scheduled a phone consultation with the oncologist to determine if the treatment she offered would be a viable choice. After Roxy’s test results and scans had been reviewed, it came down to a few simple questions.

“If Roxy was your cat, what would you do?” I posed, hoping her education and the hypothetical plight of her own pet would help me make a decision.

“I would do the radiation and chemo. Cats tolerate the treatment very well and have little to no side effects. From the results I have seen in our office with other cats, this might help her.” She responded.

“Will this cure her?”

“No, with this type of cancer, it’s very likely that it will come back in about six months. I have seen some of my patients last longer though. One even lived another year and a half before recurrence.” The specialist offered matter-of-factly.

I hung up the phone and suddenly felt the serious decisions looming heavily before me. I wished for many things: to crawl under the blankets and pretend like everything was ok, to find a miracle cure for Roxy, to let someone else make the call. Unfortunately, none of those things happened and I went about going over all the options in my mind.

Life went on as usual at home, with morning escapades and evening cuddle time where Miss Priss was showered with affectionate rubs. She still kept herself busy with her old tricks and habits—sitting on the back of the sofa to look out the window, attacking her brother, pawing us in the morning for food and partaking in meal time when she got her way.

After a very emotional conversation with Aaron, I decided to go ahead with the radiation and chemo treatments, all the while feeling in my heart that Roxy was one of those cats who would do well and survive longer than any doctor ever thought. She would be a survivor. She was a miracle kitty, after all.

Perhaps it was because I knew Roxy was sick that I began to notice her need to get away and hide in strange new places in the house. And maybe because I knew she was sick that my imagination started to drift to places I didn’t want to consider. Finally, I had to admit to myself that there was a real possibility she might not recover. The more I thought about it, the louder the voice of my heart became. If it was this hard to go through Roxy’s illness, how could I put her—or myself—through it all another time when she got sick again? I couldn’t. I called the next morning and cancelled the treatment.

As the cancer progressed, she slowed down a bit more—longer naps and fewer romps with her brother. She never lost her affectionate side or her playful nature and because she still seemed so much like herself, I struggled trying to understand how I would know when it was time to make the final decision.

Though I had spent the last few days in a constant state of sadness and reflection, I was able to clearly see when it was time to take Miss Priss on her last car ride. The cancer growth had progressed in such a way that her left eye protruded greatly, causing the eyelid to flip inside out. It was a sign I could not ignore and asked Aaron to call and make the appointment.

As we drove home after Roxy’s last trip, tears ran down my cheeks as my mind flashed through the wonderful times I shared with her. What a miracle she was to my life!

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