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September 12, 2003: Narrow

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Rebecca is getting old; has been losing weight for quite some time now. Last year I wrote about trying to trick her into eating more, in an attempt to get her to regain some weight after the yearly vet exam showed how much more she lost But last year I didn't spend too much time worrying about it, because there were blood tests and there were physical exams, and except for the heart murmur and the acknowledgment of old age, it seemed that everything else was normal.

This year wasn't the same story. This time when the vet came she had lost two more pounds. Considering she started at 9 pounds and the vet weighed her in at 6, this is a very bad sign. And this time when we did the round of blood tests, things weren't so fine.

It could have been worse. It could have been kidney disease or diabetes or any number of other conditions that would have required difficult medication and treatment options and forced us to make some decisions I'm not yet prepared to make. But luckily it's just hyperthyroid. Just hyperthyroidism. I never thought I'd be so happy about such a diagnosis, but after some of the other options that had come up after initial tests were inconclusive, this was the best of the lot. After all, it's so common in older cats that it's easy to treat. Drop a pill in her mouth twice a day for the rest of her life or inject her full of radioactive isotopes and turn her into a glow-in-the-dark cat to destroy her thyroid and everything will be happy.

She took the pill with absolutely no difficulty, so it wasn't that she was hard to medicate. Unfortunately she is one of the small numbers of cats who cannot tolerate the medication in pill form. Basically she ended up puking her guts out on a daily basis, and sometimes more often than that, and by the time of her first checkup she'd lost another half pound. She's skin and bones. When she sits on my lap and I pet her fur and slick it close to her body I can feel every one of her vertebrae and the sharpness of the bones underneath her skin, with no padding to dull their edges from my probing fingers.

There is another alternative for the medication, although you have to have it specially ordered from very specific veterinary pharmacies. They've managed to put the stuff in a highly absorbable cream, which gets rubbed into the cat's ear.

They sent me the first box a little over a week ago, and when I opened it I found six skinny syringes of medicated cream and a sheet of explicit instructions. Apply 0.1 cc of the cream to the inner ear of the cat twice a day, said the instructions. But do not apply with bare skin. Only do this when wearing gloves.

Because most people do not make a habit of keeping gloves in their houses, the pharmacy had very nicely included six little finger gloves in the box one for each syringe. These were rolled up into little latex discs, carefully nestled beside the syringes on a bed of cotton. And surely I do not need to go into much more detail here before you all figure out just what these little things look like.

Or maybe I do, because after all at age 34 I have long since grown past the age of immaturity and at this wise and mature age I would certainly always refer to them as finger gloves and not as finger condoms, and I would never giggle madly and refer to the little air bubble at the tip of the finger after slipping on the glove (condom) as the 'reservoir tip', and I would never gleefully announce to my husband, twice a day, regular as clockwork, in my best redneck drawl, that it's time to slip on a finger condom and go grease up the cat.

Or maybe I would, if only because right now humor is the only way I can deal with this situation; with the knowledge that my little girl is sick and isn't getting any better. Maybe the humor is what I use to try to pretend that the vet doesn't keep suggesting we do an ultrasound because he thinks maybe something else is going on too; there's a thickness in her intestines that might or might not be a problem and there are other symptoms that shouldn't be happening with this medication that suggest that there might be something else as well. Maybe the humor is sometimes the only way I can forget that there ever was mentioned the possibility of intestinal cancer, or that the only other treatment option available for this is so prohibitively expensive that suddenly I am forced to try to put a price on a life, to try to somehow put all the what-ifs together into some more cohesive puzzle; to try to demand from whatever deity may or may not exist that I be given some kind of guarantee that if we go through this, she will live a long and healthy life because I don't know how to be ready to let her go.

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