Heartache, Sadness and Healing
This blog post is about our experience with the terminal illness of our much loved fur baby. I generally don’t share details of my personal life, but I know sharing will help me on my healing journey. So here goes…
On December 11, 2014, we learned that our beloved pet of 15 years, Jazzy, had bone cancer in her jaw. She had a progressive tumour growing in her lower jaw that was eating away at the bone. The vet said that there was a spot in her jaw where there was so little bone left, it would eventually fracture… and didn’t think she’d last very long.
Jazzy had lost a tooth a few weeks before, which we later realized was because of the tumour. The hole in her gum where the tooth had been wasn’t healing closed, which resulted in an infection. The vet flushed it out and gave her an antibiotic shot, which were continued every 2 weeks until her last days. She was put on a strictly canned (soft) food diet (which she had never liked much before) but was definitely enjoying the fact it was easier to eat.
Our choices that day were:
- having the tumour surgically removed (including some of the jaw bone, which would have left her mouth deformed and her face disfigured)
- care for her at home until it got too difficult for her to go on.
We came to the conclusion that it would be a selfish act to put her through surgery, which would leave her so deformed that she’d have difficulty eating. We decided to bring her home, to care for her and to savour every moment we can, as long as we could until:
- she couldn’t groom herself anymore
- she couldn’t eat anymore
We wanted to make the most of the remaining time we had with her. We were hoping she’d at least last through the Christmas holidays. She always enjoyed the hustle and bustle of putting up the Christmas tree and lights and we were determined to make it a special, memorable holiday together.
Jazzy wasn’t just a beloved pet. My son was 2 years old when we got her. She was more like a childhood playmate to him… and she was my little companion. She slept with me every night and hung out in my office with me while I worked. She loved hanging out in the kitchen when I made dinner or did my Christmas baking. We always joked that she thought she was human – hanging out with mom in the kitchen. She loved fruit (especially bananas!) and watching YouTube videos of birds on the laptop or iPad.
By the time March rolled around, she was having difficulty eating. She had lost a lot of weight and couldn’t groom her chest anymore. The tumour had grown large enough to affect the inside of her mouth, which was causing her to drool a lot and it had become difficult for her to lick to groom or eat. During her last week with us, I would sit on the floor next to her at her food dish, so I could use a spoon to stack her food back up after every few licks to make it easier to pick up with her tongue. I’d started giving her sponge baths to help keep her clean. Jazzy had always been the cleanest cat I’d ever seen. She groomed all the time – and if you touched her after she groomed, she would groom that spot again. Needless to say when she got her sponge baths, she sat very still, purring and loving the fact that I was cleaning her up.
On March 24, the 3 of us were sitting on the couch. I reached over to wipe some drool from her chin and spotted blood on the kleenex. We immediately scooped her up and brought her to the vet knowing that this was likely the day we would have to say our final goodbye. We knew this day would come eventually, we had even expected it sooner, but no matter how much you think you’re prepared… you’re never “really” prepared. It’s still surreal and numbing.
The tumour had grown so large, that her teeth were pushed into the middle of her mouth, which had chewed up and cut the skin on the roof of her mouth. That’s where the blood had come from. We couldn’t imagine the pain she must have been feeling. She seldom had days where she indicated she was in pain (I had pain meds for those days). The vet was convinced the antibiotics were the reason we were able to enjoy her longer than any of us expected. She called her a little trooper during our bi-weekly visits for her antibiotic shot… and even on that last day, Jazzy was fighting the sedative she was given before being euthanized. The doctor had to come back into the room twice to check if she was sedated enough. My little girl didn’t want to let go, despite the pain she was in.
We had already discussed and planned to keep her ashes. We have a beautiful picture urn with her paw print that sits prominently on a shelf in the living room. We’ve finally reached the point where we’re ok with packing up and storing her basket of toys and food dishes. Her little beds in my office and the living room however, will remain where they are for now.
Very soon, we’ll be putting up the Christmas tree again. Our memories of last Christmas are warm, they make us smile and we miss her terribly.