Saturday, December 31, 2011

Tripawed Adventures: The First 24 Hours

Last night we picked Asuka up from the vet after the amputation of her left front leg. When the vet called us in, he held her in his arms. She was still dopey from the anesthesia. He set her on the table as he spoke, stroking her. I noticed she was disinclined to standing then, and huddled close to the countertop. She was wrapped all around with bandages and that stuff they wrap on your arms after giving blood. Hers is a bright, cheerful yellow. She didn't even seem to notice we were there until I got down and looked her in the face.

I noticed a small hint of recognition in her gaze. Her ears pricked slightly and she occasionally meowed through the conversation. The vet gave us some cans of food and a tube in case we needed to invite some food into her mouth if she wasn't eating. We also got four days worth of pain medication in little separate syringes. I can tell you right now she doesn't like the taste of the meds. :)

I ordered the ES Clear that evening. We'll get it in the next week or so, by the time she's off the drugs.

Asuka mewed all the way home, though only half as loud as she usually does when she's taking a car ride. (Boy, can she yell!) I held her in my arms rather than put her in her carrier. It was difficult to figure out the best way to hold her, since her missing leg made it easy to lay on that side, but it probably also hurt like hell.

When we got home, I was going to keep her downstairs on the futon, so I got a towel in case she had an accident. But she started moving around as soon as I laid her down, and I thought she might fall off the futon, so I moved her to the floor. I thought, having just come home and still being dopey from drugs, she'd probably sleep a while longer.

Leave it to Asuka to give me a heart attack right off the bat!

As soon as I moved away, she got up, hobbled to the bathroom, and took an immediate dump in the litter box there. technically, that's Daisy's litter box (she's our third kitty, just adopted her this year). Daisy doesn't get along with the others, particularly Asuka, so she has her food and litter in the bathroom while Asuka and Dusty have theirs upstairs in the loft.

Now let me explain a little about our cabin.

It is a little log cabin, about the square foot size of a small, two bedroom apartment. The bathroom doesn't really even have a door; it's one of those accordian, sliding things that doesn't latch. We also have a curtain hanging up for better privacy. When we want to isolate someone, the best we can do is put one of hubby's kettle bells in front of the part that hinges in the middle and hope the determined kitty doesn't still manage to shove through.

The "two bedrooms" are actually a loft. A set of special stairs had to be made in order to go up through the square hole in the floor which divides the loft into two halves. Really, though, it's a loft with a square hole in the floor. Because the ceiling is peaked in the middle, you have to bend over when you get to the top of the stairs to avoid hitting your head on the slanted ceiling. We had to get rid of the undercarriage of our bed because we couldn't get it all up there. We cut the legs off the headboard, and the mattress is on the floor.

Aaaaaand now about those stairs.

They're actually a series of alternating platforms made so the stairs could climb steeply without banging your knee on the edges. There's no back to the stairs, so the cats often sit on the stair backwards to see what's going on in the kitchen. Dusty, the fat one, goes down them one at a time: he turns sideways to face the next platform, hops down, turns the other way to face the next platform, hops down, etc. until he reaches the floor. Another way to describe the stairs is this: a big, slanted ladder that rests at the top of the hole in the floor of the loft.

Asuka usually races up and down those stairs. I figured I'd give her a few days of healing before letting her go up. i planned on keeping her in the bathroom while I was gone teaching the next day.

After Asuka used the litter, she took off like a shot and RAN up those stairs!

I thought I was going to pass out. For a few seconds, it was like nothing was wrong.

Once Asuka got up there, she found one of her many favorite hiding spots and stayed there. I brought her some of the canned food, which she ignored, but I expected that. I've been feeding her canned food lately because the last few weeks she seemed a little thinner than usual, probably because of the cancer. My husband and I left her up there because, obviously, that was where she wanted to be.

When we took a potty break from our movie, I discovered she had moved to bed. Her back legs were tucked under her like she crouched, but she kind of just let her face smash into the blanket. I checked to make sure she was okay, which she was. I imagine there's nothing that feels comfortable to her just now. Dusty lay nearby. Once he even came over and licked her head, a gesture Asuka usually does not appreciate too often. She seemed to like it now.

By the time we went to bed, she was behind the headboard in the little tunnel made by the slanting ceiling meeting the floor and the headboard itself. I petted her good night (I had to do the earthworm slither to reach her, then wriggle myself back out) and went to bed.

I thought she'd stay there all night, though she usually sleeps by my head or on my chest. Sure enough, about three hours later, she shoved herself through the space between the headboard and the wall and stretched out alongside my arm. I petted her and fell asleep to the sound of her purring.

This morning I offered her more food, even tried dabbing the tip of her nose with it, which she licked off, but she wasn't interested. I gave her one of the little syringes of meds. She does NOT like the taste of it. I imagine it's going to get harder to give it to her as we go.

Hubby said we should leave Asuka there as we were both leaving for a couple of hours. I agreed that we should let her be where she wanted to. After all, food and water and litter box were all up there for her to use, but I was worried she would try to come downstairs before she was ready to navigate them. So hubby rigged up the ironing board at the top. We figured with her wraps, she probably wouldn't try to slip through the rungs of the iron gate that surrounds the edges of the square hole, and the ironing board was short enough that we could step over it if needed.

I've been home for several hours now, and she's back in one of her cubbyholes. I've moved the ironing board because I want her to come downstairs whenever she's ready, as long as I can watch her do it until I'm positive she doesn't need help. She'll get another round of meds this evening. I'm going to try to offer more food in a bit. if she doesn't eat, I may try putting a little in her mouth with the feeding syringe the vet gave us just in case. And little water, too.

Anyway, that's how the first day has gone. I can't help but think that her leg is still there, somewhere under all those wraps, though I know it's not. In two weeks, we'll take her in to get the bandages removed and the staples out. I know then it will be made real even to my goofy brain.

As the healing progresses, I'll post more about her in this blog. But I'll also be starting up Write 1 Sub 1 Reloaded 2012 tomorrow as well. :)

Happy New Year to all, and blessings of health, wealth, and happiness to yours, mine, and ours! :)

Tripawed Adventures: Asuka's Life Before Amputation

So I'm starting a little segment in my blog today, called "Tripawed Adventures." This began as a blog for moving to Alaska, and then morphed into a blog about my budding writing career this year. Now I want to add another part to it, as this is something that might help others going through similar problems.

I've had animals all my life. Mainly cats and dogs, but also birds, rats, and hamsters. While I love all animals, I admit cats are pretty close to my heart. I managed to turn my husband into a cat person as well. :)

I've probably mentioned this story on this blog before, but I'll repeat it here for background in case you're just joining me. Asuka is a small cat, a beautiful mixture of tabby and torti with white tummy, dainty white paws, and white chest. He eyes are the most gorgeous blue green on some days, golden green on others. She's not much of a player, and she doesn't always get along well with other animals, but I know she loves Dusty, our second cat, thought she spends most of the time smacking him away.

Asuka and Dusty both adopted us. One day my mother-in-law came up and asked me if I knew the cat sitting on the back porch railing. I looked out the window and saw this cute little kitty sitting there, facing away from me and staring off into the distance. I opened the door, expecting her to bolt. Her head snapped around and her limbs locked as though she were going to, but then she looked me in the eye and mewed.

I picked her up and carried her into the house. She sat on my lap for an hour. When we took her to the vet to be fixed, she was so small, the vet said she was probably about four months old. Now, she's around eight or nine years.

Asuka was a stand-offish kitty (at least with me) for the first few years. She'd sit in everyone else's lap but mine. but she loved being petted. When we moved out of the in-laws house and got our own apartment, she got friendlier. By the time we moved to Alaska, she took every opportunity to sit in my lap, and even started sleeping on me at night.

She's had a couple of issues. I discovered a lump in her neck at one point, I think the same year she adopted us. But it never grew, never bothered her, so we didn't worry about it.

Asuka also went through a period where she peed on the bed. Once she even peed on my husband while he was in bed. We have to keep a space blanket or tarp on the bed every day, because Dusty decided he wanted to do the same thing she was doing. It's been a while since they've done it, but you never know.

We refer to Asuka as the bulimic kitty as well. She would throw up several times a week, usually after eating. We feed them Purina One Urinary Tract Health dry cat food because of Dusty's mucus plug problem. But even when we changed foods for a while, she still threw up on a regular basis.

But she wasn't skinny, or malnourished, or listless. She's always been a healthy little girl who occasionally ran around the loft with Dusty hot on her tail.

A couple of months ago, the lump in her neck suddenly blew up. It got so big, you could see it under her fur without feeling for it. It seemed to spread out over her shoulder. So we decided it was time for the vet.

We don't take our animals to the vet unless there is a problem. I know there is much debate about this. I come from a family where our animals had jobs (like guard dog, mouse catcher) and we enjoyed their company.

My husband and I are a little different now. We've got a decent income, and no kids. I look at my pets as my four legged children. So when this lump got huge, I took her in.

After consulting with the vet, we decided instead of doing a biopsy, we would have him remove the whole lump if possible and send it in for testing. The theory was that even if it was benign, it had grown pretty quickly and hadn't stopped, so it might cause further problems later.

Asuka responded well to the surgery and came home with a trail of staples along her neck and shoulder. One thing I want to point out is that through this whole process, she never once behaved differently or like something was wrong with her. Like the vet said, "Other than this lump, she's the picture of health."

The day after Christmas, we got the news: Chondrosarcoma, cancer of the cartilage and bone. The vet told me straight up that Asuka's best chance for survival was to remove the affected leg. Because he'd removed the tumor, he was able to see how it progressed and how it seemed limited to the leg and shoulder, not the chest. He thought her chances were good with amputation, as long as we acted quickly. I went ahead and scheduled a new appointment in two days to do so.

I didn't want to just go with the Doc's opinion, of course. Having spent so many years in college, I needed to research it all myself. I read everything I could find on the subject of cats and cancer on the internet, particularly chondrosarcoma. The idea of removing Asuka's leg when she otherwise seemed so healthy felt outrageous to my mind. But as I read through the articles and research journals, I saw that this type of cancer often went without any other symptoms except some lameness (which she didn't have) and lumps (which she did.) When I asked the vet how long he thought she'd have if we didn't do anything, he sighed and said, "A few months."

The more I read, the more I understood the situation. Yes, it seemed drastic now, but if we waited until she started showing things more outwardly, it would probably be too late to stop the cancer from spreading. And while it wasn't a 100 percent guarantee that the cancer wouldn't come back, at least her chances of living a long and healthy life would be better.

I also read about a product called ES Clear, a supportive supplement for cats with cancer, recommended to me by a good friend who swears by a dog supplement of the company's. I showed it to the vet, who had not heard of it, warned me about how some products come out, get a bunch of money, and then disappear because they weren't really any good. But he also said that some are worth their salt, like one called Rescue Remedy (I think). He looked at the ingredients and said he's prescribed some types of herbs to animals for certain problems, so while he couldn't really say anything about this one, it could be worth a try.

I'll write more on ES Clear when we get it and start using it.

Anyway, that's the general background of our history with Asuka, leading up to her diagnosis of Chondrosarcoma and our foray into the world of the Tripawed. I'll continue in the next post about her first 24 hours after surgery.

End of the Year Summation

Holy cow and Mother Ewe. I was just going through my spreadsheet for 2011 Write 1 Sub 1. Here's the breakdown:
33 stories and 1 novel written
12 acceptances
11 publications and 1 cancelation
2 second place contest winners
2 Honorable Mentions in contests
Approximately 35% acceptance rate for the year.

I'm agog. And addicted. I can't wait to start the New Year, Write 1 Sub 1 Reloaded 2012!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Bonded By Blood IV: Scarlet Sunset Now Available!

This past year I've had five stories published online by SNM Horror Magazine. The first two won second place. "Bonded By Blood IV: Scarlet Sunset" is the print anthology for SNM's 2011 work, and contains my first of their published stories, "Cursed By Duty." If you have someone you love that loves dark horror, this might be an excellent Christmas present! If you order before December 15th, it should arrive in time.