pWdumaNjA-6CEEBhRoD5euxNETs When All This Actual Life Played Out: Calculus

30 September 2016


Milton as a flounder
11 October 2003

He came to wake me Tuesday, a little song, complaining that no one had given him breakfast. I stroked him and he rubbed his head along my arm, insistent. Where was his breakfast?

I have frequently posited that in a previous life, Milton was a New York lawyer. He may speak feline but he has perfected the art of negotiation, he drives a tough bargain and when riled, he resorts to a particularly unattractive meow. I can say "no" and explain my position, but he will rebut, repeatedly, my arguments against what he wants.

This particular morning, however, I was using a sweet voice and telling him that I was powerless to assist him. Finally he gave up and sacked out on the living room couch, which is where I nabbed him and put him in his carrier.

The carrier means the worst.

I apologized as I drove. It was going to hurt, but we'd get that crap out of his hip. I was so sorry that he was frightened and that he wasn't really going to understand what was happening. I was so, so sorry.

The vet called me almost as soon as I got home, and my heart hit the floor. But the news was cautiously good. His bloodwork was good, his lungs were clear. So we decided to proceed.

But the second phone call wasn't good. Milton was awake and on pain meds, but the tumor was larger than last week, aggressive, widespread. The vet had gone in muscle layers, but wasn't sure he'd gotten it all. The incision went knee to spine. He's probably have a limp. Biopsy should be back in 3-5 days, and the vet tried to console me as I sat silent, told me hopeful stories of cats who didn't see recurrence for a year and a half. Maybe...

My gut knows better, though. My gut has known through this whole thing. My gut says location, location, location! And in this case, location is probably an injection site tumor, fibrosarcoma. It's almost impossible to remove and even with radiation and chemotherapy, recurrence is likely in 18-24 months.


He came home Wednesday morning, groggy, angry. He ran, with an 8-inch incision filled with 25 staples down his left leg, to his scratching post to relieve his rage. Then he wanted to hide under my bed, but I wouldn't let him. He finally settled under the coffee table in the living room, glowering at me.

So it began.


The vet had come in on his day off to discharge my cat. He is particularly fond of  Milton. He told me what they'd done for him, and how to care for his wound.  He warned me that he'd been aggressive in removing the tumor and the more the cat walked, the better his muscles would knit and heal. The cytology came back as sarcoma, but the biopsy would provide more information.

"Injection site?" I asked. He knows I'm well versed in things medical and he never minces words with me.

"No," he said, "No! That's fibrosarcoma. That's...deadly. I don't think that's what we're dealing with here."

"I can't tell you why," I said gently, "but I'm expecting the worst."

He heaved a sigh. "I know what you mean."


I spent Wednesday and Thursday nights on the couch so that if there were problems, I could deal with them without waking the whole family. Milton began to talk to me again, rubbed his cheeks on my hands, let me brush his chin and neck. He ate with glee, refused his pain medication with vigor and was generally cranky. I think that if someone removed a third of my leg, I'd be cranky too.

(Oh wait! I know how that works.)

I passed the living room on my one of frequent checks and he was sleeping under my red leather chair. The next time I passed, he was sleeping on the chair. Eight-inch incision, 25 staples and jumping on the furniture. That is Milton.

The vet just laughed when I told him.


The phone rang early this morning.

"I got the biopsy results," he told me. "I wanted to tell you right away."

But I knew. I always know.

"It is injection site sarcoma, but the margins are clear. I got it all."

"So good news and bad news," I said.

"I think it's good news," he told. "They said the margins were totally clean, no cancer cells. I think he'll be alright. But I have to tell you...I've been in this practice for almost 20 years. This is the first case we have ever seen. I've removed more masses from animals than I can count, but we've never had one of these."

"Milton," I said.

"Milton," he agreed.

He is, after all, the man who saved my cat from a bowel obstruction that became a campaign for self-starvation and resulted in a feeding tube, simultaneous fatty liver disease and pancreatitis, ending with a case of cat MRSA. Then 5-1/2 years of routine care.


This morning, as I reeled from two nights of little sleep, FrankenButt tried to climb into my lap, purring deeply, kneading at my arm. I stroked his head and face and murmured love to him, while his chest rumbled. His x-rays were clear and his blood work was good, but the vet showed me the thickening in his heart wall. Even if the cancer is gone for good, his stout and wild little heart is beginning to fail. Indoor cats have an average life expectancy of 12-16 years and he will be 16 in March. While to me, he will always be the skinny, clinging 5-month-old kitten I brought home from Arizona, he is in reality an 80-year-old man. And no one lives forever. Not even New York lawyers in cat guise with a facility for wearing one down with non-stop negotiation.


Tech stuff: Taken with a Canon PowerShot S110. I know many people who feel that animals are expendable companions. Truth is, I've always liked my animals better than I like most people.
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