Challenges, Cats, and Coming Home

butterfly1So, I haven’t been here for a while.  The last couple of months have been extremely challenging for me on many different levels.  I was sick for the entire month of January (literally).  I fell trying to shovel my elderly mother out of her house and was laid up with a badly sprained ankle and strained Achilles tendon for the month of February (it’s still giving me trouble).  It snowed almost every freaking day from Thanksgiving until, well, the end of time.   And two of my four cats were diagnosed with cancer within weeks of each other.

Emily was diagnosed first with a rare and aggressive mast cell tumor on her side at the end of October.  She was operated on and seemed to be doing okay.  Then, at the beginning of December Oliver was diagnosed with small cell lymphoma, pancreatitis, and a mass in his small intestine.  Despite all of that, his prognosis was pretty good, so we started chemotherapy.

At the end of December, Emily went back in for another surgery because her cancer had already come back.  This was the last surgery we could do for her, and the surgeon was as aggressive as he could be now that we knew what we were dealing with.  The next step would be to take her for radiation treatment, which I had already decided I was not going to do.  Not only is it incredibly expensive, but the animal has to go under anesthesia for each treatment.  She would not handle any of that well.

Emily came home from the hospital on December 31st.  Oliver went back in on January 1st.  He had stopped eating and was just sitting around drooling.   We couldn’t get him to start eating again, so eventually we decided to put in a feeding tube.  The thought was that with a feeding tube he could get nutrition while we waited for the chemotherapy to work.  Then, when he was feeling better, he’d start eating on his own again.

He was in the hospital for over a week, and when he came home I had to feed him via the tube four times a day – 6am, noon, 6pm and midnight.  Now, I have to work for a living and these feedings weren’t quick.  You had to syringe the food in gradually so his stomach would accept it.  Each feeding could take a half hour to 45 minutes from start to finish.  So, while I was sick in January, hurt in February, shoveling snow every time I turned around, and housing my mother when she lost power for a week, I was also syringe feeding my cat four times a day.

But he was doing pretty well.  He even gained weight in January, which was awesome.  Then things started to take a downward turn.  He started throwing up.  Just every once in a while at first.  Then several times a day.  Then whenever he was fed.  Then while he was fed.  He was so nauseous he couldn’t walk more than a few steps at a time.  I tried slowing the feeding down – which meant it was taking an hour or more each time.  I tried increasing the number of times I fed him from four to five.  All to no avail.  The cancer was getting better, but the inflammation of his pancreas was not.  He was miserable.  And I knew that I wasn’t helping him anymore – I was torturing him.

So I lost my sweet Oliver on March 13th.  A day later I realized Emily has a lump under her arm on the same side as the other surgeries.  It might have been growing for a while and I just didn’t notice it.  We have a doctor’s appointment at the beginning of April to check her out, but it could very well be the cancer back again.

A challenging couple of months.

But, here’s the thing.  I’ve learned so much during these months.  Because I survived.  I know not everyone will agree with what I did, but I did the best I could.  I made the best decisions I could for MY conscience.  I put one foot in front of the other, and I kept moving to do the next thing.  I know I still have challenges ahead of me with Emily.  I grieve terribly for my Oliver and feel the guilt that maybe I did the wrong thing or didn’t do enough.  I have to deal with the financial consequences of my fight to save both of them.  But the upshot is that when the pressure cooker was turned up, I kept slogging.  I didn’t stop and drown.  It didn’t even occur to me to stop.

Knowing that is worth a heck of a lot.  Knowing that makes me feel stronger.

All of the time spent feeding and caring for Oliver gave me another advantage too.  It gave me time to think – about my life and where I want it to go.  About how you just can’t waste the time you’re given.  And about the direction I want to take.  I’m not going to go into all of that now, but I will say that I’m back to writing.  Lots more on that in future blog posts.

So that’s where I am and where I’ve been.  It has been a long journey, but I feel like I’ve come home.  I’m glad to be here.





  1. We missed ya – welcome home! 🙂

  2. I’m so sorry for the loss of your beloved Oliver. 🙁 Thinking good thoughts for Emily!!

    • Betsy Horvath says

      Thank you so much, Vi. I’ve been very sad about Oliver, but I was able to love him for 10 years. That’s something. And I hope I’m wrong about Emily. So far so good.

  3. I cried as I read your blog….thanks. glad your back though. My fun starts Thursday. …..

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