Author Topic: Concerning Hammy  (Read 23153 times)

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Concerning Hammy
« on: July 09, 2014, 10:21:16 AM »
+1
A warning about the next post.

I know many of you come to this site to escape and have fun.  So if you don't want to read about sad things, I recommend you just not read any further.  But since it's my site...

I lost my little friend yesterday, and I find some comfort in others reading about it.  Plus, there's lots of people out there that go through this and there might be something here that might be helpful to others who may have to walk on the path I just got off.

I will update with some pictures in a little bit.

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« Last Edit: July 26, 2014, 08:18:33 PM by TrailMyx »
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Re: Concerning Hammy
« Reply #1 on: July 09, 2014, 10:21:30 AM »
+1
Concerning Hammy

I never thought I'd get another pet after the loss of my 2 elderly cats due to CRF back in 2006/2007.  But there was something missing from my life that it seems only a fuzzy critter can fill.  So we went to the local animal shelter here in Escondido to see what was available.  There is a whole other story as to why I was there in the first place, but sufficed to say I didn't go there looking for  my orange friend that day.

The Whole Story

We had been looking cats again since I finally thought I might be able to live with having them in my house again.  Our local Petco has a nice relationship with the human society here in Escondido, so they have featured pets on display.  I had found a nice white cat by the name of Alex, but when I went to see if I could adopt him, I was told he was already being held for adoption and there was a waiting list for him.  He was a really great little cat, but I had to give up on him and seek elsewhere.  We were told that there was another similar cat at the shelter by the volunteer individual.  My girlfriend and I decided to go over to the shelter to meet this particular cat.  I'm not sure why I was fixated on getting a white cat.  Short hair was a necessity since my previous 2 cats were long haired females and caring for them as they got older was more difficult with the long hair.  

It was July 1st, 2007 and it was very hot that day.  The shelter here in Escondido was completely overrun with potential adoptees, and they had an overflow room that wasn't air conditioned that was filled with cats of all shapes, colors and sizes.  It was there I met my white cat and found he was very aloof – your typical cat for sure.  Since it was hot, I decided to sit down in the sea of cats that surrounded me and see who might be interested in me.  With my girlfriend watching, we saw all kinds of curious customers, but one in particular stood out from the rest.  A terribly friendly, smelly orange tabby wandered over to me.  He was recently neutered and still seemed to be a bit drugged from the procedure.  I was sitting cross-legged and without stopping he climbed up into my lap and curled up so that he was nearly upside down.  He was looking at me with somewhat glazed eyes, but he was purring like I have never heard emanate from a cat.  At that moment, I knew he was going to come home with me and his new white brother.

To make a long story short, that same day we got a call from Petco regarding the original white cat.  The scheduled adoption fell through, so the wanted to know if we were still interested in the 1st one.  Since I had just gotten the two cats, my girlfriend added the 1st white cat to her own kitty constellation.  

Hamilton

I did mention that Hamilton(Hammy) was filthy and when I brought him home the bath I gave him left an indelible ring around the bathtub that's probably still there to this day.  From just about day 1, Hammy wasn't an ordinary cat.  He had a mannerism I would have expected from a young child.  He had an uncanny ability to detect when others felt happy or sad and would react accordingly as any loving family member would.  He was playful, affectionate, mature, diabolical and brilliant.  He always seem to be at my side at whatever I was doing.  We'd sit and watch TV for hours and he'd just curl up next to me the entire time and couldn't have been more content.  I have so many pictures and stories about him.  I'll leave those for my personal journal.

Life was good.  I've owned lots of cats in my life, but Hammy was simply a completely different animal.  I love my white cat also, but he's simply a cat.  All the mannerisms that one would expect from a pet house cat.  I may have jinxed things by one day about a year ago thinking to myself, “there's something extra-special about this particular critter.”  One with karma like I have should never think like that.

Cancer

Just like my previous cats, I wasn't the one to notice that something was wrong.  Since my girlfriend isn't around all the time, I suppose she sees differences better than I do.  She noted that my previous cat was losing weight and she also made the same observation with Hammy.  He wasn't as spunky as he once  was, but really nothing out of the ordinary other than he'd lost some of his rotund features.  I was actually feeding him a diet to help slim him down, so I didn't think much of it.  But after my girlfriend mentioned what she saw, I decided to change the diet back to the normal one.  However, the weightloss continued.  Also was a couple spots of fur that had fallen off for some reason.  I still don't have a good explanation about why that happened.  So it's time to go to the vet.

I have a great family vet here in Escondido.  They did the normal things including X-rays and the initial diagnosis.  For cats of this age, it's not uncommon for them to develop IBD (inflamatory bowel disease. )  This is treatable if caught early enough, so we started the general treatment regimen.  This was clearly not helping after a few weeks of trying.  We started looking into various treatments in August, 2013.

Since things weren't getting any better, we decided to do an ultrasound to see what might be happening.  This is when things start getting expensive.  I'm no noob to large pet bills, but I can definitely say now I had no idea what to expect from this point on.  They noticed a thickening of the small intestine walls.  This can be due to IBD, but since there wasn't much response from that treatment the problem might be more ominous.  Since the small intestine functionality was compromised , this does explain the weight loss.  The next step is to perform a endoscopy with biopsy.

I was referred to a specialist for the endoscopy procedure.  The day of the procedure, they were doing 3 other cats, so I suppose it's all pretty common.  Mostly people go in looking for a diagnostic verification of IBD, but more rarely another diagnosis is left evident.  According to the scope, the doctor said things were very inflamed and they were able to secure a tissue sample that later revealed the presence of cancerous cells in the lower intestine.  The diagnosis was small cell lymphoma.

Under normal circumstances, small cell lymphoma is a reasonably treatable cancer.  It's the most common cancer found in felines so the common initial treatments are well-known and allow for multiple years of quality life.  We started out on Leukeran(Chlorambucil) which is an every-other day pill form of chemotherapy.  It's known to be wildly effective for most forms of small cell lymphoma.  But only about 1 month into the new therapy (along with daily doses of Prednisolone), things were definitely going down hill.  Another ultrasound showed a targeted thickening of the lower intestine.  This is kinda odd for small cell lymphoma to manifest in a tumor, but this seemed to be what was happening.  He had stopped eating on his own, so I had taken over by force feeding him.  This became futile once his intestine closed completely – just no place for the food to go.  This begins the stupidly expensive phase of the ordeal.

After 1 week of emergency room care and really nothing to show for it, I brought my “stable” Hammy home for about 3 hours only to resume the volcanic vomiting  and dramatic weightloss.  (primetime Hammy was 16 lbs, but he was now only 6.5 lbs.)  So I brought him back in for another ultrasound and it was determined that he'd require surgery to remove the portion of his small intestine that was now completely blocked.  So that Saturday in the beginning of December 2013, the removed the troublesome portion of his intestine plus some extra.  According to the biopsy of the segment, the small cell lymphoma was exhibiting large cell phenomena.  This was a strange form of cancer according to all the doctors I talked to.  But for now, we had time to recover from the surgery.  He had an esophageal tube installed so I could do easier feedings.  (I love those things – don't hesitate to use them).  All this was happening while I broke my arm, so wrangling a critically sick cat with only one arm isn't easy.  Once he could recover from the surgery, we'd have to investigate different chemotherapy strategies.

Hammy was now in 2014.  There were times during the run up to the surgery were I thought he wouldn't make it.  This was all getting vastly expensive as well.  The previous week of care was $3200 and the surgery was $7500.  This isn't including all the other visits, endoscopes, blood tests, ultrasounds, medications, etc.  The Leukeran itself was nearly $300/month for only 15 pills.  But I'm really not thinking too much about the expenses because at that time I had a pretty well-paying but crappy job.  If I could stomach the BS during the day, at least I could pay to help keep my poor beloved creature with me a bit longer.

I chatted a bit with the attending surgeon.  He said that from what he saw, the cancer seemed to be somewhat localized to a specific area where the tumor had manifest itself.  He was hoping that removing a bit more of the intestine than normal might allow for removal of enough cancerous cells to help prolong Hammy's life going forward.  The biopsy did show that even at the ends of the segment, there were still cancerous cells throughout the sample.  

We transitioned to their oncology department.  If you do some research on COP and CHOP chemotherapy protocols, this is what we were initially looking at.  It's basically a chemotherapy cocktail.  We decided to use the COP protocol because it's only 2 chemotherapies used simultaneously and is a bit less expensive.  Treatments still run around $450/3 weeks not including additional medications.  Hammy was on this protocol for quite a long time.  We do bloodwork every 3 weeks to be sure the particular chemotherapy agents aren't causing issues such as blood marrow damage.  So for several months, we managed his cancer.  He was gaining weight, he was nearly at 11 lbs at the end of May.  I was hopeful that he'd reached a reasonable level of remission.

Remission is an interesting experience.  It's not a cure, it just means that the side-effects of the cancer are being managed in such a way to allow for a more normal quality of life.  Plus the side-effects of the treatment are also not impacting in a negative way.  We really only reached remission once unfortunately.  Remission is also nice because you can say to yourself, “Wow, I only spent $500 this month!”

With the re-occurrence of a loss of appetite and lethargy, I knew the chemotherapy wasn't working anymore.  The next level is to swap out the Vincristine with doxorubicin.  These are both injectable, so they require intravenous injections and take time to administer.  Cytoxan is also part of the COP protocol, so we just stopped using that because the cancer seemed to become resistant to that.  The doxorubicin seemed to make things worse so for the past month, poor Hamilton was on a spiral downward.  Finally last week I had to take him in to see what else could be done.  Since he wasn't eating because his digestive motility (think of a snake eating a mouse and the undulation that occurs)  was non-existant, we tried to stimulate any motion in that regard and change to another chemotherapy called CCNU.  This is pretty much the bottom of the barrel.  This was happening on July 3rd, 2014.  So for the 4th, he spent the day breathing uncomfortably and basically stationary.  Obviously the poor little guy was uncomfortable.  My typical orange streak of fur had turned into a wobbly shadow of himself.

He showed about a days worth of recovery.  It's amazing how even the little bits will fill you with hope.   He got down off the bed and had a drink of water which was the first time I didn't force him for days.  So with hopes buoyed, I thought perhaps things would start working again and the new chemotherapy could take hold.  But that was yesterday and his last day.

He spent his last day nearly in the same spot breathing very hard.  Normally you just had to walk into the room and he'd come a greet you.  It didn't matter who you were, he loved everyone to a fault.  But today he wouldn't or couldn't acknowledge anything but his little personal ordeal.  I finally had to come to grips with the fact that I was selfishly trying to keep him around.  He had fought an epic battle, but in the end there wasn't going to be a victory for him.  So we sat in the backyard for a bit just so he could look at the lizards he's always contemplated eating.  He wasn't even aware he was outside I'm certain.  So I finally just couldn't see him suffer anymore.  I called the lady at the hospital and told her it was time for Hammy.  They all know him there and know of his ordeal.  She knew exactly what I was talking about and said they'd be ready for him.  So we drove to the clinic and I nearly wordlessly walked in and they just did their job.  We sat and I said my final goodbyes to him.

I will miss my little friend and family member.  I'm sorry I tried to be selfish and keep you close to me longer than I should have.  

1 year later

7/7/2015
So it's a sad day honestly.  I still miss my little friend like it was yesterday.  He was probably the last pet I'll allow to get so close.  Today is the 1-year mark of the day I had to end my little friends suffering.  I'm sure I did the right thing by doing so.  In all honesty, if I hadn't done it, I'm sure he wouldn't have lasted another week.  It's still a very hard decision to make and my heart goes out to anyone faced with a similar situation.

So I miss you, Snickerdoodle.  I don't like pictures of myself lurking out in the interwebs, but I found this one that makes me smile of Hammy and I.

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« Last Edit: July 06, 2015, 09:54:51 PM by TrailMyx »
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Offline Crome969

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Re: Concerning Hammy
« Reply #2 on: July 09, 2014, 10:30:58 AM »
+1

My sincerest condolences about the huge loss of Hammy.
As Cat owner i can feel exactly how you feel.
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« Last Edit: July 09, 2014, 10:36:57 AM by Crome969 »

Offline Pearls

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Re: Concerning Hammy
« Reply #3 on: July 09, 2014, 01:10:54 PM »
+1
This story brings tears to my eyes... The bond between a man and his friend animal is a strange one. Even though we do not speak the same language, we can understand one another by feeling, sensing, the other's state of mind. It is a beautifull thing. It makes me happy to know there are people like you out there caring.

The road you have endured wasn't an easy one. I'm sorry you had to part with a good friend.

Myself i have always been fond of cats. Since i was a kid i had a cat named Whiskey, a brown striped tiger-looking cat. God he was fat! Lol! My lazy little fat bastard which i loved so much. Dominant cat too. Then when i was still quite young the doctor said the cat's body was shutting down and that it would be better to put him down. We buried him in the backyard and the place still remains untouched with flowers planted around it.

Then a year or so later my sister had to give up her cat because she moved house. I'm still very good friends with this cat. My parents still don't grasp the special bond we share. If i call him out in the backyard, he always comes running within seconds. He's completely black with a little white spot in the front center of his neck.

I think that love is the only thing that matters. The rest just distracts us.

Don't believe you were selfish. Just like us, cats want to live as long as possible.
Take care Hamilton :)
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Re: Concerning Hammy
« Reply #4 on: July 09, 2014, 02:10:42 PM »
+1
I'm sorry for your loss TM.

Pets can be dearer to us than people, and the way you describe Hammy, I'm sure that's how you felt about him. I've always told my girl that our pets should live forever. They love us unconditionally, as we love them back. For me, it's like a parent/child relationship, only purer.

They are sincere, and will never do anything to harm us.

I'm sorry you had to go through this.

All of us here at scriptuo think very highly of you.

Although no words can really help to ease your loss, know that our hearts are with you in this time of great sadness.
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Re: Concerning Hammy
« Reply #5 on: July 09, 2014, 03:05:29 PM »
+1
So, sorry TM. Not a pet guy myself but I can see the bonds that close friends have with their pets and how they are family members. Thinking of you man.

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Re: Concerning Hammy
« Reply #6 on: July 09, 2014, 03:50:53 PM »
+1
So sorry for your loss.  My girlfriend has over the last two years rescued 6 cats from shelters, four of which we have kept and the other two went to her parents.  It's amazing how different in personality each one is.  Hammy sounds like a pretty amazing cat.  My prayers go out to you!
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Re: Concerning Hammy
« Reply #7 on: July 09, 2014, 03:53:59 PM »
+1
I am a dog person, currently we have 3 overgrown puppies in our family, but I can sympathize and feel your pain. Pets become part of the family and bring so much joy and happiness to our lives. I am very sorry for your loss and I truly hope this thread brings you some comfort. If you have some pictures, I would love to seem them.

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Re: Concerning Hammy
« Reply #8 on: July 09, 2014, 10:10:16 PM »
+1
o7 Hammy.



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Re: Concerning Hammy
« Reply #9 on: July 10, 2014, 01:57:33 AM »
+1
I always thought I was a dog person.  And then I met my girlfriend who has two cats.  One is a Grey tabby who is just an amazing being.  They have personalities and they are incredibly affectionate if you are their Person.  I have lived with this cat for 4 years and he loves to be held by me in a certain way and only I can hold him like that.  He pokes me on the face in the morning when he wants me to get up and play with him (or feed him) and he stares at you when you ignore him, and then does something evil like knock over a glass of water.  Last year, my girlfriend noticed he was losing weight as well.  I couldn't tell and she felt a bump.  Sure enough, he had cancer.  We had it removed and thankfully he is okay.  My girlfriend is a vet technician, so she has been trained to spot these things.  I can't imagine having to have lost him in this year.  I empathize with you a great deal and hope you find some comfort in the fact that your friend would still be suffuring had you not made the hard decision.  I'll raise one up for your tabby.
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Re: Concerning Hammy
« Reply #10 on: July 26, 2014, 08:25:24 PM »
+1
I posted a few pictures.  Sorry, a couple are ginormous.  One of my favs is the one where he's curled up in my lap.  That was when I first brought him home on day 1 - still smelly and everything.

Thanks everyone for the comments.  Much appreciated.
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Re: Concerning Hammy
« Reply #11 on: July 30, 2014, 07:59:52 PM »
+1
I like the new avatar, it's a nice memorial!

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Re: Concerning Hammy
« Reply #12 on: July 30, 2014, 08:05:15 PM »
+1
I like the new avatar, it's a nice memorial!

He still makes me smile.  The shaved belly was done back in December, but with all the chemotherapy, there wasn't much hair growing.  Even with all that was going on, he still had his goofball moments.  The avatar is one of them - he's just scooting along the base of the sofa.
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Re: Concerning Hammy
« Reply #13 on: July 31, 2014, 02:34:24 PM »
+1
My gf's two cats do that, where they lie on their side and drag themselves around the couch by clawing the furniture.  Gf gets so mad at them! Ill have to post some pics of the other rescue cat, its a long hair and had knots everywhere so we had him shaved,  we did a lion cut on him, its hilarious! 
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Re: Concerning Hammy
« Reply #14 on: November 17, 2015, 10:29:29 PM »
+1
Sincerely not trying to hijack your thread, and I know it's a year old, and I had no intention of posting anything about this, until I read the pain in your words. I'm hurting right now too so...

I lost my grandma a couple of weeks ago, she was in her 90's and lived a good long life. She put on a clinic on how to finish off your days, never complaining about anything even though she was near blind, 100% deaf in one ear and 80% in the other, unable to walk for the last couple of months etc. The day before she died she did say "why is this taking so long" and that's about as much of a complaint as she'd ever give. On the day she died she had a lot of trouble staying awake and her breathing could best be described as "inconsistent and sputtering" as if she was just too tired to breathe. She opened her eyes at one point and looked me right in the eye and said "I've lived a good life, love each other and treat each other well, I love you" and she fell back to sleep and passed on an hour later.

She had all of her mind and wits intact until the very end and that's more precious than anything.

Warning: even when you know that time is short and it's 100% natural without any pain... it hits you like a Mack truck for days. You are not prepared, no matter how prepared you think you might be. The permanent nature of it grips you hard. There was one of the worst blizzards in my state's history on the day I was born but she drove to the hospital to see me, she counted 18 cars in the ditch along the way and could not see more than 5-10 feet in front of her. I mention that because you only get a very small number of people in your life who would do that out of pure love and losing one hurts, a lot.

Take some time and spend it doing something with loved ones(yeah, cats count) because in the end everything else is trivial and unimportant in comparison.

disclaimer: this was written through blurry eyes, your story with Hammy is touching, we all eventually have to face a situation that is hard that way. Focus on the positive, remember the good, that's what they would want. I'm not even half way to 90 and realize that health comes in a close #2 to spending time with loved ones... take some time off the comp and get some exercise too!
« Last Edit: November 17, 2015, 10:32:10 PM by Gemviper »

Tags: cancer