Monday, April 23, 2007


Whew! Exams are over. Now all I need to do is grade them, but this is so much easier than grading papers. I've had the usual flurry of emails from students complaining about the way the TA graded their papers and asking me to overrule the grade within the next 24 hours before they go back home for the summer. How many ways can I say, "It ain't happening"??

So, aside from grading, grading, grading, there have been some difficult things going on the past week of largely bloggy silence (other than the existential crisis I had when we returned from grad school city).

1) My 48 year old cousin has been diagnosed with an incredibly rare kind of cancer in and around his pancreas. It's spread into the ducts that connect to the liver as well. It's so rare, in fact, that only 2500 cases are reported in the US each year. There are only two places that can treat it in the US - Johns Hopkins and the Mayo clinic. He's been at JH but they can't figure out exactly what kind of tumor it is so they can set the chemo properly. So, now he's on his way to Mayo for a couple of weeks. The survival rate for this kind of cancer is less than 2%. His son, my second cousin, is the one who goes to school at Virginia Tech, so they were talking to the doctor about my cousin's cancer when they found out that 30 people had been shot at their son's school. It's not raining but pouring on our family right now...

2) In a less dire but closer to home (and probably psychosomatic on my part) situation, I fear that something is wrong with Furball #2's kidney. Some of you might know that she only has one and has had for about 5 years now. We've always kept an eye on it (bloodwork every 6 months and more recently a urine analysis every 6 months or so) and both kitties are on a special kidney diet food. But she lost a couple of pounds recently and I think she might be drinking a bit more water than usual.

Now, in January she weighed a whopping 15 pounds - the heaviest she's ever been (butterball...) and now she weighs about 13, which is where she's usually at. Of course, I read that weight loss as a potential problem rather than as a rectification of what was an unusual weight *gain* on her part. This might explain why the vet looked at me like I was crazy before we went on vacation. Furball #2 is notoriously reluctant to cooperate with anything medical and when I tried to take her in to get a urine sample before break, she refused to give it to the vet and actually shredded her arm a bit (she was scared and was trying to jump down - it was an unintential back-claw episode rather than an intentional front-claw thing. I should also mention that I'm not very fond of this vet because I think she has a shitty bedside manner and she doesn't take my tiny bit of panic a bit more seriously - I'm not in there all the time! I just want to keep her remaining kidney healthy!!! The vet was this way before the claw episode, by the way). So, today I have F-ball #2 in lockdown in the bedroom with a box full of non-absorbant litter pellets and we're in a waiting game.

At any rate, I've just been very over-worried and hopefully for no reason, but I majorly over-react about these cats. I acknowledge this about myself and I'm willing to spend the money to pay vets to make me feel better about it. Even if the other kidney is not operating 100%, cats can still live for a while, right? If you keep an eye on it?? Her bloodwork was fine in January and she's only 9 - I guess because of her kidney shutting down years ago (it was a kidney stone that got caught in the urethra and ended up causing the kidney to fail - she lost a lot of weight rapidly), I perceive any kidney problem as failure rather than something that is probably what happens to every older cat and is gradual.

That's probably a lot more than any of you want to know about my cat, but there it is. Maybe the general feeling of worry about all the health stuff in my fmaily and the cats are connected?


Tiruncula said...

Oh, your poor cousin and family! That's awful. And I totally sympathize about the worry about pets. Did the vet (try to) do the, erm, direct method of getting a urine sample (i.e. involving a needle you don't even want to think about being inserted directly into the source)? That's what the vets always had to do for my recalcitrant Very Old Cat.

Keep us posted on the cat situation.

medieval woman said...

Hi T, thanks for the well wishes. Yes, they have tried that method, but that's when she shredded the vet's arm. After that, the vet wouldn't try anymore even if I was there to try to settle her down...ugh.

Pray that she goes soon - she's been in there for hours!!

Hilaire said...

I'm really sorry on both counts, MW. As Tiruncula says, keep us posted on Furball #2. I am thinking of her - and you.

Sisyphus said...

My best wishes to the kitties! And your family!

And can I say how jealous I am that your year is ending??? Our finals aren't until mid-June. June I tell you! Gah.

Flavia said...

Oh MW, I'm so sorry to hear about all of this news, and my best wishes for the health of both your biological and your furry family.

squadratomagico said...

Best wishes to your cousin and to furball #2. IT sounds like you are monitoring the furball very diligently, so I'm sure she'll get the best possible care -- even if you have to browbeat the vet.

medieval woman said...

Thanks for all the well wishes, Bloglets!