Patrick has not been well for several weeks now. He's been throwing up every day. X-rays showed a mass in his abdomen. According to Dr. S., lymphoma is the only thing that accounts for all his symptoms.
I lost my previous cat Mao to lymphoma in 1996. I watched him decline over 6 long weeks between diagnosis and euthanasia, waking up each morning never knowing if it would be our last day together on Earth, or even if he'd survived the night, powerlessly watching him fading away inch by inch, cell by cell, in spite of the best efforts of my vet. I wish now I had insisted more on palliative care instead of heroic measures.
I've been treasuring every moment with Patrick. During every cuddle I try to make time come to a stop, during every grooming and brushing I try to push back the uncertainty and focus on the here and now, each brush stroke along his flanks, each movement of the comb through his fur, each head bonk and scritchy-scratch behind his ear, each vibration of his purr. I try to make each detail be as concrete as a sand grain in an hourglass, before it slips away forever.
He's been spending more time hiding in his "secret caves," under the bed or behind the living room chair. He has cozy little blankets in each one to lie on to be comfy. He knows something isn't right, but he still comes out occasionally seeking affection and attention. He hasn't withdrawn completely, as Mao did when he had lymphoma. I want to cuddle him 24/7, but I know he needs his space, as hard as it is to leave him be.
I can only hope that when Patrick is in that little twilight zone non-interactive state and wants his space, that the universal unconditional love that weaves us all together wraps little extra gentle nurturing tendrils all around him, to guide him along wherever his path leads him.
I've always felt I was like a way-station for Patrick in his journey. He's had such a wide variety of experiences in his life: being a stray, probably trying to be a family pet off and on here and there, living at the Best Friends sanctuary with 100 other cats, then at the SF/SPCA, then with me. He's had just about the full gamut of experiences and lifestyles a cat can have, and I was but one part of the bigger picture, one step on his path. Which has nevertheless been an honor and a blessing.
And now it's likely his time to move on again.