No Sleep, No Good
The impatient, paw-tapping cat in the upper left corner is the perfect symbol of my life throughout the seven months that she has been watching over my blog.
I am just your typical baby boomer wife of a young, juicy husband who is on a career fast track; coddler and confidante of a college student son; sister and best friend to a live-in handicapped brother; full-time job-holder; frazzled manager of a busy household including two spoiled, demanding pets; occasional friend to some wonderful, understanding women; breast cancer patient dealing with premature menopause; low thyroid sufferer fighting a losing battle with weight loss; and, a once-in-a-blue-moon blogger.
You know, a walking cliché.
After a good night’s sleep, I can approximate a functional, modern woman. Mush-minded as I have been lately, I can still calculate exactly how many of those restful nights I logged between January and June 2005. One. Uno. Ein. Eek!
Our wonder cat Tigerlily (not pictured to the left) has always been finicky about her food, water and cat box, prompting us to buy all kinds of superfluous devices, including one that cycles her water from the bowl at the bottom and up through a curved lip at the top to create a constant fountain effect. The net result: a happy cat, at least until a hair or piece of her food drops into the bowl and then her water emergency is our water emergency – because our master bedroom is her master bedroom.
In mid-January, right around her 12th birthday in people years, she became a thirsty, nocturnal complainer. A crusty brown buildup developed at the corners of her newly cloudy eyes. She also leaked mucus-like goop into her perpetual drinking fountain.
She began to wake us up once a night. Then twice. Then every two or three hours every single night.
The vet said she probably had conjunctivitis but he also recommended feline leukemia and virus tests, plus the Myers-Briggs personality test. After one week of eye drops and antibiotics, she would wake us up only twice a night. Then right back to every two or three hours.
All too soon the crusty brown buildup and mucus-like goop returned.
The vet said the conjunctivitis was back but she needed diabetes and low thyroid tests, plus the Stanford-Binet IQ test. After one week of the same eye drops and a different antibiotic, she was back to her wakeful ways.
When the vet returned from the fancy vacation we paid for, I asked him if I could give her Benadryl to help her (us) sleep. I remembered that my very first cat, Jay Catsby, had motion sickness and our vet at the time prescribed Benadryl, which helped him sleep through car trips. And, yes, I am still a fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald.
This vet said, “No, no, no! I think she is a very sick cat. We need to test her for kidney failure.”
But, Doc, her kidneys are functioning so well that we had to buy a second cat box. My family has lost four cats to kidney failure by the age of 12 and I know the symptoms. We put Tigerlily on a special diet four years ago to prevent kidney failure. This is different.
By now Tigerlily was back to her sleeplessness phase and I was in the crying jag phase due to exhaustion, frustration, fear and of course menopause. You see, Tigerlily is one of three cats that have held special, irreplaceable places in our hearts and in our family.
Jay Catsby died of kidney failure as my father was losing his battle with multiple myeloma, cancer of the bone marrow.
Thomas O’Malley the Cat from the Alley died of kidney failure as my mother was losing her own battle with kidney failure.
I am battling breast cancer.
I would look into my cat’s sickly eyes, staring back at me in a constant plea for help. “Okay, Tigers,” I told her without a shred of confidence. “We’re going to break this cycle together.”
I heard Dennis Prager’s voice offering his listeners a hypothetical dilemma. You have a child and you have a beloved pet. Both are drowning. Which do you save?
No question about it, my child. But, Dennis, I have a different dilemma. I have to choose between my beloved pet and myself.
I heard my husband’s voice asking me, “Why won’t you save yourself? I love Tigerlily, too, but I see what this is doing to you. I need you.”
Sweetie, you are right. But I cannot have her put to sleep until I know I have done all I can.
The next time I was at the vet’s office, I took home a brochure on euthanasia. Nothing changed – except that I stopped jumping out of bed every time she cried. Being bone weary has its advantages.
So my clarity was gone. My short-term memory was fried. I could not write a coherent paragraph, but I could still Google. I did every kind of Boolean search I could think of on Tigerlily’s symptoms. Finally I typed in the magic phrase: chronic conjunctivitis.
Apparently, my poor cat was suffering from a strain of the herpes virus that replicates itself over and over at increasing harm to her health. Apparently, my rich vet did not know – for I am certain he would have told me – that this virus can be stopped with two doses per day of L-Lysine, which is an over-the-counter supplement available at any drugstore. In fact, I found a huge jar of pharmaceutical grade L-Lysine in powdered form at my favorite health food store for less than $15.
Within two days Tigerlily was sleeping the whole night through, every single night.
Shortly thereafter, I learned of another OTC pill to maximize the amazing supplement I am taking to prevent a recurrence of my breast cancer (more on that very soon).
Tigerlily, I think we just might break this cycle together. Good night, girl.