A week or so ago, I mentioned Daphne in a post called - These are a Few of my Favorite Things. I was reporting about an ear infection she was fighting, and of course that wasn’t one of my favorite things. But Daphne IS. I love her. So much. Many of you are familiar with Daphne’s story. When Older Daughter rescued her, she had a severe leg wound. That’s never good. Those deep flesh wounds are the primary way FIV is transmitted from cat to cat. And sure enough - Daphne is FIV+. We nursed her back to health, she was eventually spayed, and she moved to a cage in the cathouse. I put out special pleas for a home. I checked into special shelters that take FIV+ cats. But Daphne didn’t get adopted, and no rescue offered to take her. As I continued to get information from some of you about even more shelters that took cats like Daphne, I started wondering if I could make it work here. I truly didn’t want Daphne to move on. She is completely blind in one eye, and we discovered that she is almost entirely deaf. I really didn’t want her to have to live in a shelter environment. She is also completely in love with me. She STILL rides around on me like a baby koala bear, hanging on and purring. I started having Daphne OUT of her cage every minute that I was in the cathouse. And then, when my girls both started making their plans to move out in 2012, I realized that Daphne could move into our home if a another home didn’t present itself.
I first suspected an ear infection because of an odor coming from the ear. The first try was with an antibiotic ointment for the ear which also included an anti-inflammatory. Daphne moved to my kennel office so I could keep an eye on her and make sure the drops were administered every 12 hours. Two weeks with this treatment gained us no improvement. Back to the vet for a high-powered antibiotic drop for that ear. But Daphne’s condition did NOT clear up. In fact, the odor was getting worse, and she was starting to be off-balance when she ran or jumped.
Then last Friday, it scared me when I found a hard knot under that ear. I called and got in. We saw a different vet who said the hard spot was crystalized cartilage. I worried that it could be a tumor, but he felt reasonably sure it was the cartilage thing. I explained about the being off-balance which he said comes naturally with an ear infection. The last couple of days, however, Daphne hasn’t wanted to walk towards me. She stands and wobbles and waits for me to pick her up. Then yesterday, I noticed Daphne seemed to be having a little bit of difficulty swallowing. As I was administering her ear drops, I felt around on the knot. It felt bigger. And what really worried me was that it seemed to now stretch down onto the side of her throat. I called and got her in.
The news wasn’t good. The diagnosis is an inoperable, fast-growing tumor attached to the ear canal. She has every symptom. It wasn’t one of those moments when I felt the room start to spin because all day yesterday I was already thinking this was a tumor. But I did feel the crushing disappointment that comes with getting news that has no hope in it. Dr. A and I discussed the place we found ourselves in. The tumor was growing fast. It was blocking access to the deeper part of the ear. This was the reason the ear infection wasn’t going away - the drops couldn’t reach the infection. Daphne was off-balance as a result of the ear infection, but also because the mass was pressing on the inner ear. Now the tumor had reached a place where it was encroaching on the larynx and esophagus. It was only a matter of time - very short time - before the tumor would cut off Daphne’s airway or her ability to swallow food.
I asked Dr. A if I would see rapid decline. She said she thought so. I told her that Daphne still eats and purrs like crazy when I hold her. Dr. A said - Look Chrystal, I know you well enough to know that I had better try EVERYTHING before we opt for euthanization. You would never forgive yourself or me if you were left with any doubts. So I’m going to give Daphne a massive injection of antibiotic and steroid. If we can clear up some of the infection, or if the steroid can shrink the mass a tiny bit, we might be buying Daphne a small amount of time. It will give you time to adjust and might relieve some of Daphne’s current discomfort. But I really think we could be talking only DAYS here. I stood there wondering if I was hanging on for me or for Daphne. It was for me. Daphne cannot get better. The tumor is highly aggressive and will only continue to press in. But I had not had time to make sure Daphne knows how much I love her. She was still eating and purring. And she was not struggling to breathe. Dr. A said the injections would give her a little relief, or they would not. If she went downhill fast, I could call as soon as I knew it was time. But any way you look at this, we aren’t left with much . . .
Driving home from the vet, I put in a Christmas CD. I thought about Daphne and her horrible start in life. I thought about the hopes I’d had for her. I thought about those of you who would be reading this sad news. It’s Christmastime. I wondered if I should maybe NOT share this to keep from bringing all of you down with me. But over and over again, you have assured me that this is the reality of Life, and that you are in it with me. When I sat down to type this post, I was SO glad to have a place to tell this story. SO glad to have a place to share my thoughts and my pain. SO glad to have a place to honor Daphne - a place where people would care so very much about her. Daphne deserves to have her story told. Her life matters. She is a little being. Loved. We'll take whatever time we have left, and cherish it.
Daphne, sometimes called "Daffy Doodles", part koala bear.