Makers Gonna Make

The Goodbye I Didn’t Get to Say to Lunchbox

Posted on Aug 25, 2015 in Pets, Rambles |

This year can suck it.  I’m almost afraid that I got a new pet, because it has not been a good year for my pets.  Not only did I have to say goodbye to Winston the Wonder Pug in January, but this week, without warning, one of my cats Lunchbox passed away.  Cancer sucks.

Muse & Lunchbox on the CouchYou know Lunchbox.  The larger of my two sibling cats, Lunchbox really fit his name.  He was named as a nod to the character Silent Bob, whom his hetero life mate Jay calls “Lunchbox” in the movie Dogma.  He was quite, rarely meowing, a silent stoic type.  He was the more cuddly of my two cats for a very long time – it really wasn’t until we moved into our current house in 2008 that his sister Muse started becoming more of a lap kitty.  He was the king of all boxes, befitting his name on another level.  If there was a box laying around – even an empty pizza box – he wanted to be on top of it.  He always seemed a bit dominating over Muse, but that was to be expected.  Towards the end of Winston’s life, he would swat at him if poor blind Winston bumped into him accidentally.  The worst he ever did was when, in September of last year, he attacked me with little provocation.  Even a few weeks after, he was back to being my lap kitty, as if to apologize for losing his shit on me.

I really hate to be using the word “was”.  Lunchbox passed away, without much warning, at the vet on August 21st.

A few months ago, I changed their food.  I realized that Lunchbox & Muse would be turning 11 in July, so I figured it was time to move them from the regular adult indoor hairball & weight control food I’d been giving them to something for more mature adults.  When I changed their food, Muse didn’t seem to mind but Lunchbox started spitting it up.  I couldn’t tell if he didn’t like it or was eating it too fast or what.  After about a month of that, it seemed like he might be losing weight.  I knew he was about 15 lbs the last I’d taken him to the vet, so I thought maybe the mature food wasn’t enough, maybe they needed senior food that would be more gentle on his stomach.  So I switched them again.  Again, Muse didn’t seem to care but Lunchbox kept eating normally, sometimes throwing up his food again.

About a month ago, to try to combat this, I just changed them back to the first food I’ve had them on for years, hoping that would be the end of Lunchbox’s bit of weight loss and what seemed like digestive issues.  In the last few weeks, maybe month, it seemed like he started throwing up foam a lot, no food, just bile.  It was probably once a day, and the week before last I noticed he’d gotten really skinny.  Like there were depressions on his sides that were visible when he stood up.  Aside from the weight and foam, he ate normally and acted like his cuddly self, trying to get equal attention from us with the new puppy in the house.

Lunchbox SidewaysOn Tuesday the 18th, I took him to the vet.  On the way there, he started breathing really heavy – not a pant to cool down, but really guttural breathing trying to get air in.  This concerned the vets, as did his weight lost – in a year and a half since I’d brought him in, he’d lost 5 lbs and was down to 10.5 lbs.  They took x-rays and sat me down to show me the difference between Lunchbox’s x-rays and what a normal cat’s x-rays look like.  Only about half of the lung tissue they should have been able to see was visible and you could barely see his heart.  This indicated, they told me, that he had fluid around his lungs.  The course of treatment was that they’d keep him there to drain the fluid and run tests: it could be a simple infection, could be a mass, could be something else.  I was to call in to check on him Wednesday and then call back Thursday to probably pick him up.

Wednesday when I called they said his thyroid tests came back normal and his liver wasn’t doing everything it should be (removing bile, I think he said) so they was on antibiotics and liver medications.  They seemed optimistic and told me to call back Thursday as they were waiting for more tests to come back.  Thursday when I called, the tune had changed.  The fluid around his lungs was clear – which meant it was not an infection, but likely a mass or growth between his heart & lungs.  It would not be curable, but may be controllable.  They told me they’d keep him until Saturday to continue to monitor to see if the fluid they’d aspirated would return and have more info about how to go about treatment.

Friday the 21st.  I called around 1 pm to check in and they said that the fluid definitely contained tumor cells.  They told me they’d be sending him home with a port and Prednisone and instructions on how to give him the injections and eventually taper down his dose.  It seems like that meant that I’d be keeping him comfortable until the inevitable.  Lorenza, being the receptionist there, called me back to make sure I understood what tumor cells meant: Lunchbox had cancer.  I acknowledged that I understood and she expressed her sympathy.  I posted the update on Facebook, and another friend of mine, who recently lost a cat to Leukemia, instantly messaged me to give me positive thoughts and suggestions about the medications they’d given her cat and how they had another year and a half with her with a great quality of life, and I was lamenting having to put him through that, but hoping it could be managed.

At about 3:30 pm, as I was texting about Lunchbox with Jennie and eating my late lunch, my phone rang with the vet’s number.  I immediately got a pit in my stomach.  The vet came on and told me that Lunchbox had gone into cardiac arrest and respiratory failure and had passed away. I couldn’t help but start to cry.  I was shocked – he was supposed to be coming home.  I was going to make him comfortable, and pamper him, and show him how much I loved him and had loved him for the past 11 years.  I was going to get more time with him.  Lorenza came on the line and I just lost it.  She said how sorry she was, and how sorry she was to have to ask but what arrangements did I want to make.  I looked over into my office area at the can with Winston’s ashes and told her I wanted to cremate Lunchbox too, so he could sit next to Winston.

Lunchbox Coke boxIt’s been a few days, and it’s real while I write this, but still not real.  I never got to say goodbye.  He was supposed to come home, and he never will.  I keep waiting for Muse, who has never been without her brother Lunchbox, to realize he’s not coming home and mourn.  Even as I just wrote that, I looked over at the movement of her walking across the living room floor and could SWEAR it was Lunchbox.  She’s gone back to sitting on top of the couch more.  Earlier, I was on the phone at my desk and she came over and started making little mews while poking around under my desk, looking for him.  She wanted to get into my bedroom very badly earlier, and also rushed past me into the garage, which she never did but Lunchbox did frequently, I guess looking to see if she could find him.  I don’t know when, or if, her behavior will change once she realizes he’s not coming home. But I know it’ll break my heart all over again.

This unreal pain that I can somewhat easily put away and forget about will come flooding back and be all too real.  I pondered, with Winston, whether it’s better to have an extended period of time to say my goodbyes, or to just have him pass away and have the decision taken out of my hands.  I still don’t know what is better.

Lunchbox & Winston SnugglingSo, to Lunchbox, king of all boxes.  I loved you so much.  I forgave you for the attack – you had a lapse.  It happens.  You cuddled me when I needed it most.  You snuggled when I was cold, or sick, or just needed a soft kitty, warm kitty, little ball of fur.  I miss you so much and will miss you more.  I wish I had more time.  Muse wishes you had more time.  11 years, while a long time, is not as long as I expected to have with you.  Be well, and stop swatting at Winston over that rainbow bridge, will ya?