26 October 2020

Oddz-N-Endz # 1,033,283^2x99.1

Max is doing pretty well today, and basically has been since last Wednesday. Tuesday was the last really bad day that he had. Between the two meds he's on, he's not nauseated and he has enough of an appetite to make me satisfied. Not super happy because my heart wants him to eat more than is probably physically possible, but well enough. 

Hell, I left 3 plates of food in his room last night (usually only 2) and each had 3 ounce of wet food...and the Spouse Thingy reports that he ate nearly all of it. He was given 3 ounces for breakfast and finished it all by 10 am. He's only nibbled since then, but given how much he's had since last night, that doesn't worry me.

I'm out of his favorite gravy food, so I suspect he's holding out. I'll run to the store in a bit.


My riding plan for October was to rack up a minimum 150 for the American Cancer Society's Breaking Away for Breast Cancer virtual, and I looked forward to it because 150 miles in a month is not difficult at all, and the cause is worthy. Heck, I even dyed my hair neon pink the way I would if I'd gone to an in-person event.

But then Real Life smacked us in the face and October has been consumed with sick cats and loss, and until this last weekend I have not felt comfortable leaving Max alone for very long. I managed a short ride on Saturday (would have been longer but I had weird noised coming from my drive train and spent time trying to sort that out) and intended to do 20 yesterday...but the wind hit.

I'll ride on a breezy day, even if it's a stiff breeze, but this is gusts of 45-50 mph, so...nope. 

I've got around 40 miles for the month and unless this wind dies down, that might be it. I'll make up the miles, though, doing some longer rides specifically meant to go toward the ACA ride.


The last time I really wrote anything other than blog posts and on Facebook was the last draft of the last Wick shorts book. I took an intentional break, but I didn't think it would be this long, but I'm starting to feel like I'm ready to get back to work. There are copious notes for (what for now is) The Blackshear Academy and with NaNoWriMo coming, I may jump into it.

I think I've done NaNo every year since 2006 or so, usually as a way to info-dump whatever story I've had brewing in my head. Several have made it all the way through the publishing process, a few wound up being strictly for my own amusement and will never see the light of day. 

It'll be a while before I decide whether the manuscript I'll begin in earnest on November 1st will come out as mine or Max's. Maybe continue with both. I just have no idea.


I've been on the fence about Halloween: hand out candy, or not? We rarely get more than 4-5 kids as it is and I'm pretty sure the city is discouraging trick-or-treak this year though I don't think it's been outright banned. Initially I thought it was a good excuse to shut the lights off and not do anything. But... 

It's not like I'm going to lick any kid coming to my door. I've never touched a kid when handing out candy. Not even close. So I ordered a couple boxes of SweeTarts, movie sized ones, and if we don't get kids, I have candy. I'll wear a mask, I'll be super careful about contact, and what the hell, I'm handing out candy.

It seems lower risk than grocery shopping, and kids have already lost so much this year.


My brain had more but I'm easily distracted and whatever it's gone.


25 October 2020

Just a couple weeks after losing Buddah, Max was diagnosed with a soft tissue sarcoma. It's a slow growing type, typically, and rarely spreads, but it is what it is, and what it is...cancer. There's no sugar coating it at this point. Max has cancer.

We spent the couple of days leading up to his vet appointment and biopsy tied in knots and I know most of that was fear that the answer meant saying goodbye to him that day. But there's a kindness in his diagnosis; we have time, however little or much it might be. We count his good days measured against his bad, and when the scale tips, we will let him go with the grace he is owed.

It sounds simple, but I know it won't be. It might break me. It will break me.

We're still gutted from losing Buddah. I still feel somewhat blindsided by his lymphoma and how quickly we went from what do we do for him? to placing those last kisses on the top of his head. I am hyper aware of how integrated he was in those soft, day to day moments that are easy overlooked but are also so important. There are so many moments in each day where I feel his absence in routine things that I do: I buttered a slice of toast and made sure I left a glob of butter on the knife and set it on the counter, right where he always looked for it. And when I realized...I tossed the toast into the trash. I couldn't eat it.

I realized that I listen for the sound of his feet as he scrambles across the bookcases, racing to get to the Spouse Thingy's lap as he first sits down in his chair after waking up.

I miss him.

When the vet began telling us of Max's diagnosis, I presumed that I would fall apart right then and there, in the parking lot--because COVID has turned it into a waiting room--but I felt something else.


We didn't have to say goodbye to him just two weeks after losing Buddah. We have time; it might only be weeks, but it could be a couple of months, but it's time that feels like a gift.

He's 19; we've half expected him to die for the last 8-10 months. Certainly since July, when it seemed as if he was headed there sooner rather than later, so this reprieve is painted with relief.

I'll be broken when it happens, I know that. So I'll spoil him while I can.

Before this, people (in the guise of their cats) asked what would happen to Max's work--would Wick continue? Would something new come out in his name?

I don't know.

I think Wick will go on, but whether under his or mine, I have no idea. I don't know what people will accept. I don't know what they want. But there will be nothing new; I cannot fathom launching anything new under his name now. it doesn't feel fair. It might be the end of my career, given that I stopped writing under my own name several years ago.

I'm okay with that.

Right now, all that matters is Max, keeping him fed and comfortable, for as long as we have.


7 October 2020

I don’t think I could have picked Buddah’s voice out of an audio lineup the first few years of his life. Eerily quiet, he didn’t say anything unless he felt some sort of annoyance or indignity, which was a bit of a relief given how vocal Max has always been. In the last few years, though, he began speaking more—complaining usually—and I settled in with the idea that I could tell which cat was bitching from across the house, and react accordingly, to whatever degree of distress it seemed they were feeling.

The two cats just didn’t get along. I honestly think that if Max had not gotten so sick when we brought Buddah home that it would have been different, but those were the cards we were dealt. Max was constantly annoyed, and Buddah was forever the mischievous little boy, looking to make trouble when he could. I thought it would never end, Buddah always picking on Max, who was basically defenseless as he got older, and we began relying on Feliway diffusers to curb the worst of it.

But somewhere along the way in the last year, they seemed to make their peace with each other. Buddah still picked on Max, but not nearly to the degree he did. Max stopped running at the sight of Buddah. He was careful, always, but not scared.

On September 24th, Buddah began vomiting. He’s always had a touchy tummy so I didn’t think anything of it, but it continued through that weekend, along with the realization that he hadn’t pooped. That was notable, given that for the last couple of years he’s used a puppy pad near the litter box, but not the litter box itself. That habit made it easy to see who was doing what, so once we got over the irritation, we relied on it. But still…he was throwing up—by Saturday it was just yellowish foam—and he wasn’t eating, and wasn’t pooping.

That Monday the vet was called and despite not having open appointments for a couple weeks out, they got Buddah in. Based on the symptoms, they did x-rays and an abdominal ultrasound, which showed a thickening in his small bowel, causing a partial obstruction. The next step was an ultrasound-guided needle biopsy, but after three tries the doc couldn’t get a good enough sample, and he wasn’t putting Buddah through a 4th attempt.

It was pretty clear that he had more going on than his small bowel being thick; I knew going in he had symptoms of lymphoma, and the vet agreed. It was likely that or a tumor, and we were not keen on putting a 15 year old cat through invasive exploratory surgery when the end result would be the same. We opted to treat him for lymphoma since that was the most likely culprit, and brought him home.

We had high hopes of getting a few comfortable weeks for him. But he just couldn’t bounce back. He had zero appetite, though some nausea meds helped, as did an appetite stimulant. Still, the best he could do was nibble, and his best day I think he took in 2 ounces of food in a 24 hour period. He began stumbling a bit, and I could see his entire upper body pulse with each heartbeat…and then he began nibbling a bit more which abated those symptoms, and my hopes went high.

It was a roller coaster of “yay, he’s eating” and “he pooped!” with “he stopped eating” and “he hasn’t pooped again.” Two days ago he ate about an ounce and a half, and then just stopped doing more than nibbling.

Last week I felt bad when I had to take UP away from him; his favorite place in the house was on top of the TARDIS, accessed by 8 foot tall bookcases. I felt guilty as hell about it, but he’d gotten up there and realized he was too weak to get back down, so stood at the top crying for help, and I didn’t see any other choice, not until he was better.

The guilt was compounded by the thought that Max’s interview with Buddah had just been released, and in it Max promised we would always keep UP for him because he needed it so badly. But…it was no longer safe. He needed UP like breath, but all I could see was him falling 8 feet to the floor.

Today he lounged on top of a recliner, struggling to get comfortable. And then suddenly, he was on the floor, a little stunned. We were terrified, but after a moment he got up and wandered away, dignity intact. But I told the Spouse Thingy then, it was time to take the cat trees away. If he got to the top of one of those and fell…?

I knew then what was going to happen, but it took me a few hours and an agonizing trip to Costco to refill his medications before I could say the words. He’d hidden under the bed while we were gone, and when we got home we tried to tempt him with food he really likes; he sniffed it like he really wanted it but couldn’t make himself take a bite, and then went into the living room to sit on the Spouse Thingy’s lap.

It was 4:30 by then, but through some tears I managed to say what we were both avoiding. We have to let him go.

I knew there was a line that I'd been looking for, one that divided what was good for him and what was good for us, and we were pressing up against what was good for us. Could we have gotten a little closer? Maybe. But it risked him being more than uncomfortable and unsteady; it risked deep pain.

I firmly believe in Better a week too soon than a day too late, but I think we made the decision at the right time, and at roughly 5:40 today, Buddah exhaled his last breath and headed for the Bridge.

I keep thinking that this was never supposed to happen, that Buddah was the baby and was supposed to be here long after Max. It happened so fast, so unexpectedly, and feels more than unfair. I feel like he was owed more years than he got, even though he made it to 15. But he had a great life, I know he did.

We spoil our pets, there’s no question.

But I feel like he was owed more.

Max is in the front room, in my line of sight, curled up by the front door on his special perch, one Buddah left alone. I don’t know if or when he’ll notice that Buddah isn’t here, and if he does I don’t know how it will affect him. He has his own issues that have consumed our lives since July…and that might be why I feel Buddah was owed more. He didn’t lack for time and attention or affection, but we have been distracted and catering to Max.

And there’s the sad reality; Max is 19 and very frail. Today is not one of his good days, though yesterday was decent. Tomorrow might be all right. We just never know.

This year just blows.

And I already miss that furry little pest.