Our tough cat

Our buddy Pippin has been the subject of three comics so far: One tough cat and A jab for Pip parts 1 and 2.

One Saturday night in May 2012, we noticed that his inner ears were yellow. An emergency trip to the vet that night, doctors’ calls the next week, an ultrasound, aspiration and then removal of the spleen, all provided enough clues to solve the mystery: Cancer. There was a round cell tumor on his spleen, a hemophagocytic t cell lymphoma, if you want to get technical.

Chemo is different for cats and dogs than it is for humans. They actually don’t suffer and the treatment is designed to be palliative. Still, there are weekly visits to the vet for injections and occasional infusions, so a little bit of stress for old Pip.

Obviously this care is expensive and I’ve heard rumblings that question if it’s wise to spend this kind of money to keep him going. Often it’s between the lines of the statement, “you just don’t want to put him through all of that.

The truth is that the chemo doesn’t cause suffering in pets, at least most of the time. There are side effects, like his whiskers might fall out, and his appetite and thirst might increase. There is a risk that one of the drugs, the steroid Prednisolone, could cause diabetes. There is a chance, not a high one, that the reaction to the chemo could cause severe problems that lead to euthanasia. But the chemo shouldn’t make him sick. As I said, the treatment is designed to be palliative above curative, though curing him is the ultimate goal.

My vet friend, Nick, (one incredible author, toot-toot,) gave me some good advice:

The burning question – is it fair to do it to Pippin? If you don’t, there’s a reasonable chance the tumour will still be present, and though he looks bright now it could be back in as little as a few months (of course, it might -never- come back). If you do, there’s a reasonable chance of stopping the tumour ever coming back, failing that a reasonable chance of greatly extending Pip’s life.

The biggest factor in the decision to try fighting his cancer, and this probably sounds a bit weird, was asking, “what is Pip telling us through his behavior? Does he want to fight or rest?”

That Saturday night in May, he must have been feeling the absolute worst. As we later learned, he had a tumor on his spleen, he was jaundice, his liver was fatty and under stress and he was weak from anemia. But when I stood at the top of the basement stairs and called him with a little squeaky noise, he made his way slowly up each step to come see me. He sat on my lap and purred like he always does.

We decided to bank on his frequently-exhibited ability to adapt to new situations, his resilience, his hard-knock life early on which certainly made him one bad-ass cat. Then, if he tells us it’s all too much, we’ll change the plan.

He’s currently doing really well, eating a lot, being social with us, doing all his normal stuff. Jen and I get a lot of joy from just having him around. We’re more aware of that now.

He knows what’s in store when we head in to the MedVet each Wednesday morning and he gives me hell. Those folks have been saintly with their help. Only 8 more weeks to go.

If I may be completely self-indulgent, some pics of our Bubba. Thanks to the awesome, thoughtful Stefanie Fillers for the glow-worm, oreo and sprinkled donut treats.

Pip’s losing too much weight, so we’re trying to kickstart his appetite with biweekly injections of vitamin b12. I confess, I’m not really sure what the thought was behind this, I didn’t do a good job of listening. Once the word “needle” came up, I was lost.

A jab for Pip is a pep talk.

I can’t believe it went this easily, and with neither a towel nor a partner. (Jen was held up and I wanted to go to bed.) For a moment I thought I just squirted liquid all over his neck, but when the syringe was empty, his fur was dry. He didn’t budge, didn’t make a sound, and probably had no idea why I was hootin’ and hollarin’ when it was all done.

We’ll do it again in two weeks.

A note about “Winstanley’s Lighthouse”

My comic about haughty Winstanley comes from a little story I just read. For the record, Winstanley built two lighthouses. The first was damaged in 1699, so he fixed it by rebuilding it bigger and stronger. There have been a few lighthouses on the Eddystone rocks but Winstanley’s was the best-looking. The existing sketches make it look for all the world like a Rube Goldberg machine to me.

Read the interesting Night Takes Rook on Damn Interesting for the full story of Henry Winstanley and his lighthouse, including his run-in with and subsequent imprisonment by the French navy.

A quick thought about “The Secret Origin of American Exceptionalism”

Let me ruminate on The Secret Origin of American Exceptionalism for a second. Where did the recent talk of an “exceptional” America originate? What does the term “American Exceptionalism” mean, anyway? Does it mean, “exceptionally-good,” “set apart for some divine purpose,” both, neither?

Though he probably never even gave the sermon where it appeared, John Winthrop gets the credit for invoking Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, specifically the “city on a hill cannot be hid” part, to call his congregation to be careful and to be ready. They were headed to the New World and the wild frontier was no place for careless, uncommitted Christians.

Some politicians have made a big deal about French traveler Alexis de Tocqueville’s observations when he visited in 1835, but he was just trying to explain to Europeans why Americans weren’t too hot on the arts and sciences when he called America “exceptional.”

Joseph Stalin is credited for coming up with the term “American Exceptionalism.” He didn’t mean America was better than everyone else, obviously. He believed America was no different than other nations who had embraced socialism. He insisted capitalism would fail the US and he was ticked at Communist Leader Jay Lovestone for suggesting otherwise. Stalin must have been bubbling over with joy when the Great Depression hit the following year.

These days, politicians have claimed the phrase to cast the nation as an example of virtue, probably starting with Woodrow Wilson. JFK brought the City On A Hill motif into the spotlight with an historic speech in 1961, and Ronald Reagan often discussed it as his vision for the country, memorably describing that vision in his 1989 farewell speech.

Me, I think this notion of the exceptionalism of America is filled to the rim with hubris, and hubris generally throws up red flags. Hubris strolls through the door and destruction gets its foot in. A haughty spirit walks by and ruin is close behind. How often have we seen the lofty humbled? It happens a lot, from classic mythology to big money industries to modern institutions of higher learning.

I like my beefy love of country with a generous helping of humble sauce.

(Inspired and informed by a recent episode of BackStory with the American History Guys, a radio show and podcast from NPR.)

A look at “Life with Captain Dad”

Captain Lawrence Kortright, the inspiration behind Life with Captain Dad, was a privateer and, later, a captain in the British Army during the American Revolutionary War. He was quite wealthy until the Americans confiscated his fortune, so he probably wasn’t a Yankees fan.

His diminutive, lovely daughter Elizabeth married the tall James Monroe, future 5th American President, making her both First Lady and a British subject. Long before that, though, the American couple lived with the British officer, Captain Kortright. That has to be the making of a comedy-rich sitcom.

James Monroe was responsible for the Monroe Doctrine, the paramount source for American foreign policy.

The doctrine put forward that the New World and the Old World were to remain distinctly separate spheres of influence, for they were composed of entirely separate and independent nations. (Wikipedia)