Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Not Enough French Fries in the World

"So it's a mouth problem?" Dr. Peter asked.

I was trying to hold the tears at bay, sniffling, and failing.  "I found a mass in her mouth."

You could see the light dawn.

He took Popoki out to weigh her.  I was surprised to learn that she'd only lost about a pound; it seemed to be so much more.

I explained how I'd found the mass yesterday afternoon.  He peered into her ears, and inspected her gums before opening her mouth.

And he delivered the verdict I knew was coming: cancer.

"Mouth cancers are especially nasty and aggressive," he said.  "It's on both sides of her mouth right now, and the lymph nodes on the right side of her neck are enlarged, so they're already involved.  It's probably spreading down her neck."  The tumor was on both sides of her gums, literally wrapped around a tooth.

He went on to tell us that there were treatment options, but it would mean major surgery, removing part of her mandible to be sure we got it all, and chemo, which would only make her feel worse.  And it might buy her another six months.

"It would extend her life, but she would be enduring chemo and surgery."

"No, she won't," Hubby said quietly.

Dr. Peter said that, despite Po's stoic manner, she was probably experiencing pain already.  Clearly the cancer had impacted her ability to eat; the weight loss demonstrated that.

"I don't want her to suffer," I said through my tears.

"I think you're making the right choice," Dr. Peter said, his eyes full of empathy.  "If this was my kitty, it's what I'd do."

Dr. Peter asked if we wanted to take her home for a few more days, say our last goodbyes.

Tears streamed down my face.  "There's not going to ever be a good time to do this."

He nodded in sympathy, and went to collect the necessary paperwork and supplies, and gave us a few minutes alone with Popoki.

I held her and cried.  She purred.  I apologized, feeling a horrible guilt that it had come to this.  I cried some more.  I whispered how much I loved her.  Hubby wrapped his arms around us both and we cried some more.

Dr. Peter and the tech came back in, and offered to give us a few more minutes.  A glance at the clock told me we didn't have that kind of time.  We had another 35-40 minutes before we had to pick up Large Fry from school and get her to her counseling appointment.

Hubby signed the paperwork, agreeing that we had asked for this final procedure.

I stroked Po's head and scratched behind her ears, letting the tears fall as Dr. Peter carefully shaved back a small area of fur on Po's hind leg.  I was thankful for the good vein he found.  I continued to cry as I watched the barbiturate overdose take over.  Po's eyes glazed and she went limp.

I think she was gone before Dr. Peter even finished giving the injection.

I cried harder; I knew she was gone.

Dr. Peter pressed his stethoscope against Po's chest and belly.  He confirmed what I knew in my heart with a sad nod.  "No heartbeat.  It usually happens by the time I finish my injection."

I was glad it was mercifully brief.

Dr. Peter and the tech helped us tuck Po's body into a box so that we could bring her home.  When we got home, I took Large to her counseling appointment and then picked up the twins afterward.

Hubby had taken the time to wrap Po up in one of his old shirts.

And we broke the news to the twins (Hubby had told Large while I got the twins), who bawled.

"I didn't want her to get sick and die!" Medium wailed, heartbroken.

I started crying again for what felt like the zillionth time today.  "I didn't, either, honey," I whispered.

Hubby had already dug a hole in the ground in the corner of the yard.

The kids all wanted to see her to say goodbye.  Hubby opened up the cardboard box and pulled back his shirt to show Po, curled up in the box that was just barely big enough for her.  I couldn't help but think of all the times that she decided to curl up in a box that was too small for her to really fit in.

All three kids stroked Po's head and shoulders one last time.  There were lots of sniffles and tears.  They all wrote with a Sharpie on the flat stone Hubby had found and dried in the oven briefly.

And doing our own take on a Mennonite custom, we all took turns shoveling dirt, burying our beloved friend.

It was, by far, the worst thing I've chronicled.  Was it morbid that I took pictures?  I don't know.  But I did know that, even through the awful grief we're all feeling right now, the kids would need to know they helped.  They'd need to see that proof.

They picked dandelions to lay on the grave after Medium had tearfully placed the stone marker over the grave.  Hubby picked some yellow tulips for us girls to put there, too.

My heart has a gaping hole in it.

The sharpness of the grief has faded (unless Medium starts wailing again as she processes through her own grief); it's more like a heavy blanket over my soul.  The grief of my children is hard to bear, because, in so many ways, it feels like it's my fault they're grieving, and I can't fix it or make it better, and that's almost worse than my own grief.

Our friend Jester suggested an ice cream party to celebrate Po's life.

I might have to take him up on that.  In a few days.


  1. All kinds of awesome the way you guys dealt with this. You did exactly the right things as far as I can see. This will help the girls heal, and will probably help you. We did the same thing when Niban died.

    1. Thanks. I didn't know what else to do, and they wanted to help. I wasn't ready to lose her...but then, I probably never would have been. This seriously Hoovers.

  2. Sounds like you all are raising some good kids there. A lot of kids would have never asked to help. I'm very sorry for your loss.

    1. Thanks. I think they're pretty good kids too (I'm a little biased). I just wish I could fix their grief, and I can't, and I hate that.


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