Unanchored Thoughts

Bits and pieces of musings about family, friends, social issues, and whatever else travels through my head without a purpose.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Indulging My Brain

I indulged by brain this week by attending The Frontiers of Environmental Economics, a two-day conference where 9 papers were presented by leading environmental economists from around the world on cutting edge issues in the field. It felt like an indulgence because I only have 24 hours a week to be an economist and I spent 16 of them at this conference. I appreciate the federal government investing in my brain this way, and I hope I can provide some return on the investment...but I have my doubts. I walked away from the event feeling like a dunce. Sure, I could follow the study on using virtual experiments to assess people's preferences for different environmental conditions (yup, you don some suit that has the ability to affect the olfactory glands and then takes you to a scenario where you're BBQ'ing next to a hog farm - the wise economist asks your willingness to pay to avoid this situation to infer the value associated with clean smelling air), but most of the others were way over my head. Perhaps I should stick to more familiar territory such as "where's mommy's head?" or "point to the kitty". Now those are questions I can answer.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Nats New Home

Graeme and Steve took a little field trip to the Washington Nationals new home. As season ticket holders Steve felt it important to do a little research on the construction of the new ballpark. Graeme thought the puddles were fun and the cranes were cool.

Steve also shows his creative side with the close-up of Graeme and a tree on the Mall. (And if anyone can teach me how to get these dang pictures to post throughout the text and not just at the top I'd appreciate it!)

In terms of Knox Knews, he is doing really well. He has created a nest in the back of my closet and has been there for 2 straight days. He's always favored this spot, so it makes sense for him to hang out there now. Plus, it keeps him away from his sister who continues to hiss at him. The hissing is troubling to us, but we understand her instincts. Knox hasn't been moving around much, but he responds really well to us. He squeaks when we approach him and purrs loudly. Given that neither cat has ever been a purring kitty this is a nice, new experience for us.

We are facing the next few days with some trepidation as we await news of the biopsy results. Knox seems to be on such a path of recovery that it is hard to fathom how we might handle news to the contrary. We take each day one at a time.

Thank you for your continued thoughts, emails, and well wishes....and stories about your own pets. They are very comforting and touching.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

What's in a name?

A few people have asked about Knox and Madison's names. Knox is the county where Steve spent his formative years, ages 10-18 or so, and the place he considers home (Knox County, Tennessee). Madison is the county where I grew up (Madison County, New York) and where my father still lives in the house I lived in from age 5-18 or so. We thought the names were very cat-like and meaningful to us, and hence it was an easy decision.

My mother has been with us since Friday and plans to stay through Wednesday. She loves Knox and takes an opportunity she can to see Graeme. It has been very helpful to have her here. She and Graeme adore each other, and Steve and I have been able to spend lots of time with Knox.

Knox had a good day today. He has a great appetite and we've been feeding him about a tablespoon of food every two hours (round the clock). Feeding him makes me nervous because it has always led to vomiting, but he has kept all his food down and seems very hungry. We take this as a good sign that he is feeling better. He spent most of the day in our basement with Steve, resting, but he showed some signs of love - purring, rubbing his head on your hand, and looking at us when we walked by. Our dear neighbor, Rita, did some Reiki on him for about 30 minutes this afternoon. She thought his eyes looked good and breathing seemed normal. He had some "tingly" energy around his hindquarters, but he responded well to her touch. We are so grateful for her love.

We've come to believe that Madison has long known about Knox's tumor. About a year ago she started acting startled around him. He would walk around the corner and she would jump, and sometimes go so far as to raise her paw at him. We always joked about it - Maddie this is your brother, he's the only cat you've ever known. Steve wondered about her eyesight. After talking with many of you we believe that she knew he was sick and was responding instinctively to "isolate" or "stay away from" the weak. While this breaks my heart because our nature is to comfort the weak, I am amazed at the powers animals possess and believe we can learn much from studying them. In the last few days Maddie has showed increasing concern for Knox and wanted to be in the same room with him during the Reiki session. We are trying to shower her with as much attention as possible; it breaks our heart for her to think that she misses Knox's company.

We have arranged our schedules to be with Knox this week. We anxiously watch him each moment for signs that he's comfortable. While we are pretty sure our time is short with him, we feel a bit of happiness that he had a comfortable day.

I can't tell you how much your calls and emails mean to us. We thank you all for your love and support.

(Above is a picture of the cats playing with a Christmas toy in 2004. Knox is on the table observing Maddie.)

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Our sick kitty

We are very, very sad to learn that Knox has cancer. Most of you probably know Knox and Madison as our two very loving kitties. We adopted them from upstate New York when they were about 8 weeks old. They have six front toes for which we nicknamed them our Adirondack Snowshoe Kitties in reference to both their heritage and extra digits. Knox and Madison have been the most wonderful additions to our lives, with the exception of Graeme. We hemmed and hawed about adopting kitties for about a year, and then decided to take a leap of faith that we could manage our allergies and travel schedules with cats in the household. The allergies turned out to be a non-issue, and meeting Diana Funk, owner of Get Out of Town Pet Sitting Service made the travel almost a non-issue, though I still cried every time I left them.

Knox is the friendly kitty who loves attention. Known for sitting in the middle of the room during parties and demanding attention from everyone who walked through the door, he ultimately has favored Steve over anyone else. He follows Steve around the house, sleeps on him through the night, loves to be carried around, and licks Steve's arms to show his affection. Both kitties love to lay on our laps with the arms stretched forward, and they prefer soft fuzzy pants to jeans or bare legs. We often sit with blankets on our laps in the middle of summer so that the kitties have a soft place to lie.

Knox has always been a "barfy kitty." EVERY vet visit I report, "he gets sick a lot." The response: if he's not losing weight then it's probably not anything to worry about. We now believe that he has probably long had this stomach tumor. I've been trying to manage his food for about a year now when the vomiting increased in frequency. The truth of the matter though is that both cats get sick a lot, and so we always believed the problem was an Adirondack Snowshoe Kitty phenomenon.

In early January Knox appeared to be losing weight and was vomiting even more. At the end of January Diana Funk called me in Pennsylvania while we were out of town and said she thought he needed attention. I felt horrible and like a neglectful mother. We took him to her recommended vet that Monday morning, and for the next few weeks tried a series of medications to try to treat what we presumptively (a standard for treatment in veterinary medicine because the diagnostics are so cost-prohibitive) thought was an intestinal infection. Things improved and we weaned Knox off the medications, until the vomiting came back with a vengeance last weekend. We took Knox to a specialist on Friday where an ultrasound revealed a large "gastric mass" (aka, stomach tumor). The doctor said it was likely to be malignant and that they could try to remove it, so we opted for surgery, a decision I now deeply regret. Knox had surgery on Friday afternoon. They were unable to remove the tumor, and found that part of his intestines, cecum, and esophagus did not look good. They biopsied everything and we will know definitive results in 3 to 5 days. Our best case scenario is lymphoma (which is treatable with chemo, but the life expectancy is around 9 months). Our worst case scenario is stomach cancer (which is not treatable).

We visited Knox on Saturday and urged the hospital to allow us to bring him home. They agreed. We have been caring for him here, showering him with lots of love. He is in some pain due to having just had major abdominal surgery, but it seems to be managed well with medication.

We do not want Knox to suffer one moment and are deeply concerned about him. We know the prognosis is not good, and thus are just enjoying these days with him and will make tough decisions when it seems as though we need to. We are sad beyond belief and certainly not ready to say good-bye to our kitty.

Thank you for your love, supportive calls, and well wishes. Keep us in your thoughts, prayers, good karma...however it is you communicate with the universe.

(I don't have this whole blog-thing figured out, so I couldn't get these pictures placed differently. The first one is Knox is his favorite position. The second one is a picture of the cats on Steve in their favorite pants, hence they are both on him!)