Saturday, December 22, 2012

Happy Holidays from Jinger, Allie, Mommy and angel Emmi Sue

This kitty isn't Emmi Sue, but she's so adorable that I couldn't help but use this today.
It's hard to believe that it has been three weeks since my Emmi Sue was in my arms.  What's even harder to grasp is how far I've come.  Since that evening when I ran my fingers through her ashes, I didn't cry until last night as I lay in bed.  Jinger was snuggled next to me, as she has done each night for quite some time, and I suddenly reached over to my right hip and wanted so desperately to feel Emmi Sue laying on top of me.  I cried for a few moments and then held Jinger that much tighter.  Really, I don't consider not crying a sign of healing, but being that I am a very tearful person, it's a good thing for me to be able to look at her photographs and talk about her without tearing up and my voice quivering.  My memories of Emmi Sue are wonderful and the love I feel for her continues to grow with each passing day.  She will always be my first daughter and as I told her each night, "no one will ever take that place from you."
Emmi Sue's display on my mantle, including two of her favorite toys, my beanie teddy bears!
As promised, I have taken a few pictures of Emmi Sue's final resting place and I am continually touched at how much time and care my dad took in making it absolutely perfect for my little girl.
My dad burned her name, probable birth date and day of passing into the wood, all written in my handwriting.
My Emmi Sue's beautiful back paw print, including a few claw marks.  I added her name and heart to it.
I still feel the tremendous loss of Emmi Sue every single day, but I'm learning to cope with life without her presence.  She's still with me in "spirit" and that will have to be enough.

For the first time EVER, my family will be at my house on christmas eve and I can't wait.  My parents will be bringing most of the food, while I'll bake a couple apple cakes for dessert while Mom, Dad and my brother Gonzalo are here.  Is it silly that I'm excited for them to be here?  Nah, it's kind of a special occasion, even for us Atheists.  Having my family in my home is something I never experienced until my brother was home a few weeks ago, and it was spectacular.  He has allergies and was never able to tolerate being in my home for too long, but I think my new "homemaker" Kim's three times per week vacuuming has made the difference.  Yes, Dorraine is still my homemaker, too, but since she was diagnosed with COPD, she isn't able to breathe too well and is not able to do too much when she comes over.  I love that she was reassigned to me as I missed her so much, as did Jinger and Allie.  The moment she steps into my home, Jinger practically attacks her!  Yeah, it's a love-fest and it's great to have her back and doing pretty well.
In case I don't write again until after xmas, I would like to extend my sincerest wishes to everyone and may you have a very safe, happy, magical, fantastic holiday season.  On a final note, keep those who are less fortunate, not only in your thoughts but give them a helping hand.  I, for one, am going to donate food and kitty litter to our local No-Kill animal shelter, where I adopted Emmi Sue.  It won't be until after the New Year as funds are extremely tight at the moment, but it will be done in her name and I know she would be proud.  Happy Xmas to all!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Thinking of Emmi Sue and the magic of Allie and Jinger ♥

Sunday was two weeks since I lost my Emmi Sue.  Surprisingly, I never shed one tear from the moment I woke up but the evening prior, from 3am until around almost 7am (yes, I know this is not technically "evening"), I cried and mourned her passing more than I had in quite some time.  From the day I had brought her ashes home, I hadn't gone near the black urn she resided in, nor had I thought much about it, but that late evening, I felt it necessary to hold it in my hands.  Not only that, but I was compelled to open the urn, untie the baggie with her remains, and run my fingers through it.  It pained me greatly to come to the actual realization that these ashes and dry bits were my Emmi Sue.  Perhaps it was morbid that I felt I needed to do this, but I did.  In some strange way, it brought me peace.
Yesterday, my dad brought me the finished urn he fashioned for Emmi Sue and she is now finally sealed inside.  It was far too dark to take photographs, which I will as soon as I'm able to do so.  I'd still like to attach a photo of her to the wooden urn he made, as I'd love to be able to see her lovely face looking back at me when I see the pretty container up on the mantle.  It really is quite beautiful.

Something I never wrote about, but is definitely worth mentioning, is that my two remaining girls are special to me beyond what I could ever express.  I was not able to give them the attention they deserved and needed while Emmi Sue was ill and am trying to make up for that now, especially since I can see how they are mourning her loss.  But this is not actually what I wanted to write about.  Jinger and Allie have "special powers," no matter how strange that may sound.

A few years back, there were countless times when I would be in extreme physical pain and my little Allie would sense it, so she would merely come near me, rub against my body, and the pain would miraculously disappear.  It happened so many times that I called her my "magic healing baby."  Once my pain became too severe, she was no longer able to take the pain away, and I completely understood.  If she was absorbing the pain I was feeling, there was no way she could have withstood it, so I would not have wanted her to take it from me.  The pain I felt, and still feel, would kill her.  But she knew when I needed her to take it from me and she always did.
Then there's my Jinger.  Oh, this child is spectacular.  I wrote about a man who came into my life via internet many years back, whose name was Magdy.  We met around 9 years ago and online dated for 2½ years.  His being in Kuwait is what stopped us from ever meeting face-to-face, but it never got in the way of us getting to know one another and falling madly in love.  I was never sure exactly when he passed away, but he had an enlarged heart and had been diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer.  While he was undergoing chemotherapy, his heart had stopped many times and we both knew the end was near.  I won't go into our entire story but after our communication stopped, I was in tears all the time, not wanting to accept that he was possibly gone.  One day, Jinger's behavior changed.  You see, Magdy would see me holding Jinger in my arms very often and he would call her my "naughty Jinger" in a teasing way, as he had absolutely fallen in love with her playful demeanor.  The way Jinger had changed that day, and lasted for almost an entire month, is that she became my shadow.  She would follow me in ways she never had before.  She would climb on me differently than ever, she would meow in a different voice, she would sit and watch me with such intense eyes that I wasn't sure what was going on.  The in occurred to me that, perhaps, Magdy was channeling through her.  Then I decided to call to her "Magdy?", and she looked straight at me, bowed her head and blinked her eyes.  I broke down crying, knowing he had come back to me, through Jinger, to reassure me that he was alright, but had passed away.  I can't even begin to explain how at peace I felt, yet extremely emotional.  This little kitty had brought me the best gift I could have ever asked for!
Now, with Emmi Sue's passing, I've been wondering if the same would happen.  I kept thinking to myself that it would probably happen through Allie, as she is the more gentle one of my girls.  A few days after Emmi Sue passed on, I heard her growling meow, but it came from Allie.  It was the most awesome thing I had ever heard in my life.  Not only that, but for the last three or four days, Jinger has been behaving almost exactly like Emmi Sue.  I'm not sure if she's in mourning so she is imitating her, or if she is also channeling her sister so I will feel peace in my heart.  Either way, I feel less conflicted about many things from the last couple days of Emmi Sue's life.  All I know is that my Allie and Jinger are two phenomenal babies and my life would not be complete without them.  Luckily, Jinger is in almost perfect health (she has very controlled hyperthyroidism) and Allie's full check-up is on January 7, so we'll find out how healthy she is then.  As far as I can tell, she is in very good health and I will do everything in my power to keep it this way.  Both my girls are 14½ and I will do my best to stay on top of their health and happiness. ♥
As most people who know anything about me, or have been following my blog know, I am an Atheist and do NOT believe in a higher power.  I do not believe we go on to a "better place" when we die or that there is a great beyond after our passing.  So what exactly is going on here?  I have no idea.  Perhaps the "spirit" (which I'm not sure I believe in either) needs to feel free of burdens before resting in peace.  I don't know!  All I can say is that I experienced a tremendous change in Jinger after Magdy's passing.  After a month or so, she went back to her old self.  It was a visible change and I knew his "spirit" had left her.

In light of the tragedy which occurred on Friday, December 14 at the Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Connecticut, the mourning I am going through over the loss of my Emmi Sue seems almost insignificant in comparison to the pain the parents and family members of the victims must be feeling.  I am, in no way, comparing my suffering to theirs, yet loss is loss, no matter in what shape it comes.  My heart and most sincere condolences go out to all those affected in this horribly tragedy.  It is my hope that something will be done to change the laws in this country concerning guns and other such weapons when it comes to civilians.  

Sunday, December 9, 2012

One week since I lost my baby

It has been one week since I discovered my Emmi Sue's cold little body, behind my king sized bed, upon awakening.  I'm grateful that I have been able to erase the memory of the look on her face from my mind in such a short time, as she appeared wracked in pain.  I know that image will come back to haunt me over and over again, but I mostly remember her face as it was every day we had together before she had the feeding tube, which I'm ever so glad.

There are days when I can't go more than an hour or so without crying, and others when I'm oddly at peace in knowing that she is no longer suffering, so the tears are far more scarce.
I had decided, when my Emmi Sue became ill, that I would have her cremated so she'd be physically near me for as long as I live.  When the animal hospital called, my parents (and younger brother who is home until next Wednesday) and I met there to pick my baby up one last time.  They had put my Emmi Sue's remains in a pretty black urn, but she will later be transferred into a beautiful final resting place my dad made and has personalized just for her.  They also made a paw print of one of her back feet for me, and it is simply precious.  I cried as I showed the hospital attendant a couple photos of Emmi Sue, as I wanted her to at least know a little of who she had been.

Luckily for me, my family and I had been in separate vehicles.   I took my Emmi Sue in my hands, secured her in one of my car's cup holders and left the parking lot.  This was when a part of me I had never heard came howling forth.  With each tear I cried, I screamed and howled in pain as I came to the realization that my first daughter was at rest in that small container.  The pain was so intense, I was shaking and the screaming got louder and louder as I approached our home. 
As I pulled into the driveway, my parents drove in next to me and I managed to gather myself together enough to tell them I didn't want them to come in.. and then I broke down sobbing.  Mom came over to me and held me as I cried and howled my heart out as I clutched the urn in my hands.  My little girl was really gone.  Oh my god.. she was gone, gone, gone forever and I would never hold her in my arms again. It was too much for me to handle.

My family came inside the house with me and I can't thank them enough for doing so.  Had they not been there, I would have collapsed on my bed and not left the bedroom for, possibly, days on end.  Having them with me helped me catch my breath, calm down a bit and even smile as I thought of my sweet Emmi Sue.  She was finally home with me and her sisters again.

I wonder if anyone can truly understand the pain I feel in the loss of my wonderful little Emmi Sue.  She was far more than a pet to me.  From almost the time of her adoption, and that of Jinger and Allie's, I've been home, pretty much, all the time.  I've been a full-time Mom and love every moment of it, and now my eldest child is gone.  The pain is beyond explanation and/or mental comprehension.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Tribute to my Emmi Sue, the sweetest girl I have ever known.

This was my Facebook status on Sunday, December 2:

"It breaks my heart to write this post as my life will never be the same again.  I woke up this morning to find my Emmi Sue had gone to sleep to never awaken me with her sweet kisses again.  She was with me for 14 years, 8 months and 21 days of her almost 16 years of life.  I only lost out on her first year and how I wish I would have known her as a kitten.  She must have been as much of a joy as a baby as she was for me for the short time I was given with her.  I have no words to express my utter sadness and feeling of complete loss without my first little girl here with me, but I know Emmi Sue is now at peace and no longer hurting.  I just wish I could have done more for her or been holding her as she took her last breath.  I have many regrets from these last few days and will think about this for as long as I live.  Emmi Sue, you were never just a cat to me.  You were my daughter and no one else will ever take your place.  I feel so empty without your sweet little body in my arms, your face nuzzling against mine, your tiny hands reaching up to touch my cheeks, the way you never wanted to leave my embrace!  My sweet angel, you will never, EVER be forgotten." 
Emmi Sue's last couple days were anything but peaceful for her and I will regret many things that happened for a very long time, if not forever.  She deserved so much better than what became of her in the end, even though I know in my heart she understood that everything I was doing was out of absolute pure love for her.

In my grief, I was somehow able to write a few letters of thank you to a few of the members of tanya's support group, and I would like to share a large part of one such letter at this time.

"It warms my heart that my Emmi Sue touched so many people's hearts.  She was even more wonderful than my words could ever say.

The last few weeks of her life, Emmi Sue began sleeping on top of me, which first concerned me then later became my favorite thing in the world.  I would wait for her to climb on top so I could feel her tiny body readjust until she was comfortable, and I would do my best to not move the entire night.  I know she clung to my warmth and the love she got from me as much as she could and if I could have, I would have wrapped her in my arms under the covers, but she never cared for being under blankets.
Emmi Sue had the most horrible sounding growl-type meow, but it was her sound and I loved hearing her coming down the hallway with one of her toys each night, growling as she approached the bedroom, bringing it to me as I was trying to fall asleep.  It was her nightly ritual and it never bothered me past the first few times she did this.  It was just her way and I treasured each little thing she did.  Can you believe she would even 'apologize' if she accidentally scratched me?  She would hear me yelp in pain (I would never yell at her nor her kitty sisters) and she would leave the room for a few minutes, then come back to me, head bowed, with one of her toys in her mouth.  She would drop it at my feet, tap my leg and look up as if begging me to forgive her.  Yeah, we had THAT special of a bond and I miss her so very much.
Mommy and Emmi Sue in 1999
I don't know why I'm typing all this out to you except maybe I needed to do so and I need to share the wonder that was my Emmi Sue.  I'll never know another quite like her.  I have two other wonderful kitties who are phenomenal in their own ways, but no one could ever compare to Emmi Sue.  She was the only one of my three girls who would lay in my arms like a little baby for hours sometimes, fall asleep, or just lay there and look up at me, reach her small hands to my face and touch my cheeks or wipe my tears.  She was one of a kind and I'll miss her every day of my life."

My parents and I took Emmi Sue to be cremated Sunday evening, as I want to keep her close to me always.  I couldn't bear to part with her forever and this is a way of having her near me, even though I know she is gone from this world.  My dad creates the most beautiful pieces of art from wood and we decided that his first piece, which he had given me years ago, would be the perfect resting place for my baby girl.  I will be taking a photograph of it when Emmi Sue comes home to me once again later this week, or perhaps as late as next week.  I couldn't think of a more appropriate, beautiful, meaningful place for her to rest than in something her loving abuelito made for her mommy years ago.
Emmi Sue, my sweet, amazing, loving, adorable angel-child.. Mommy loves you sooooooooo much and she always will.  Never EVER forget that.  I feel so lost without you near me.  My arms are empty without you in them, my heart is broken since you had to go to sleep.  My baby, I know you held on to life longer than you should have for me and I thank you with all my heart.  I'm sorry you had to suffer as much as you did.  You deserved so much more.  You were the perfect child all your life and I will forever miss your sweet angel kisses and the tickle of your long whiskers.  I wish I could have done more for you, my Emmi Sue-poo, but you never had to do anything for me.  Always remember what I said to you every single night.  "I love you just because you are.  You are the most perfect you that you could ever be.  There is nothing you could do to make me love you more but.. oh!  I just did!  I love you more right now than a second ago."  You were my first daughter and no one will ever take that place from you.  I will love you forever... Your Mommy.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Feeding tube in, Emmi Sue getting nourishment, Mommy relieved!

After a very emotional, difficult, gut-wrenching week, today's events have calmed me to such an extent that I almost want to scream with relief.  In the end, Emmi Sue did, indeed, get her feeding tube, and this life-saving procedure was done this afternoon.  The type of tube she has is called an Esophagostomy tube, better known as an E-Tube.  I will try to take some pictures of her but this has been a trying day for her, so she is mostly resting and I do not wish to disturb her.
A kitty named Newton, being syringe fed through the E-Tube.
I really wasn't sure how her first "tube-feeding" would go, but was very satisfied with the outcome.  Knowing how my Emmi Sue is, she wouldn't sit nor lie still, so it definitely could have been easier, but I still managed to feed her 20 cc's of food, some of her medications (the rest will be given later this evening) and a 5 cc's water flush to finish the process.  I will be feeding Emmi Sue this way every 4 - 6 hours, so we will be quite busy every single day.  I'm overjoyed at knowing that every cc of food which goes into her is saving her life that much more.  We are on the right track, hoping her life will continue on for more than just a few more months.
Aside from the robe and slippers, this is what I looked like at the vet today!
It's almost time for Emmi Sue's second feeding and as I'm still unsure of my "skills" at this, I'm going to stop this post rather abruptly.  It seems my blog has turned from MS to the life of my dear little kitty-child, but this is how life goes sometimes.  My priority is most definitely my sick baby girl, as I'm sure all of you can understand.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

From confusion to clarity.. answers spoken in her purrs.

Today's vet appointment did not go as I had foreseen.  I was ready to talk with Dr. Ecker about how Emmi Sue had fallen over and a million other things I had written on the paper I took with me, but nothing went as planned.  As soon as we were in the examination room, Dr. Ecker put Emmi Sue on the scale and she had lost a half pound in one week.   The look on our vet's face almost mirrored the devastation I felt, but I reminded myself that I had chosen not to give Emmi Sue her subcutaneous fluids before going to the vet, so as to get a more accurate reading in her lab tests, and this contributed to her lesser weight.
For "cat people," I believe #7 could be changed to "Remember before you  hit me:  I have claws that could easily scratch your eyes out, but I choose not to blind you."
When I first read this post almost a year ago, I hoped I wouldn't need to utilize it for quite some time, but here I am, using it on my blog.  I am being faced with some terribly difficult decisions and not quite sure which way to turn, yet my heart is telling me what to do, and that is to keep fighting.  I'm just no longer sure that is what my baby girl wants anymore.  How can I know?  Why am I having so much trouble reading her?  Will I ever be sure of anything anymore?

Dr. Ecker has recommended putting in a feeding tube, which requires surgery, and I'm not sure how I feel about this yet.  I won't make a decision on this until we receive the results from her lab work tomorrow and I'm not even sure which way I'm leaning just yet.
As I was writing this entry, Emmi Sue jumped on my lap twice and has convinced me that, no matter what, she is not ready to leave me, and I am utterly relieved.  I am in no position to let my baby go just yet!  I am well aware that the time will come far too soon, but seeing her eating, hearing her purr each and every time I pick her up and feeling her sleep on top of me, all tell me that her time is not now, not yet!  Thank you, Emmi Sue, for telling your mommy what to do.  Your life, our story together, is not going to end until you say it is time.  I love you with all my heart forever and always. ♥

Monday, November 26, 2012

Emmi Sue's life never gets any easier

So Emmi Sue and I had another one of "those" weekends.  I had been at the kitchen sink when I turned around and she was half fallen over between the wet and dry food dishes belonging to Jinger and Allie.  I immediately picked her up and set her back on her feet, but she fell back down onto her left side.  Her left hind leg didn't have the strength to hold her up and from the look on her face, this frightened her as much as it did me.  I carried Emmi Sue to one of our carpeted rooms, so it would not hurt her as much, but she still could not stand on her own.  Her entire body was twisted to the left, even when I held her in my arms.
I called the animal hospital and they couldn't tell me anything over the phone except to take her in and they would run some tests to determine what the problem was, so this was my plan.  A few minutes later, Emmi Sue jumped from my arms and raced across the room as if nothing had happened.  I decided to keep my eye on her the rest of the evening to see if this happened again, which it did not, but her behavior hasn't exactly been the same as usual either.  She seems terribly depressed and has been hiding from me, twitching more than usual when she's in my arms (she's probably doing so when not in my arms, too), eating less and fighting me every single time I need to pill her.  I'm still succeeding in giving her all of her medicine, but she's making it far more difficult than ever.

I joined an online feline Chronic Kidney Disease (also known as Chronic Renal Failure) support group (Tanya's CRF support) via the phenomenal website a few weeks after Emmi Sue's diagnosis and they have literally been my life saver's.  Not only have the moderators and members provided me with exceptional advice and questions to ask our veterinarian, but simply through sharing our stories, I've become friends with at least one very kind, sweet, supportive woman.  Honestly, much of my newly acquired knowledge of CKD comes from the information I have gotten from the members of this support group.

What I have learned through Tanya's support group is that there is a very distinct possibility that Emmi Sue could have metabolic acidosis, which, although this sounds like something having to do with stomach acidity, it's actually something far more serious.  Metabolic acidosis goes along with the anion gap being too high, and on October 16, Emmi Sue's results came back as 32 while the average is 13-27 mEq/L.  Symptoms ( include weight loss, lean muscle loss, a bony spine, weakness, vomiting, twitching, mouth ulcers and breathlessness.  Emmi Sue has been displaying a bony spine, weakness and twitching, although today I've noticed her somewhat breathless after medicating her, but it could simply be from trying to fight me off so valiantly.

I hope I'm not becoming as one of those first-time parents who stresses over every little thing with Emmi Sue, but I don't think I am.  She's not an infant, but a very sick "old lady."  In cat years, she is nearly 78 years old.  Her body is no longer responding as it should and since cats age 1 human year every 3 months, I have to keep on top of every little change I see in her like never before.

I will admit that I'm about as tired as I'm sure Emmi Sue is that we've had to visit her doctor so often.  I also do not wish to prolong her life if there is no quality left in it, but the way she clings to my arms when I'm holding her tells me that she isn't done living yet.  She has so much fight in her and far too much love left to give to even consider not giving her every chance in the world to continue on.  And I, for one, will never back down.

**I called Dr. Ecker's office first thing this morning and she won't be in until tomorrow, although there is a different veterinarian in today.  I've chosen to wait until tomorrow afternoon to take Emmi Sue in for an examination as I know how calm she (usually!) feels with our vet, and taking her to see someone new would only bring her added stress.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

More kidney issues in my near future?

I had an appointment with my new general physician Tuesday afternoon.  I made this appointment for a few reasons, the main one being that my right ankle and foot have been swollen for a little over a month.  I have also put on 19 lbs. in the last two months or so, most of which seems to be from retaining liquid, and I have been extremely concerned about this.  This doctor, Dr. Castro, had me go to the hospital for a Doppler ultrasound of my right leg immediately following my appointment, in case I had a blood clot, but luckily, no clot was found.  I need to go to the lab for a fasting blood draw as he is concerned I may have some kidney damage.  I honestly had not even thought of this possibility and am getting very upset that this may happen to me as I am focused on Emmi Sue and do not have the time, nor the patience, to be worried over myself.
It has been mostly "easy" to get Emmi Sue to eat the foods she needs to be eating, take her medications and put her on the road to recovery as in many things, she has no choice but to do what I say.  I wish life were that simple for me, but it seems I need to make some drastic changes in my life, whether or not I'm also diagnosed with kidney disease.  I do not take care of myself as I should, and really never have.  What is wrong with me?!!!  If not for myself, I need to be somewhat healthy for my three girls as they will get older and need more care as time rolls on.  They age so much quicker and need me to be strong, but the way I have been treating myself, I'm surprised I'm well enough to do as much as I have for my precious babies.  This needs to stop!  I know what I should be eating and even though I have been mostly purchasing much healthier snacks for the last few months, many more changes must be made if I plan on surviving this very possible kidney disease diagnosis.  FUCK!  I can't believe I may have this damn sickness, too.
The "funny" thing is that of my three girls, Emmi Sue is the one who is most like me in personality so it would seem almost logical for both of us to suffer from the same conditions.  She has trouble with blood sugar issues, as do I.  She's a moody little girl and well, me, too!  She's overly clingy, moody, jealous, extremely loving and the sweetest girl anyone could ever meet.  I'm not sure I'm as sweet as Emmi Sue, but we are definitely a LOT alike.  Just as my mom and I tend to suffer from many of the same illnesses, it seems my daughter and I will go through many of the same things, too.  At least neither my mom nor Emmi Sue have anything as terrible as MS, and of this I am eternally thankful.

Even though I don't wish to jump to any conclusions, I feel it's important to know the signs of Kidney Disease, being that it is far more prevalent than I had ever imagined.

10 Symptoms of Kidney Disease
Many people who have chronic kidney disease don't know it, because the early signs can be very subtle. It can take many years to go from chronic kidney disease (CKD) to kidney failure. Some people with CKD live out their lives without ever reaching kidney failure.

However, for people at any stage of kidney disease, knowledge is power. Knowing the symptoms of kidney disease can help you get the treatment you need to feel your best. If you or someone you know has one or more of the following symptoms of kidney disease, or you are worried about kidney problems, see a doctor for blood and urine tests. Remember, many of the symptoms can be due to reasons other than kidney disease. The only way to know the cause of your symptoms is to see your doctor.

Symptom 1: Changes in Urination
 Kidneys make urine, so when the kidneys are failing, the urine may change. How?

    * You may have to get up at night to urinate.
    * Urine may be foamy or bubbly. You may urinate more often, or in greater amounts than usual, with pale urine.
    * You may urinate less often, or in smaller amounts than usual with dark colored urine.
    * Your urine may contain blood.
    * You may feel pressure or have difficulty urinating.

Symptom 2: Swelling
 Failing kidneys don't remove extra fluid, which builds up in your body causing swelling in the legs, ankles, feet, face, and/or hands.

Symptom 3: Fatigue
 Healthy kidneys make a hormone called erythropoietin (a-rith'-ro-po'-uh-tin) that tells your body to make oxygen-carrying red blood cells. As the kidneys fail, they make less erythropoietin. With fewer red blood cells to carry oxygen, your muscles and brain become tired very quickly. This condition is called anemia, and it can be treated.

Symptom 4: Skin Rash/Itching
 Kidneys remove wastes from the bloodstream. When the kidneys fail, the buildup of wastes in your blood can cause severe itching.

Symptom 5: Metallic Taste in Mouth/Ammonia Breath
 A buildup of wastes in the blood (called uremia) can make food taste different and cause bad breath. You may also notice that you stop liking to eat meat, or that you are losing weight because you just don't feel like eating.

Symptom 6: Nausea and Vomiting 
A severe buildup of wastes in the blood (uremia) can also cause nausea and vomiting. Loss of appetite can lead to weight loss.

Symptom 7: Shortness of Breath
 Trouble catching your breath can be related to the kidneys in two ways. First, extra fluid in the body can build up in the lungs. And second, anemia (a shortage of oxygen-carrying red blood cells) can leave your body oxygen-starved and short of breath.

Symptom 8: Feeling Cold
Anemia can make you feel cold all the time, even in a warm room.

Symptom 9: Dizziness and Trouble Concentrating
Anemia related to kidney failure means that your brain is not getting enough oxygen. This can lead to memory problems, trouble with concentration, and dizziness.

Symptom 10: Leg/Flank Pain
 Some people with kidney problems may have pain in the back or side related to the affected kidney. Polycystic kidney disease, which causes large, fluid-filled cysts on the kidneys and sometimes the liver, can cause pain.

Of course, almost every single one of these symptoms is masked by my MS, making it impossible to differentiate between what I have become accustomed to and possible kidney problems.  So to this I say STUPID, FUCKING MS!!!!!

Take, for example, fatigue.  Hmm, people who have MS usually feel quite fatigued.  Then there's the "skin itching" symptom.  I've had this symptom with my MS for many years, so there is no way I could have associated it to kidney problems.  Food tasting different, well yes, I've noticed this but I also started a few new medications this year and I assumed this was why my taste buds were slightly out of whack.  I like the "dizziness and trouble concentrating" one most of all.  Hello, I have MS!  These things are a way of life for me!  Thank goodness for Meclizine, or I would be flat on my face because of my severe chronic vertigo. As for trouble concentrating, all I can say is DUH!  It goes hand-in-hand with having MS.
Alright, I won't jump to any conclusions just yet, but I feel I may be headed towards more severe health problems if I don't get my butt into gear.  I plan on going to the lab tomorrow to have my fasting blood draw so I can get these tests under way.  I won't even attempt to hide that I am concerned that kidney problems may be in my own personal future, but I guess if I have to learn to handle this, I will.

Friday, November 9, 2012

MS anniversary date rapidly approaching

MS has been on my mind lately.  Why, you may ask?  I believe we all have that one memory.. that one day which stands out above all others that we will never forget, no matter how much we wish we would or could.  That day, for me, will arrive next week.  Monday, November 12, will mark 22 years since I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.  It will also be the anniversary of having MS for more than half my life.  What's strange is that the number of years no longer matters to me, and this is a good thing.  I used to live in a state of depression for weeks on end (some years, it was months) and now, it's simply a number.
When I look back on the last 22 years, I try not to remember the young girl I was when I first learned I would have to live with this disease, but rather on how far I have come.  Nothing in my life has turned out the way I would have imagined but there are many things I wouldn't want any other way.

I am convinced that I would not have married when I did, had it not been for MS.  Yes, he was the wrong choice for reasons which are too numerous to count, but through that experience, I found I am much stronger than I could have imagined, I learned what NOT to look for in a man and absolutely most important, my three wonderful little girls came into my life.  For that last reason alone, I would marry that loser all over again as my life is wonderful and full of love because of my cats.

Sometimes, I ask myself if I would "take back" the MS if I could.  The truth is that at this point in my life, I don't believe I would.  The MS is a part of who I am and I no longer deny this fact.  I could live without the pain it causes but aside from that, MS has taught me patience, which is not one of my virtues, and how to stand on my own two feet, despite the many obstacles disability has thrown at me.  Am I saying I love my life just as it is?  Hmm, no, not exactly but I can't imagine it being any other way.  I do not, however, consider MS a gift.  Gifts tend to make us smile or squeal with glee, not burst in tears out of sheer devastation as our lives fall apart around us.  No, MS is hardly a gift.  MS is a day-by-day learning experience which, those of us who are so unfortunate to have, have no choice but to learn to make room for in our lives.
I have been so utterly distracted from my own pain lately, as I've been focused on Emmi Sue, that Monday's date almost went by unnoticed.  Wednesday, as I was marking the day off on the calendar and looking ahead to next week's appointments, I saw the date glaring at me.  When I see November 12, I automatically say to myself, 1990... the year of my diagnosis.  It's just an automatic thing to say, either in my mind or out loud.  It was a day when my entire life changed, though I didn't know how much it would be affected at the time.  Had I known I would still be ambulatory, 22 years later, so much stress, depression, anxiety and heartache could have been spared from that young girl, but that is one of the worst parts of MS.  No one can tell us the path our MS will take, no matter how brilliant our neurologist may be.  We simply need to live and learn.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Reflections on Emmi Sue and her latest vet visit

With each passing day, Emmi Sue and I grow closer and closer to one another and being the way that I am, I've spent time reflecting on things and the truth is that of my three girls, I have the best relationship with my Emmi Sue, and probably always have.  She has always had a very spitfire type of personality, along with the sweetest disposition followed with bouts of extreme jealousy and anger towards her kitty sisters. She really is so much like me, yet much sweeter and more visibly vicious.  OK, vicious is too harsh a word for her as she has never harmed Allie or Jinger, but nor has she allowed them into her heart.  It's more of a tolerance, but I suspect she would miss them dreadfully if they were not around.
Mommy, Emmi Sue, Allie and Jinger.. a long time ago!
It's funny how Emmi Sue can be somewhat "catty" towards her sisters and soooooo ultra sweet to humans!  Almost every single person who has ever met her falls in love with how wonderfully loving she is.  It's simply her nature to sit on peoples' laps or want to be held, yet she understands what a stern "no" means, so telling her this will stop her from leaping onto anyone's lap.  Well, unless she's absolutely determined to eventually be on your lap!  She'll patiently wait until your guard is down and then you are hers!  Resist her charms if you can, but I doubt you'll be able to hold back from rubbing her little chin or belly.

So all of this leads me to the results from Emmi Sue's most recent veterinarian visit, this past Friday.  I had had a few concerns, including her eating a bit less than usual, having less energy, becoming startled far too easily once again, as was the case at the beginning of this battle with chronic kidney disease, and I was very concerned about all this.
I honestly could not be happier with our vet, Dr. Carolyn Ecker.  I showed up at our appointment a half hour early, which turned out to be a very good thing.  She had no patients ahead of Emmi Sue so she had time to look over my two pages of questions, concerns and supplement suggestions.  She even went as far as going to the computer and researching one of the supplements (I knew she wouldn't have heard of this one), so she would know what it was before agreeing or recommending something different.

I am ecstatic to say that Emmi Sue's blood work showed much improvement (yay!) and I will continue doing what I have been giving her, with a couple added supplements.  I am beyond happy with how Dr. Ecker and I work so well together, making a wonderful team in Emmi Sue's healthcare.  And to think the previous vet had given my baby 2 weeks to a month to live!  Emmi Sue is feeling quite well and her diagnosis was already two months ago.  This goes to show how much some vets know, and how much the love and dedication of a stubborn mom can do for her baby.  Emmi Sue is happy, purring her little head off, eating well again and she wakes me each morning by climbing on top of me and nudging my face with her cold, wet nose.  I can't think of a sweeter way to awaken to a new day! ♥
I have my three precious girls.. Emmi Sue, Allie and Jinger.  It doesn't matter what life throws at us or where we are, as long as we are together.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I live in an organized sort of chaos, but it works for me!

Early this evening, I picked up Emmi Sue's aluminum hydroxide (ALOH) capsules and was happy to see they were not too large.  I had planned on "hiding" each one inside a half of a pill pocket as I do with all her other oral medications, but it was far too large to fit inside.  If I was to use an entire pill pocket, it would be far too big for her to swallow so it was time to rethink the situation.  I decided to try "pilling" her without the pill pocket around it and voila!  It was much easier than I had anticipated.  And for the first time ever, I found a type of cat treat that Emmi Sue LOVES!  Yay for Whiskas Temptations treats for cats!  I'm not a fan of cat treats (or dog treats, for that matter) as they are basically candy for our babies, but it was hilarious to watch her eat a couple treats and search for more.  She behaved as though those little things were "kitty crack"!  I think I have found a way to bribe her into behaving when pilling her and also when it's time to give her the subcutaneous fluids.  Not that she misbehaves, but she does get a bit antsy and if the treats will help calm her down, I'm all for it.
A couple weeks ago I wrote how my legs had been retaining a lot of fluid, and as much as I hate to admit to it, this hasn't changed.  Not only that but during the last month and a half or so, I've gained at least 12 to 15 lbs., although I'm desperately hoping that most of this is water weight!  I have never retained so much water in my entire life and my scheduled appointment, with my new general physician, isn't until November 13th.  Ugh, I sure hope some of this swelling goes down before that.  My ankles look absolutely hideous and my favorite slip on shoes are getting extremely out-stretched.  I believe it's time to invest in a new pair for when my feet get back down to their "real" size, otherwise I'll be tripping over my feet and the last thing I need is to fall flat on my face.

I also received the results to some blood work I had done last week at my endocrinologist's office and it has me extremely upset.  I hadn't realized I had been out of two medications, Zetia (for lowering cholesterol) and Omeprazole (for acid reflux) before having my blood drawn.  I had been wondering why I'd been having some heartburn issues lately, but hadn't put two and two together until my doctor's office called.  My bad cholesterol (triglycerides) was through the roof and after reading what this means, I'm doing all I can to lower it.  Of course, I called my pharmacy and apparently, I had called them the week before for a refill on both these medications and had forgotten about it, so I picked them up and have been taking them on a daily basis, as I always have in the past.  Second, I'm watching what I eat!  If for no other reason, I have to be here for my girls.  Who else would take care of Emmi Sue right now?  NO ONE!  My parents love my babies, too, but they have no idea what to do to keep her healthy.  I'd give my life to keep her well so in order to keep her well, I have to do everything in my power to get my ass healthy, too.  This was the wake-up call I needed and have needed for a very long time.  No more games with me.. my girls desperately need me to be strong and get healthy already!
It's nice to have fallen into a routine with my Emmi Sue.  When I get up in the morning (or afternoon sometimes) I make my one cup of coffee as I check my blood sugar, prepare Emmi Sue's food with the ALOH as Jinger meows her little head off at my feet, feed Emmi Sue on the kitchen counter as I take my insulin, place her on the floor and feed Jinger her own can of wet cat food and re-fill Allie's dry food bowl, get my Greek-style yogurt out of the fridge and mix it with 2 tablespoons Flax seed meal (helps lower cholesterol naturally) and finally, I prepare Emmi Sue's oral medications in one half of a pill pocket.  Whew!  Now I can sit and enjoy my slightly cooled cup of coffee and yummy, healthy yogurt before beginning the pilling and subcutaneous round of torturing my child!  Of course now that I have the ALOH capsules, I don't have to worry quite as much if Emmi Sue finishes her food or not.  If she prefers to eat from her sisters' bowls, I won't stress out as I used to as I know she's getting her medication in pill form, which is a huge relief.  But before I fell into this routine, I was running around (OK, more like hobbling) like a chicken with it's head cut off!  I could not remember what I was doing or how to do it.  Now, I have certain days circled to alert me when Emmi Sue is to receive one extra medication and other days when Jinger gets her anti-hairball formula smeared on her front paw.  I am so very organized, I impress myself! :)

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Never trust a doctor at face value

When we go to the doctor, we put our trust in the wisdom he/she has in their given field, at least to some extent.  I've learned to take a list of questions along with me to many of my doctor's visits, so as not to forget anything which may not have been addressed during the appointment.  I have still been disappointed in some of my previous physicians who did not do me the courtesy of informing me of side effects of certain medications before prescribing them to me, Prednisone in particular.  Because of this one medication, I became diabetic and will have it for the rest of my life.  Thank you so much, doc!  Even after I asked all the right questions, my first neurologist still never gave me the information he should have given me so I could make an informed decision as to take it or not.  I had the right to choose for myself and for this, I will never forgive him.
This post, however, is not aimed at that neglectful doctor.  I am writing about my girls' ex-veterinarian today.  I am still boiling mad at what she did with my Emmi Sue.  This woman, who runs a clinic specifically for only cats, prescribed a medication called aluminum hydroxide (a phosphate binder) to be mixed into her food in order to bring her phosphorus levels down.  I am a member of a support group and when I had mentioned, a couple weeks ago, how much binder I was putting into her food, a few members told me it was far too much, so I cut down on the amount I was using for her.  The vet had also told me that it would not harm Jinger or Allie if they ate food with the aluminum hydroxide, so I wasn't horribly careful to make sure they didn't consume it.. at least not at first.

The problem with this binder is that it makes food somewhat dry and chalky, no matter how much water I add to it, so Emmi Sue hasn't been eating nearly as much as she should.  I had been keeping her food separate from her sisters' dishes for the last week or so, since there really was no reason for Jinger or Allie to consume Emmi Sue's medicated food.  Aside from this, Jinger was vomiting quite a bit after consuming the food with the binder in it, so I felt it best to keep her away from it.

Since Emmi Sue hasn't been too enthusiastic to eat her medicated food, it has been very troubling to me as I desperately need her phosphorus levels to drop significantly!  Her not eating enough has been one of my biggest stresses lately and I hadn't figured out how to get her to take her medicine, until yesterday afternoon.
Someone in the support group had posted a message where she mentioned that she had been putting the aluminum hydroxide in capsules on her own, but then decided to have her pharmacy do it for her instead.  Ah ha!  A light went off in my head!  I called my local compounding pharmacy yesterday, where I purchase Jinger's hyperthyroid medication, and asked if they could do this for me, and they said they absolutely could.  I was ecstatic!  But here is when I started to become troubled.  They informed me that, according to what my ex-vet had prescribed, Emmi Sue was supposed to consume 3,000 mg. of the aluminum hydroxide per day.  3,000 mg.?  For a cat who doesn't even weigh 7 lbs. anymore?  It seemed like an extremely large amount but since I needed to speak to our new veterinarian to have her call in a new prescription, I would simply ask her what she thought would be the correct amount.

Our vet was terribly occupied yesterday but when she was finally able to return my call, I explained what I wanted to do and she agreed that it would be a great idea.  She then did a little research (she is not a cat specialist as she treats cats, dogs, bunnies and I'm sure there are more species!) and concluded that Emmi Sue should not be receiving more than 300 mg., not 3,000.  I was livid!  What on earth had the previous vet been thinking to overload my precious baby with 10 times the correct dosage?!  Was she insane?  AND, it is NOT ok for my other girls to be consuming the aluminum hydroxide since their phosphorus levels are perfectly normal.  There are no words to describe how angry I felt at hearing all of this, yet I was also so very proud of myself for following my instincts and taking my girls to a different veterinarian.  Imagine what would have happened had I not done that?  I refuse to even allow my mind to go there.
The good thing in all of this is that our new vet, Dr. Ecker, listens to me and is open to what I have to say, as I am open to listen to her expertise.  I am fully aware that I don't know nearly as much as she knows, yet I'm driven purely by my love and devotion to my precious little girls.  She knows, understands and respects this and I appreciate it so very much.  I feel we make a great team in the healthcare of my babies!  She is off work today but will call my pharmacy first thing Friday morning so we can get the aluminum hydroxide put into capsules.  This way I can start giving Emmi Sue her lifesaving medication in a way she will finally be getting the correct dosage into her tiny body each and every day without any problems.  I could not be happier in having a new way of administering this to her!  My baby finally has a chance at getting better and I can finally stop stressing out!  It's truly a win-win situation.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Questioning peoples' reactions to Emmi Sue's CKD

It has been three days since Emmi Sue's last appointment and I've noticed her behaving a little bit more like her old self, at least from time to time.  I can't begin to express how happy it makes me to hear my baby purring and purring while she's in my arms, licking my chin, touching my face and staring directly in my eyes as she used to do.  She no longer seems to get spaced out or sit hunched over as she had been doing last week.  Oh, my baby is feeling better, I can feel it!
I will admit that since Emmi Sue was diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), I have fallen into a bit of a depression, but honestly, who could blame me?  One of my beloved babies is facing a life-threatening illness which will cut her life short, although I am doing everything in my power to not allow it to take her from me too soon.  A day like yesterday was something I needed more than anything as it gave me all kinds of hope and allowed me to smile once again.

Saturday evening I met with my parents, and a few of their friends, for dinner at a restaurant.  The lady who was seated across from me is someone whom I have known for a few years and kind of consider her more than just an acquaintance, but yet am often taken aback by many things she says .  Saturday was no exception.  As most of my parents' friends, she is Catholic, and I feel this makes her feel somehow entitled to "speak her mind" in a way she does not feel I should.  Allow me to elaborate.  When asked how I have been feeling, I explained that I have been extremely overwhelmed and a bit depressed over Emmi Sue, and her response was something to the extent of "death is a part of life."  She then went on to tell me how someone she knew had just put their dog "down" and how they missed him, but did she really feel this was the appropriate thing to say to me at this time?  If Emmi Sue were a human child with kidney disease, would her response been the same?
It sickens me how people assume my babies are just cats, simply because their pets are only animals in their eyes.  I have never treated my girls this way and it insults both me AND my babies when others treat us this way.  They are my family, dammit!  I wish people would be more considerate of how others may feel before saying such things.  I would expect such callous commentary from younger people, but not from a woman who was sitting with her granddaughter.  Had her granddaughter not been there, I would have said something, but then again, I was so completely taken by surprise by what she said, that I may not have reacted at all.  But here I am, still thinking about what she said, so it obviously bothered me quite a bit.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Jinger's lab results are great, Emmi Sue's, not so much

The vet called yesterday and I'm happy to report that my Jinger's lab results were phenomenal.  I only need to purchase one over-the-counter medication so she won't have such a hairball problem, but other than that, she's damn perfect!  Being a long-haired kitty who constantly grooms, hairballs have been a problem most of her life but have gotten worse as the years have gone by.

Unfortunately, Emmi Sue's results were nowhere near as good as her younger sister's.  I don't have the full report in hand, but our vet read me the most important results and for the most part, everything has gotten worse.  Our vet, Dr. Ecker, wants to switch Emmi Sue's fluids to something called Lactated Ringer's, which is administered the same way as the subcutaneous fluids I'm giving her now, so I have no problem with it.  I'll have more information about this on Friday at Emmi Sue's follow-up appointment.  She would also like to change the appetite stimulant I'm giving my baby, along with giving her an anti-nausea medication every three days.  I don't know more than this at the moment, but I'm sure we'll go into more details this Friday.
The close relationship I have with my girls is something I cannot put into words.  The trust Emmi Sue has in me at a time when I give her all kinds of medications and subcutaneous fluids, means so much to me and gives me the courage to continue forward in this battle against her Chronic Kidney Disease.  I love her beyond words and know she loves me just as much.
My Emmi Sue is such a dear, loving little baby and I can't even begin to describe how sweet she really is with me.  The last couple evenings, she has gently touched my leg so I could hold her in my arms, where she stayed for over an hour, cradled like a little baby. I love when she does this and I always wonder what sort of thoughts go through her mind when she looks up at me and reaches out to touch my face.  When I tried to put her on the floor, she clutched at my nightshirt so I was unable to do so and it made me want to cry.  Emmi Sue has done this many times before, but she seems to be holding onto me in such a desperate way lately, much more than usual.  I wish I could explain to her what is going on in her life or why it is that I need to stab her with that large needle every single day, but there's no way to do this.  She needs to trust me, which she does.  Maybe once she begins to feel better, she'll understand, but I just don't know.  All I do know is that I will go do the ends of the earth for my precious Emmi Sue, as I would for any of my girls.  I always knew I loved and adored them but when their health began to deteriorate, I really learned just how much I value them.  And babies, you are truly my life. ♥ Emmi Sue ♥ Allie ♥ Jinger ♥ The meaning in my life.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Waiting for a moment when I can finally breathe

I haven't written much about my MS lately and it's not that it hasn't been affecting me, but when one's children aren't doing well, even if my children are cats, they truly do become the priority.
After the stress of taking Jinger and Emmi Sue to our new veterinarian this past Friday, I have not been able to relax for more than a few minutes.  When I don't see Emmi Sue anywhere nearby, I become panicked and start calling out her name over and over again until she finally comes out of hiding.  I'm literally driving myself crazy with worry and probably making her upset in the process, yet she's still being relatively clingy, at least in the evenings.  During the day, she knows I look for her so I can give her oral medications and administer the subcutaneous fluids, but I also just want to hug and hold her close to my heart.  I'm very concerned as Emmi Sue was less interested in eating as much as usual yesterday, but hopefully, she'll be back to wanting to eat a bit more today.  To be honest, as much as I need to hear what the vet will tell me she found out in the lab results when she calls later this afternoon, I dread learning the results for both Jinger and Emmi Sue.

One thing I've learned during the last week and a half since my parents have been out of the country, is that I'm much stronger than I give myself credit.  No one has been here to hold my hand as I've been dealing with many difficult moments with my beloved kitties.  It's all been about me and my babies, without much outside influence, so this shows me that I need to rely on myself more and depend on others less.  I can do more than I thought I could.  Even when it comes to driving, I've proven to myself that I can do it!  If there's much walking once I arrive somewhere, well, that's the exception for me.  There's no reason to exhaust myself since being tired is when my right leg stops functioning and makes driving absolutely impossible.
The pain in my back, pelvis and hips has been off the charts lately, but I'm sure much of it is due to my not seeing my chiropractor since my parents left on vacation earlier this month.  Had I realized I was able to drive, I would have made a few appointments in their absence but there isn't anything I can do about it now.  Perhaps I'll schedule one for Thursday as the pain is becoming unbearable.  

Aside from this "usual" pain, I seem to be retaining an extortionate amount of fluids as my ankles and feet are huge!  Even when I was getting dressed yesterday and putting on one of my more comfy, looser bras, I was barely able to put it on.  Of course, this prompted me to weigh myself and I was shocked at what I saw!  The scale showed me at 12 lbs. more than just one week ago, which is completely insane.  Each day, I drink one cup of coffee and eat one 8 oz. Greek yogurt for breakfast (around 11 am or noon).  That's all I eat until around 6 or 7 pm, aside from drinking maybe a diet 7up and/or a bottle of water.  I admit that I have not been drinking enough water lately so I have made a point to drink much more today, but the number on the scale upset me quite a bit.  I mean, later in the day I still don't eat very much as I do not allow myself to purchase sugar-filled foods or junk types of items, so what has happened?  With my girls not feeling well, I've hardly had an appetite at all, but I think my lack of drinking water is the culprit so I'm trying to hydrate myself as my sausage legs are sickening to look at.  I miss looking down and seeing my bony feet and ankles!
I have also noticed my emotions less that stable this past month and it is worrying me.  With my next appointment with psychiatrist a couple weeks away, I'm not allowing myself to get too worked up about anything, but I'm sure she will be adding another medication to the one I am already taking.  The stress, worry, anxiety I've been under is getting to me and I don't need to have a break-down at a time when my sweet babies need me to be extremely focused.  Honestly, the last thing in the world I want is to lose my grip as their health and well-being is in my hands, as I am their mother.  I hardly take this responsibility lightly so I need to make sure I'm at the top of my game for them, if not for me, but I happen to like being well.  I just need to stay focused on them, what's best for them and me, and I'm sure things will fall into place, but this has been a very stressful time in our lives.  I only hope I can hold it together as things with Emmi Sue and Jinger's health may become more challenging, before they finally level off and we can coast along peacefully and I'm finally able to take a deep breath and exhale without too much worry.