Never say never

When I first noticed the bit of round belly on Vesper, I was elated.

She’s been teeny tiny since we brought her home, especially in the summer when her hair is thinner. I’ve tried to feed her meat or bits of fat but she doesn’t really care for it and it doesn’t help.

So I laughed that now, as she starts middle age, she was finally putting on a bit of weight.

I’m not laughing about it now.

By Saturday I realized her round belly was firm, not soft and flabby like fat would be.

By Sunday, she was lethargic. She’d run across the room, then flatten herself against the floor, looking up wearily.

All Sunday evening she slept on the couch. And when she curled up next to me, and I ran my hand down the length of her, I felt a hard lump just below her ribcage.

It’s her liver, they told us, once we drove the winding back roads through the woods, popping out into the middle of rush hour traffic in Pittsburgh suburbs.

It’s enlarged. It could be cancer, incurable in all reality. Or it could be cysts, and a simple bit of surgery will send her back  as good as new.

But the only way to tell for sure is surgery. Oh we could do an ultrasound, but that costs the same, and then you’re still left with surgery if it’s curable.

I’ve always said that a pet, no matter how much I love it, is an animal, not something you spend hundreds on for medical treatment. I’d never treat a ferret for cancer. I’ve said that from the beginning.

But this? We do nothing and the cyst bursts or the cancer spreads and the end is painful, and do you know when a ferret is in pain? But there’s too much life in her yet to put her down and if it’s something so small then don’t we owe her that chance? Even if it’s to the tune of $800?

If she’d broken a leg or snapped a tooth or cut herself, we’d have paid for treatment.

If she was diagnosed with lymphoma, we’d do what ever it took to keep her comfortable until it was time to let her go.

But this is somewhere in the murky in between.

Exploratory surgery is scheduled for Friday, a week from today. I’ll drop her off in the morning, wait for the call.

If it’s cancer spread throughout her organs, we just won’t wake her back up.

I’m praying for cysts.

Because when we brought her home that March, I still cried nearly every day for the daughter I had lost. And when she danced across the floor, wrapped herself around my ankle, sniffed with curiosity at the tears on my face? I laughed again, really laughed, forgetting everything in the hilarity of her.

And she’s not even three-years-old yet and I’m not quite ready to let her go.

Yesterday she played a little more like herself and the swelling her belly has gone down and I’m hopeful, but her liver is still hard and her spine is poking up against her skin and she hasn’t attacked Alaska in a week.

Keeping Alaska down used to be her favorite pastime.

So I’ll try again on the fat and the egg and try to keep her bones from coming any further into view and count down the days until Friday.

And hopefully I’ll have good news to write then.

But if not? At least I know I’m giving her a chance.

And I’ll be more careful about saying “never” in the future.


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