News worth 300 pianos

Last October, I bought a piano.

Attentive visitors to our house might have observed that certain of my dining room chairs and the underside of the dining room tablehave markings suspiciously similar in shape and size to the dentition of my beloved cat, Gjetost. Those of you who haven’t met her yet need to know that Gjetost is a snowshoe Siamese in a big way.

On the eve of the new piano’s delivery, I sat Gjetost down for a talk. I said, “Now, Gjetost, a piano is being delivered tomorrow. Pianos are made of wood, just like the dining room table that you sometimes enjoy nibbling. However, pianos are VERY expensive, so you’re not allowed to chew on it.”

She looked unimpressed, so I stressed, “Pianos are VERY, VERY expensive. Pianos cost more than cats.” Still uncertain that I was getting through to her, I continued, “This piano cost more than thirty cats. In fact, it cost more than three hundred cats.”

At that, Gjetost marched off in a huff. Her message was clear: I had stepped way over the line.

She was right, of course, so when she finally was willing to be addressed again, I groveled my apologies and said that of course I hadn’t meant to imply that value and cost were related, promising her that I knew she was an extraordinary bargain and was in fact worth more than three hundred pianos.

She seemed to have forgiven me within a few days, no bite marks have appeared on the piano so far, and I occasionally remind her that she’s worth more than three hundred pianos.

* * *
In July, I took Gjetost and her big grey brother Norton to the vet for their annual checkups. Both were in apparent good health, except that Gjetost sometimes made a weird furball-alert sound that sounded like she was trying to clear something out of her nose or throat, and she’d been drooling a lot lately while napping. So, Dr. Benfatto opened her mouth to look for indications of trouble, and we both immediately saw something very, very wrong: she had angry-looking bumpiness on the back of her tongue, starting about an inch from the tip and going back as far as we could see.

Dr. B explained that weird lumps like this could be a number of things, including an auto-immune problem, an inflammatory disease, or allergies; or they could be tumors. She said from the look of the lumpiness, if it were anywhere else on her body, she would be almost certain it was cancer, but that tongues are weird. Diagnostic options were limited and lousy, so she took a blood sample, which didn’t tell us anything, put her on antibiotics for two weeks, hoping to either cure or rule out any kind of treatable infection. She also put her on Advantage, with the theory that perhaps it was flea-bite or -allergy related. Then she told me to talk over with Victoria how we would want to handle cancer, which is untreatable, barely manageable, and grim.

The antibiotics didn’t seem to do her any good, so the odds of this thing being cancer had gone up. As you can imagine, the anxiety level around here had also gone way up.

Biopsies on cat tongues are really difficult, painful, bloody messes. They often don’t yield useful information, and cancer in cats isn’t particularly treatable anyway. If it is cancer, the thing to do is manage it with prednisone and prepare for the end. Prednisone is also one of the first things to try for some of those other possible causes, unless it’s squamous cell carcinoma, in which case a different anti-inflammatory is sometimes helpful. However, squamous cell carcinoma is as horrible a diagnosis for a cat as it is for a human, and that drug is less likely to help the other possibilities, so we decided that the optimistic next step was to start her on prednisone and switch her to the other thing later if it didn’t help.

Two weeks later, Gjetost seemed to be a bit more energetic, and I thought her tongue might be looking a little better. Although the lumpy area didn’t seem to be any smaller, it was at least tongue-colored and much less angry looking. We continued the prednisone.

A week after that, I would have sworn that the lumpy area was looking smaller, but cat’s tongues are REALLY hard to examine, and I worried that I was seeing what I wanted to see. However, she also seemed to be gaining weight and energy, and my little burly girl was even showing renewed interest in crunchy treats. Also, the eye-goobers and butt-crumbs she’d had all her life had suddenly cleared up. Dr. B thought that all this made her think more and more that it was an allergy thing, and she suggested that we keep going with prednisone and bring her in a week later for a recheck, when it should be even more clear whether she was getting better.

Her recheck was Tuesday, and as soon as Dr. B opened her mouth, we both could see that Gjetost is doing WAY better. The lumpy area was considerably smaller, about the size of a dime, and for the first time, we could see that the rest of her tongue going back to her throat was normal, healthy tissue. Sure enough, she’s also gained half a pound, and she seems generally healthier and happier.

Dr. B was very pleased with her progress. She thinks it’s probably some kind of weird allergy thing, because none of the possible cancers would have responded as well as that. We’ll keep going with the prednisone until the lumps are either completely gone or the progress appears to plateau, then taper her off and see what happens next. Meanwhile, please keep doing whatever you’ve been doing for her, because she’s not completely out of the woods yet, but SOMETHING is helping.

And that is news worth three hundred pianos.