Today Lily went to the vets.
As I mentioned before, Lily has been suffering from cholangiohepatitis
for several months now. Basically, it's an inflammation of the liver and bile ducts, and comes in several forms, including acute and chronic. It should also be noted that we (the vets and I) are only 99% sure it's cholangiohepatitis as the only way to be 100% is with a liver biopsy, and with Lily's age (14) we're not comfortable with putting her under. But her symptoms match up exactly and she's responded to the treatment for cholangiohepatitis, hence the 99%.
We've been backing and forthing to the vets for this since November, and it's been quite the terrifying ride of emotions. My mental problems mean that I immediately
jump to the worst possible conclusion for everything, whether I want to or not, and things weren't helped when, in January, the vet announced that she could feel a "mass" on Lily's liver. The "C" word wasn't explicitly mentioned (the vets know of my anxiety and panic disorders and so do their best not to freak me out without good reason) but it was hovering about in the exam room. So everyone was surprised when, after an ultrasound and x-ray, the results came back that Lily's liver was fine, and it was her bile ducts that were very swollen. (As an aside, Lily is such a placid and easy-going cat that they didn't have to sedate her for the ultrasound, even though they expected to. She just lay there like a flump and purred, apparently.)
So we've been treating her for the last few months with antibiotics and a low dose of steroids (so sadly Lily can't compete in the Cat Olympics, which is a shame as she'd have gotten gold in the "Sleeping Like a Cushion" event) and they've been a tremendous help. The daily vomiting stopped, her appetite came back (and brought a friend!), her jaundice completely cleared up, the "mass" shrunk to almost nothing and her mood increased tenfold. The only problem is that, whenever she stopped taking the antibiotics, the vomiting and depression would start coming back after a few days. Apparently with cholangiohepatitis it can take an antibiotic course of up to three months, and I think on and off we're approaching that time period now.
Last time we were at the vets she'd been off the antibiotics for a week and had started vomiting again just the night before, so we got another two weeks' worth of antibiotics which ran out yesterday. During that time Lily wasn't sick once, which I thought was pretty good evidence that it was the antibiotics doing most of the work. The question was, where do we go from here?
Going to the vets is very stressful for both me and (in this case) Lily - moreso for me although I'm sure Lily would argue otherwise. There's the whole leaving the house and having to interact with others issue, although I've learned to deal with that by basically pre-planning what I want to say to the vet and by talking to people's animals rather than them if someone in the waiting room starts up a conversation. There's worry over whether the taxi driver will be one of the ones that claims it's "extra" to take pets (it isn't) or tries to insist I put Lily, in her unsecured carrier, in a closed car boot while he takes corners at speed. I worry about my shopping in car boots; do you really think I'm putting my cat in one? Then there's the ever-present fear that I'll be there and the vet will tell me that there's nothing that can be done; or I've done something terribly wrong and Lily will be taken off me or put to sleep. It's not at all likely, I know, but that's irrational anxiety and paranoia for you. That last one usually starts a couple of days before the actual appointment too, so I'm operating on little to no sleep by the time the actual visit comes around.
Lily, on the other hand, has to go in a box, be taken somewhere strange, and then have a strange person poke, prod and squeeze her. Sometimes they violate her with a thermometer, and sometimes big dogs stick their noses up against the door of her box to see what she is. So it's hardly fun for her either, although she has become more fond of the box since she got given a blanket to go in it by one of the receptionists. I've even caught her sleeping in it sometimes...
Today I can say for sure that Lily was feeling fine, as she twigged to the fact that a vet visit was coming before I'd even called the taxi and went and hid behind the sofa. We then had a five-minute wrestling match where she tried to bring the sofa with her before I finally got her in the box and she glared daggers at me for the entire trip down. Thankfully it was pretty quiet there today - just a couple with a very happy, friendly black lab (who I thought was a male with a scrotum the size of a softball, but who turned out to be female and so whatever that was must have been uncomfortable) and an elderly couple with an equally elderly dog with an injured leg. Lily even tolerated the elderly dog, probably realizing there wasn't much it could do even if it wanted to.
The checkup revealed that Lily's jaundice is still at a minimum, as is the swelling around her liver and bile ducts. With that in mind and the evidence that the antibiotics have a much better effect on her than anything else she's been on, we're committing to a long-term dose with checkups every two or so weeks. Which are stressful but worth it to know that Lily's continuing to do fine.
As for Lily, she forgave me when we got home because she got more treats (and meds wrapped up in a Pill Pocket). I, on the other hand, am exhausted.