Learning how to make the call on catastrophic care

     (<a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-183286163/stock-photo-mri-scanner-in-hospital-laboratory.html'>MRI scanner</a> image courtesy of Shutterstock.com)

    (MRI scanner image courtesy of Shutterstock.com)

    I had been worried for weeks. Lola, who had always been vain about her slender figure, was suddenly eating twice as much as usual. Not just at meals, but in between. It was as if she had decided, as some females do when they’re up in years, Damn the calories. Bring on the pie!

    But she didn’t gain an ounce.

    At her age, of which I was never quite certain and dared not ask, it could mean several things, all of them bad. Thyroid disease. Diabetes. Cancer. I pretended not to notice. How sick could she be if she never complained? And Lola, bless her, was never one to suffer in silence. If things weren’t just so — she’d be the first to make her demands known.

    And, yet, it gnawed at me. If I pretend nothing’s wrong, will it go away? Or will I wake up one day to find that my best friend has died of a preventable illness? Thyroid disease is no big deal, I am told. Same with diabetes. Both just require a proper diagnosis and the right medication. But what if nothing can done? She seemed so happy.

    After weeks of agonizing, I made an appointment for her. I didn’t tell Lola why we were going to the doctor’s office. As usual, her full-length fur coat caused a stir in the waiting room. People don’t mean to stare but they can’t help it. Lola’s a knockout, and she knows it. But I saw the look in her eyes when the doctor asked me to leave the exam room.

    Betrayal!

    I knew what to expect. Lola would sulk for a few hours when we got home, ignore me, pretend we hadn’t slept in the same bed all these years. But come daybreak, all would be forgiven. That was her best quality. Greeting each day as if it were the first.

    The doctor said he would call with results within 24 hours. Every time the phone rang, I ran to answer. It would be a telemarketer yammering about credit cards or alarm systems. By the time the doctor called, I was relieved to speak with anyone who didn’t want my bank information.

    “The tests came back negative,” he said.

    “For everything?”

    “Well, we only did a basic blood panel. If the excessive eating without weight gain continues, I’d recommend an MRI.”

    Lola doesn’t have insurance. An MRI was $400. I love her, but for heaven’s sake, who spends that amount on a cat? (Lola is a purebred Siamese.)

    That doesn’t make her any less precious than my two-legged friends and relatives. And, in some regards, Lola’s a lot more appealing. She doesn’t borrow money, talk incessantly about her love life, or make snide comments about my housekeeping skills.

    When I was a kid, cats didn’t get MRIs or chemo. They died and got buried in the yard. I distinctly recall putting a dead kitten in a tiny wooden English Leather box and conducting a funeral service (with Hebrew prayers) just a few feet from the kitchen door. If I didn’t take Lola back for an MRI, was I being cheap or compassionate?

    I turned to Marla, a friend who knew about these things. I wouldn’t call Marla a Cat Lady but she’s been known to take in strays.

    “Is Lola happy?” Marla asked.

    “Yes.”

    “Is she in any pain?

    “No.”

    “Then let nature take its course. When it’s time, I know someone who will come to your house and make sure she doesn’t suffer.”

    Marla pressed a business card into my hand. Heaven Sent Home Kitty Care.

    “When it was Jasper’s time,” she said, “They came to my house. I held him in my arms and it was very peaceful.”

    I can’t imagine making that call. Then again, I can’t imagine subjecting Lola to an MRI, unless I was inside of it too, holding her in my arms, while it made its horrible banging sounds and peered inside our internal organs like a hologram.

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