Showing posts with label Cats. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cats. Show all posts

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Not Knitting ... due to Pickle's Cancer Diagnosis

Those of you who stop by to read this blog regularly will most probably be familiar with Pickle, my 8.5 year-old Tuxedo Cat, who frequently features on the blog in her capacity as knitting cupboard inspector, model and product tester extraordinaire.

In the pictures below, she can be seen 
The Knitted Cat Tunnel

  • modelling the Cat Leg Warmer (or a swatch of cartridge rib in the round)
Cat Leg Warmer or Cartridge Rib Stitch in the Round

Tidying up the Knitting Cupboard with Pickle

At the end of November 2017, I discovered blood in Pickle's stool. This prompted a visit to the vet's. During her initial examination she was found to require dental treatment (including extractions) and we were advised to change her diet to chicken in broth with rice. Despite the nutritional changes, her diarrhoea continued and every third to fourth bowel movement contained blood. At a subsequent consultation with her vet, she was deemed fit to undergo dental surgery despite her digestive issues. In fact, both the vet and us were guessing that her digestive issues might potentially be connected to the state of her teeth; and that by removing this inflammatory culprit, the issues around her digestion would resolve as a result. She was booked in for surgery just before the end of the year. 

In addition to her pre-op blood tests, I decided to take full advantage of her time under anaesthetic to obtain abdominal x-rays and to carry out histological tests on a small polyp, which I discovered on her rectum shortly before her dietary issues emerged. Even though I didn't like the look of the polyp, neither of the vets, who examined her, seemed particularly concerned about this small growth on her behind. Both advised that colorectal polyps were generally more common in uncastrated dogs and that polyps in this location were not commonly encountered amongst feline patients.

Neither her blood test, including complete blood count, nor her abdominal x-rays, which would have shown any obstructions or palpable internal tumours, gave us any cause for concern. Her vet appeared confident that, all being well with the histological tests, Pickle was either passing blood due to the ongoing issues with her teeth and / or she was exhibiting the classic signs of feline Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD). 

Following her operation, Pickle returned home in the early evening the same day. Within a matter of days she was back to her usual self. Probably as a result of her dental extractions, she even appeared more active than before. The bland diet, which we kept up, decreased the frequency of her bowel movements drastically. Despite this, she continued to harbour a healthy appetite. Sadly, she also continued to produce bloody stools, albeit at a reduced rate.

In the evening of 4th January, whilst I was in the middle of a chaotic commute home from London, I received the results of the histological tests from her vet over the phone. It was bad news. That was the night Cancer moved into my life and took hold of it. If you and a beloved pet are or have been affected by Cancer, my heart goes out to you.



Pickle (in one of her favourite places - in the midst of freshly laundered bed linen) on 19th January 2018, roughly two weeks after her cancer diagnosis.  

The mass examined was found to be malignant (Adenocarcinoma), most likely a colorectal Adenocarcinoma. Her vet admitted that he would not have expected this result when he relayed her 'very guarded prognosis'. Based on the medical statistics available for this type of cancer, which is relatively rare in cats, he indicated that her life expectancy could range from 8 weeks to 18 months.

In the midst of a packed train, I tried to keep a stiff upper lip, asked all the questions that appeared to be of immediate concern (Is she likely to be in pain? - No. Is there anything we need to do right now? - No.) and arranged another consultation to discuss Pickle's prognosis in more detail. I arrived home that night and couldn't even cry. Instead, I was in shock and at a complete loss, not knowing how to start tackling the problem. Even though I was fearful of the polyp being cancerous, I had never really contemplated this being a possible outcome. I had no Plan B.

The follow-up consultation with her vet was not until around 7 days later and I had to somehow bridge that gap. Whilst it's easy to get carried away emotionally when you are confronting this Goliath-type adversary, I somehow knew that I had to contain my emotions in order to concentrate all my waking energy on thinking clearly, gaining knowledge and making smart decisions on Pickle's behalf. And FAST. 

I soon found out that the presence of Cancer and a work life do not mix well, especially if you attempt to keep on functioning in the latter. I completely stopped eating and, as a result of sleepless nights and countless hours researching the web, I physically caved in halfway through the following week. By the time the vet appointment was upon us, I was on antibiotics for tonsillitis, full of cold and my GP was particularly concerned about my anxiety. I was not able to switch off and my brain was working at full capacity any time, all the time. Feeling physically shit was ok though. As long as I was able to do something constructive and, above all, spend time with Pickle, my anxiety was bearable. With a notebook full of questions, mainly concerning the histological report, cancer staging and treatment options, we returned to the vet's. 

During the consultation, her vet explained Pickle's further treatment options in more detail. Adenocarcinoma is a type of cancer that has the ability to move fast, affecting other organs as it spreads. In order to establish the stage of her cancer, we would either have to resort to invasive surgery or get her booked in for MRI scanning. Both procedures would require another anaesthetic, a lengthy journey to a clinic with appropriate facilities and, if opting for invasive surgery, an overnight stay at the vet's. 


Pickle on 19th January 2018, sporting a post-op shave on the right side of her neck

Ignoring the financial aspects (I would remortgage the house if I had to) considering the stress and impact on Pickle's emotional and physical health, neither of these options seemed appropriate. From a medical point of view, given the absence of a palpable tumour, the chances of successfully removing cancerous tissue during surgery are slim, especially as we don't know where and whether it has spread. Chemo - and radiotherapy are equally unsuitable. Unlike certain types of Lymphoma, Adenocarcinoma is not particularly responsive to either treatment options and both might do more harm than good, especially if, assuming best case scenario, we have nipped Pickle's cancer in the proverbial 'butt' with the removal of the polyp from her rectum.

This leaves us with the final option: shifting the focus from the cancer found in the tissue sample to concentrating our efforts on improving the symptoms of her IBD, whilst simultaneously boosting her immune system. Conventionally, severe cases of IBD are often treated with the help of corticosteroids, which - when managed carefully in conjunction with dietary intervention - can produce good results. Having lived with a Terrier, who spent the best part of his life on corticosteroids and made it to 13 years, I am not necessarily averse to their use. Yet, corticosteroids negatively affect other organs when used over a prolonged period and, by implication, will shorten the life expectancy of the patient. 

Considering Pickle's overall condition - she is not lethargic, shows no signs of pain, has not lost any weight and continues to display a healthy appetite even for the bland food we have served up over the past month - I had made my decision that 'Pickle on 'Roids'' wasn't an option, at least not until all other routes had been exhausted.

In the various consultations with Pickle's conventional vet, he must have sensed my reservations in respect of conventional treatments. From my comments on immunisation to microchipping and the application of parasite treatments such as Bayer's Advocate, he was probably expecting my next turn already. Thankfully, he appeared to back my approach: the holistic route. 

Having read many accounts of owner's grappling with their cat's cancer in recent weeks, I am aware that in many cases conventionally trained vets are often not supportive of this route. This comes as no surprise, and the recent spat between the  RCVS (Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons) and the BAHVS (the British Association of Homeopathic Veterinary Surgeons) serves as a timely reminder of the frictions between both 'camps'. (More here.)

Every case is, of course, unique and there may be valid reasons why a conventional approach should be favoured over holistic treatments. Yet, in Pickle's case, he backed the idea of getting a holistic vet on board, if only to delay the use of corticosteroids by exploring raw feeding, dietary supplementation and other holistic remedies.

And this is where we are right now. After more research and days spent discussing Pickle's case with various holistic vets across the country, 'Team Pickle' was joined by another member at the onset of last week. Meanwhile, the patient herself appears content. Her last two bowel movements contained no visible blood, she maintains a healthy appetite, has recovered from the upheaval of the vet visits and seems to enjoy life as before, maybe even more, bearing in mind that she is now rid of her painful teeth. By simply looking at her right now, no one would assume that she was diagnosed with Adenocarcinoma. Further updates will follow.


Pickle on 19th January 2018, 2 weeks after her cancer diagnosis

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Cartridge Rib Stitch in the Round + Cat = Cat Leg Warmer



Cartridge Rib Stitch in the Round + Cat = Cat Leg Warmer

The blog seems to have received a number of search queries for instructions to the cartridge rib stitch motif knitted in the round. This is potentially the result of an earlier entry, in which I posted the stitch sequence for the basic cartridge rib stitch. This is available here.


Catridge Rib Stitch Sample in the Round

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Tidying Up The Knitting Cupboard

Sifting through my yarn stash, organising knitting needles, taking stock of (un-) finished projects and being amused by my (neglected) collection of vintage knitting patterns... 

I am, of course, talking about tidying up the knitting cupboard - a vault of treasures.



Saturday, 14 June 2014

This Afternoon's Yarnographic Outtakes

Featuring Mietze and one skein of Araucanía Botany Lace.

One could get the impression Mietze enjoys having her photo taken...
















Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Another Project: The Knitted Cat Tunnel

When visiting a friend, I observed her cats diving in and out of a polyester / nylon cat tunnel. Our cats can also be found playing in enclosed spaces, especially underneath duvets and  blankets. When I saw how much her cats enjoyed playing in the tunnel, I contemplated purchasing one for ours, but on second thoughts I found  the material of the so-called cat caves, which are either made from nylon or polyester, somewhat off - putting. Given the choice, I knew that Pickle et al. would prefer hiding and resting in a cozy, knitted object. After all, they choose to fall asleep on my knitting projects. And so the idea for a knitted cat tunnel was born.

Cat Tunnel in Sirdar Big Softie

The following is not so much a knitting pattern, rather a description of my project in stages. It is suitable for the beginner knitter, as it only requires knowledge of a few knitting basics:
  • You will need to be able to cast on and off.
  • You should feel reasonably comfortable knitting on circular needles.
  • You need to be familar with the knit stitch.


Cat Tunnel in progress.


I used the following materials:

  • Bulky yarn of your choice. For my project I used approximately 10 skeins of Sirdar Big Softie. This included the yarn needed to sew in the plastic tubing at either end of the tunnel. As this project is a great exercise in stash busting, you could use yarn leftovers, provided they are of similar thickness.


    Knitted Cat Tunnel in Sirdar Big Softie

  • 10mm circular knitting needles (US size 15).

  • 10mm crochet hook (US size N/15) for finishing, sewing in yarn ends and incorporating the plastic tubing. (This can also be done with a large darning needle.)

  • Plastic tubing approximately as thick as a standard garden hose (see picture below), available at hardware stores. The length of the tubing is dependent on the circumference at the openings of the tunnel, and I would recommend buying the tubing, once you have completed knitting the tunnel and taken actual measurements of the openings.

  • Tape measure, scissors and a Stanley knife (for cutting the plastic tubing).

  • Two wooden plugs or sturdy parcel tape to join the plastic tubing

  • At least one playful feline, who will appreciate your crafting efforts.


    Pebble checking on progress



Instructions for a giant slouchy cat tunnel (40cm wide and 70cm long):

Begin by casting on 90 stitches using whichever method you prefer. (I used the cable cast on.) If you want a wider tunnel, cast on more stitches. If you want a smaller tunnel, reduce the amount of cast on stitches accordingly.

Place marker to mark the beginning of the round and join. 

Knit mindlessly until the tunnel has the desired length. My tunnel is approximately 70cm long and 40cm wide.

Proceed to bind off all stitches and weave in ends.

After you have finished knitting, you may wish to block the piece in order to stretch and straighten the material. I skipped this part.

Measure the circumference of the tunnel openings at either end to determine the required length of the plastic tubing. The plastic tubing I have chosen has the thickness of a domestic garden hose. 

Once you have cut the tubing to size with a Stanley knife, the ends of the tube have to be joined to form a circle. This can be achieved by glueing the ends together with sturdy parcel tape. Alternatively, you can join the ends with the help of a wooden plug, which will ensure a snug fit. (See picture below.) Before fitting the plug, briefly insert the tubes into hot water. This will cause the plastic to expand and the plug can be inserted easily. When the plastic has cooled down, the plug should fit tightly.







When the ends of the tube have been joined, proceed to sew the tube circles into the edges of the knitted tube, using the rolled up edges of the fabric as a guide.  








Having followed these steps, your cat tunnel is ready to be enjoyed destroyed (for your cats' safety obviously only under the supervision of a responsible human).


And here are a few impressions of how the tunnel was received by Pickle, Mietze and Pebble: 


Mietze enjoyed it as a seating facility until she was disturbed by Pebble.














    Saturday, 22 October 2011

    Pebble's Parasites

    In my last post I introduced Pebble, our kitten of approximately fifteen weeks. Here she is again, because a blog of any kind can never have enough pictures of cute kittens:




    Pebble went to the Vet's this week for her  vaccinations, chipping and a general check - up, which includes treatment against potential parasites such as fleas, mites and worms.

    The vet confirmed that everything was as it should be; and she is a healthy little kitten. So far, so good.


    Roundworm


    When I cleaned her litter tray the morning after the vet visit, I was greeted by the usual presents. However, over night the worm treatment got to work and she also released the above. 

    I do appreciate that not everyone wants to look at poo, but, let's face it, every cat owner will have to do it to ensure that everything is in order with their furry friend.

    Without confirmation from the vet, we believe this was a roundworm, which she must have picked up from her mum, as our two other cats don't go out and are routinely treated for / against parasites.

    According to our research on the matter, roundworm in kittens is quite common, but also highlights the importance of getting your cat checked out and routinely treated, even if everything appears to be ok and there are no symptoms of infestation. 

    Wednesday, 19 October 2011

    Not Knitting (due to Pebble)


    Not much has happened on the knitting front recently. This is mainly due to one factor: Pebble.


    Pebble 


    Pebble is the most recent addition to the feline division of the household. She joined Pickle and Mietze on 1st September 2011 and ever since we have been busy “managing” her gradual integration. I guess the last few weeks taught us that the introduction of a new kitten into a household with established cats is a slow and gradual process, requiring constant human supervision and, at times, intervention. Whilst there may be examples of instant acceptance of the newcomer by the senior cats, this rarely, if ever, happens.

    What’s more, there is no failsafe method and cat owners’ experiences and methods facilitating the integration of the newcomer vary greatly.

    Pebble disrupting the weekly clean

    Just in case anyone is interested, here is what we did:

    Pebble spent her first twenty four hours locked away in our bedroom. (We obviously spent the night with her and paid her numerous visits during the day.) She was equipped with food, water, her very own litter tray and an eclectic selection of toys. Knowing that there was another cat somewhere in the house, both Pickle and Mietze occasionally came up to the bedroom door and a had a good sniff. In the evening of the second day, when we were still living in hope that Pickle and Mietze might just accept the newcomer, we decided to let the cats encounter each other briefly.

    Mietze
    Mietze hissed, growled, ran away in fear, jumped onto the fridge and spent the best part of the next week sitting on the highest surfaces she could reach. Pickle, though slightly more confident, did much the same. Oblivious to all this, the kitten was just eager to meet both of them. Following the first meeting, we stopped all further face – to – face encounters and only showed the kitten to the adults when it was safely sitting on our arms and only for very short periods.

    Whilst I was swapping blankets and toys from room to room to disperse Pebble's smell across the house, Steve built a cat cage (which the cats are now using a a new seating facility). Every evening, we inserted Pebble together with a ping pong ball and let her run wild in her pen for twenty minutes or until she grew tired of being confined. The cage enabled the others to take a closer look without being directly exposed to Pebble; and it gave us piece of mind. If Pickle or Mietze really wanted to take a swipe at Pebble, she was at least not in danger of being injured. Thankfully, the adults only hissed and growled at her but refrained from swiping.

    Pickle (during a rare quiet moment)
    Another week passed and it was time to abandon the cage and open the bedroom again. This time, one of us sat and played with Pebble whilst the other remained with the adult cats, who were by then interested in watching the little one from a safe distance. A few more sessions of this kind and Pickle eventually ventured towards the kitten. She still hissed at Pebble, but she didn’t overtly threaten her. At this point, we decided to introduce a cardboard box and see whether Pebble and Pickle would start playing with it together. As hoped for, the cardboard box was an ice breaker.

    Fast forward a further seven days and the kitten is now spending longer stretches with the big cats. Being the more social of our two senior cats, Pickle is naturally more involved with Pebble, but Mietze is slowly coming to terms with the presence of the kitten. Whilst Mietze makes it abundantly clear that she doesn’t wish to engage in play of any sort, she now seems interested in watching the interaction between Pebble and Pickle.

    Pickle and Pebble sharing the coveted kitchen sink
    When we are not at home we continue to keep Pebble in the bedroom as she is still quite boisterous. Over a prolonged period of time and without us there to intervene if need be, it might come to clashes, which we are keen to avoid. However, when human company is at hand, Pebble is now roaming freely throughout the house.

    Considering that Pebble’s integration into the household has taken us nearly two months and is technically still ongoing, it’s no surprise that my knitting time has been severely curtailed. When I get a precious moment to sit down with a pair of needles and a skein, Pebble excels at disrupting the process. Being a kitten, this was to be expected.

    Having said that, I have managed to continue my work on two projects. Both of these are my own designs: a bulky Raglan cardigan and a shawlette. As regards the shawlette, this project only exists as a rough sketch on paper accompanied with a few notes. I am hoping to begin swatching during the upcoming weekend. The Raglan cardigan has progressed a bit further and I am hoping to be able to wear it by mid – November....Pebble permitting.

    Raglan Cardigan in Wendy Zena
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