Monday, May 26, 2008

Day 142 - "Just make me a promise that the world's not gonna end..."

I found out today that my cat has cancer in his jaw bone. It was pointed out to me via X-ray this afternoon, on Milhouse's third trip to his third vet in three weeks. There was a part of me that saw this coming, given his eating behavior over the past month, and there was the part of me that wasn't quite prepared for the news. The part of me that started crying as the vet tried her best to follow up and gloss over the bad news with the good news that "his blood work looks great, and while these number seem a little high, he's definitely not diabetic."

I've lived a charmed life, in many ways. And I'm never really thankful enough for it. There's never been a major death, or even a major accident in my family. Not even amongst my close friends. Older relatives have passed away, sure, but no one I've ever had more than three conversations with in my life. Both the last time I cried and the last time I "experienced death" was the parting of a fictional character on Lost. So, being that I'm not primed for death in any way at the tender age of 29, I don't really know what to do with myself.

I just force-fed my poor sick cat a pretty disgusting gruel of prescription cat food, mixed with warm water and microwaved for 15 seconds. He fought me every step of the way, and at one point he managed to spit half of it out, getting it all over himself, me and my couch. Yesterday I would have been livid. But right now, all I could think was: "he still has enough energy to fight me!"

Milhouse wound up in my family's life 7 years ago, a month before Sept. 11th. He appeared in our driveway one day and just starting meowing incessantly. At first, my brother and I just thought he was a female cat in heat, given the similarities in the meow he was giving off, and the one I'd heard in that episode of South Park. But soon I realized he was meowing for our attention. And soon enough he got it.

Now before Milhouse, my experience with cats consisted of attempting to slam my aunt Rachael's cat's tail with the door like I had seen on the many Tom & Jerry cartoons that I grew up on. Man, did that cat hate me. It would run and hide the second it heard me come into her apartment. So - I guess karma decided to drop a needy cat in my lap for me to take care of as a way of making it up to them.

So first he was the family cat (and the first non-hamster-related pet of any kind in the house) - called "Lucky" at first by mom since he was "lucky we're such nice people." But I decided that was too ordinary and boring. My first choice of a name for him was "Parn" - after a character from an anime series I was into at the time. But, inevitably the name sounded too much like "porn" and after a few quizzical looks from friends and family, it was dropped. My next choice was the one that stuck, and contrary to what everyone over the age of 40 thinks, it's actually from Bart's best friend, not the ex-president (though technically, that's where The Simpson's Milhouse is from anyway).

Anyone who's met Milhouse can tell right away he's not a typical cat. He never bites, he never scratches (he actually does knead into you though if you're petting him and he's "making biscuits"), and he actually enjoys being picked up, held and being vacuumed, if you can believe it. He's needy, but then so am I, so it's a trait I appreciate. He drools like crazy. He goes ga-ga for catnip, moreso than anything I've seen on YouTube to date. And finally, while I don't know his exact age, it looks like he's not going to live to be 10 years old. 9 1/2 is old for some cats, but in my mind, not nearly old enough for a cat that's been as pampered as him.

I honestly don't know what I'm going to do without him. I gave up video games this year, and I sold my car, but really, neither of things really mean anything at the end of the day. It's easy to give them up because I know they're always waiting for me whenever I'm ready to jump back in. But there's never going to be another cat like Milhouse. I'd give up games forever if it meant him getting a clean bill of health right now.

There's a certain level of irony (or, 'strange coincidence,' if you want to be technical) in my cat having cancer. I recently starting running with Team In Training to guarantee a spot in the NYC Half Marathon in July, and I've been fundraising for about 3 weeks ago, without any real connection to the cause, not knowing anyone with Leukemia or Lymphoma. Of course, what my cat has is not the same thing as what I'm raising money for, nor do I think I'd be able to have my cat be my 'honored teammate' in the race, but the bottom line is, someone (something?) close to me has been afflicted with a terrible disease, one that I hope will one day be curable, and one that will not put anyone in the position I am in right now: having to decide the day my cat's quality of life no longer justifies him staying alive.

Heh. Hair, video games and you. Yeah, I think I'm gonna miss you the most, buddy.

I know the chances of you reading this are ever so slim, but I love you, Milhouse. With all of my heart.

-Matt

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