My daughter is a bright, caring, empathetic, preteen girl. Most days she has a smile on her face that melts her mom’s heart. She is typical preteen, mostly caring about binge-watching shows on Netflix or catching up on her friend’s latest YouTube videos featuring her fave, Beanie Boos. She does well in school, is friendly to everyone, and is respectful of others.
She also has Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD).
When she was diagnosed at age 6, I did everything I could to help her. I got her into a special group at her school, inquired information from her doctor and read up on anything I could get my hands on. I have plenty of experience with adult GAD, but I haven’t a clue on what to do for childhood Anxiety. The school group helped immensely and then she aged out of the program. She was doing well until a major life event occurred in our household. We were fostering-to-adopt but had to give this child back to DCF because of my declining mental health. Her GAD came back full force. This time we sought out therapy. While she got help, so did I for my Depression and Anxiety.
In the last 2 ½ years, my daughter has been doing great with only minor hiccups.
Then we decided to move to give her a better education as she starts Middle School, another major life change.
My husband and I do not hide things from her and she knew from the beginning about the move. She helped us in choosing where we would live (ultimately her input was minor). We wanted her to embrace this change. She was excited as she will be in school with her best friend now. We thought she was handling this well.
And then sleep disturbances set in.
My daughter has always been a good sleeper; I have never experience this before even with her past episodes of GAD. As the moving date approaches, her sleep disturbances have become full fledge episodes of Insomnia and I, as her mother, feel completely helpless. Here I am, a woman who has struggled with Depression and Anxiety for most of my life and I can’t help her. For me, the solution comes in the form of medication that I take nightly. For her, at age 10, there is no medicinal help. At first we tried simple solutions by telling her to read, it will tire her eyes. That didn’t work.
As night 3 was approaching, I became extremely concerned. I could vividly remember what I felt like and how I reacted to night 4 of Insomnia for me. I remember the tears and the strong desire to sleep. I remember the immense amount of thoughts that bounced in and out of my mind. I remember the extreme irritation and delusional thinking I had during the day. I was desperate to give my child relief.
I suggested she use my weighted blanket. She refused.
I suggested mindfulness meditation. She refused.
I suggested my Therapist’s 4-square breathing technique (breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, breathe out for 4 seconds, repeat 4 times) which has worked for me a few times. She was hesitant but decided to give it a shot. It didn’t work.
Night 4 brought on the only pseudo-medicinal thing I could try with her… Melatonin. I cut my 3mg pill in half. Nope, still didn’t work. She was in tears. She just wanted to sleep and I completely understood this all too well. I explained that she needed to distract herself, try not to just lay in bed. I suggested reading, writing, journaling, drawing, coloring and lastly, watching stuff on her Kindle (which I set to the night mode that turns off the harming blue light). She slept only 7 hours that night, barely enough for an adult.
Last night, night 5, I finally convinced her to use my weighted blanket. I thought we may have found the solution as all was quiet. Then I heard her come downstairs at 11pm. After about 15 minutes, she returned to her room. This morning she said that she sat crying in her room and eventually fell asleep around midnight. She woke up at 6:10am. 6 hours of sleep.
I don’t know what to do. She is declining rapidly. The recommended amount of sleep for a child her age is 9-12 hours. She has not had anywhere close to this in five days. My sleep is becoming disturbed worrying about her. I do not know how to help her anymore. I am struggling as I feel the sense of blame coming back… she is like this because of me. My GAD worries that she will never sleep again, always jumping to the worst conclusion. I cry for her. I blame myself for her struggles with this illness. I am pondering therapy again, but that isn’t going to fix her problem quickly. How can I help my daughter?
It all seemed to happen so quickly. I knew something wasn’t right with you. First it just seemed like you were coughing up fur balls. Typical for a feline who constantly cleaned herself. Then something changed. The vomiting occurred every time you ate and for the most part lacked fur. This was not just typical hair balls anymore. Then you stopped eating altogether. A trip to the Vet was imminent.
After about a month of seeing you get progressively worse, I finally took you to the Vet. Frankly, I didn’t care if Daddy didn’t agree. He held his stance that the Vet wasn’t needed until I told him the visit would be covered under the Senior Care Plan we bought for you. That was Tuesday last week. The physical exam didn’t yield anything but I opted for a bloodwork panel and X-rays. Something was wrong. A Mother knows. It would be 1 – 2 days to get the results back. We opted to board you for the night and pick you up the next day, Wednesday. In the meantime, the Vet gave you and Anti-nausea med via injection.
Your X-rays came back normal.
When you got home Wednesday evening, you were back to your old self again. Eating, although not as voraciously as you were known to eat. You laid with us, head butting us all for pets and head scratches. In the back of my mind there was a thought, that maybe, just maybe this was a virus that has finally run its course. Similar instances with past pets should have told me otherwise. Thursday morning, I fed you like normal expecting to come home to an empty food bowl and a multitude of meows for more.
I was wrong.
The Vet said the med was only good for 24 hours and she was right. Where were the blood test results?!
Impatient, Friday morning I called the Vet asking about your blood work. I was told that everything came back normal with exception to your liver enzymes which were elevated to 350 when the normal was 10 – 100. There was no concern in the Vet’s voice. They recommended the next step, and ultrasound. Although a high expense, we agreed. Friday, late afternoon I picked you up at home and drove the Veterinary Hospital a few towns away.
And waited some more.
They brought me into an exam room, told me you were handling things well, and then I waited some more.
When the Vet returned, I could tell something was wrong but I couldn’t tell just how grim the results would be. There was this look of sincere sadness. She sat down in the chair next to me and said, “I have bad news.”
I looked at her and realized that when I said to my boss earlier that day that I needed to leave work because my cat is most likely dying, I now spoke the truth.
She continued, “We found a large mass in her intestines.” And she proceeded to draw a diagram on a dry erase board she had in me. Tears were beginning to well up in the corners of my eyes. I remained strong. Then, “She has intestinal cancer.” That phrase sealed your fate.
She spoke gently and continued to tell us the measures we could take (we… I was sitting there alone absorbing all this). The highest level of care, also the most expensive, required a biopsy of the lump to see if it was lymphoma or carcinoma and then chemotherapy and possibly surgery. There was no way we could afford this. I hated thinking this, but it was true. I would’ve wanted to do anything to save you. The next level of care was hospice care. This required medicating you to make you more comfortable while you were dying. And lastly, was humane euthanasia.
The Vet and I discussed what was reasonable in your situation. She knew from my telling her and then her trying to do the ultrasound, that you were a bit stubborn and didn’t like ingesting pills. In fact, it was nearly impossible to “pill” you. There was a brief discussion on us learning how to inject you with medications. She said, she would either go the hospice or euthanasia route. At this point, the tears started flowing. I hated being there alone.
I chose to bring you home and to discuss the options with Daddy and Sophia basically knowing what we would choose. It wasn’t a hard decision, but it wasn’t an easy one either. We didn’t want you in pain. We didn’t want you to get worse. We wanted you to be pain free and relieved of suffering. Friday evening, we chose option 3, humane euthanasia. We also knew, we didn’t want to wait long. The longer the wait, the harder on all of us.
Saturday morning, we called your Vet and plans were made. At 3:10pm we would all go with you and be with you as you faded away. It was so hard to look at you that day knowing in only a few hours you would be gone. I was not ready to let you go, my Furry Princess, my Princess Fuzzybutt. I held you, rocked you, kissed your head. You licked me one last time. I cried incessantly. The cat that made me love cats. The cat that helped ease my anxiety. The cat that was one of the family.
Saturday afternoon came and the three of us walked somberly to the car, me holding your carrier. You meowed the whole way there. The candle was lit already when we walked in, marking the death of a beloved pet. They led us the cat room, explained everything to us and took you back to put a catheter in. We picked an urn, chose to get 3 clay pawprint hearts and then waited for your return. We were told that you had to be sedated to get the catheter in (no surprise since you hated anything medical). They brought you back and gave us a few moments. We all kissed you. I held you and already because of the sedation you felt like a dead weight. But I noticed your chest rise and fall.
The Vet returned with the syringe filled with an overdose of anesthesia. We laid you back on the cat bed and sat the bed on Sophia’s lap at her request. With one hand, I held Sophia’s and with the other I held your paw. The syringe was administered and almost instantly your chest ceased to rise and fall.
You had crossed over the Rainbow Bridge.
Finding it terribly hard to let go, I held you for a few moments longer and rocked you and kissed your smooth head. Then I gently placed your lifeless body back on the cat bed, kissed your once more, whispered for you to go chase the rabbits like you used to do in your dreams, and left.
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday… 5 days, and you were gone after 7 years with us. It is still debated how old you really were, somewhere between 8 – 12. Too young for death. Saturday and Sunday, Depression hit… 2 days full of tears and emptiness. It is easier now, the grieving. I still talk to you like you are right next to me offering you bits of smoked salmon and a shred of steak. I still imagine you curled up between Daddy and I on the loveseat downstairs at night. I still expect to wake up and hear your meowing and scratching at the door for food.
Silverbelle, we love you immensely and miss you so much. Please know that one day we will all be together again. RIP my furry child.