Thursday, July 17, 2003

The Middle Weeks

I realize I have not sent an update in a while, and this one is more in the nature of an update on my state of being, rather than on my Brazilian experiences, but I feel all of this is pertinent to providing an overall picture of my summer in Brazil.

I really can’t talk about the last few weeks and my experiences here without touching on some of the things happening in the States.  My uncle Jimmy (whom I must admit, I did not know very well, and who was sick for some time) died a couple weeks ago, leaving my grandmother devastated and my mom and aunts working over-time to make funeral arrangements.  In addition, my grandmother’s health has reached a point where my mom and Aunt Pat feel she would be better off in an assisted living arrangement rather than living alone, so they are trying to help her find a place that she likes.  It’s difficult being away from my family when such turmoil is unfolding in their lives.

In addition, and most devastating for me personally, is that almost overnight, Kitty’s health has deteriorated, reaching a critical point.  Luckily, Celeste recognized that something was wrong almost immediately and got him to my vet, who has been treating him since Monday.  The vet believes he has pancreatic cancer.  Kitty already suffered a bout with his pancreas about five years ago, and the vet was able to nurse him back to health, but there was always a risk that the illness would return.

When he reached the vet’s office on Monday, his body temperature was critically low, and he was severely dehydrated and anemic.  The doctors have been working to stabilize him and he seemed to be doing better yesterday, even sitting up and purring a little.  The bottom line, however, is that there are no guarantees, the vets are doing everything they can for him, but it just may not be enough. At this point, they can’t even treat his pancreas because the treatment is so aggressive, it would aggravate his other symptoms, i.e., the dehydration and anemia.

The worst part, of course, is that I am so far away, and am not able to be there with him as he struggles against this illness.  Feeling terribly helpless, I sat down on Tuesday night and recorded my voice on a cassette tape, rambling about my experiences here in Brazil.  I then Sedexed (the Brazilian form of FedExed) the tape to the vet’s office.  The fastest I could send it was 3-6 days (which still cost a fortune — the equivalent of around $16 US) but I am hoping it will provide him with some comfort.

For those of you who may not know Kitty, he is my 20-year old cat, who has been with me since my 12th birthday, and is most definitely, one of the best friends I could ever and will ever have.  My home has always been filled with his presence and without him would feel terribly empty, as would I.  I have, of course, known for several years that our time together has been getting more limited, and that every single day we have together is a gift.  Sitting here in Brazil, knowing that I have been away from him for a month, something which may have actually caused the illness to come back, makes me feel that I have squandered so many of those precious gifts.  When I heard that he was sick, my instinct was to jump on a plane and rush home.  I restrained myself for one reason.  I left him to do research here in Brazil and leaving without finishing that research would make all he has suffered almost pointless.  At the same time, I am cursing my credit card-less existence, for if I had one, I would certainly be charging a plane ticket home right now, just so that I could spend a long weekend visiting him at the vet’s office.

In any case, this update certainly has nothing to do with any of my Brazilian experiences, and yet, in many ways, it has everything to do with them.  For the past couple weeks, and in particular, this week, as I have attended my classes and conducted my interviews in schools, I have found it almost impossible to concentrate, as my thoughts have centered on my family and Kitty. The events back home have had a definite impact on my experiences here, as they should.  I certainly have more experience in Brazilian public restrooms as a result, given that I spent most of Monday as I went from class to class, finding quiet corners in them to sob and whisper prayers for my cat. I can only hope that things will continue to improve with Kitty and that I will have the opportunity to pet him and listen to his purr upon my return.

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