It has been just over a month since we let Cooper go. I started this blog with the goal to share and inspire others with Cooper’s tenacity. Cooper was challenged with illness during the latter half of his life, and I shared many of the illnesses Cooper faced head on and overcame. It was not just my love and stubbornness that carried Cooper through these challenges. There were others that made Cooper’s life a thriving reality. Over the next few weeks, I will dedicate a post about each one. Today, I want to give thanks and immense credit to Cooper’s Doctor.
Cooper’s doctor was more than just your average veterinarian. Help did not start and stop at just a scheduled appointment. She was available day or night, at the clinic or on a much deserved day off. She understands the love we have for our pets and knows a health crisis does not always appear during the hours of operation. Whether it was just a checkup or an emergency, she was there for Cooper and I, just as she is for each and every one of her patients.
Cooper’s doctor came into Cooper’s life just at the right time. Cooper had technically become a senior cat, and the health challenges were just ahead of us. Little did I know when I had a checkup scheduled with a veterinarian at the clinic that Cooper had never seen, Cooper was soon to be diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. Cooper and I met with the doctor for some routine checkups and I mentioned that Cooper was making strange meows at random times, and he seemed confused during these episodes. She listened attentively to my poorly described non-medical explanations. Without hesitation, she immediately discussed several medical conditions that could be causing Cooper’s behavior, but she would need to run specific blood work to find out for sure. The lab work would take a day or two to come back, but she called me personally to discuss the results. Cooper had hyperthyroidism. She explained the seriouness of hyperthyroidism, especially if left untreated. She explained each treatment option to me in detail and answered all of my questions. We made the decision to radioactive iodine treatment, but in the meantime, medication to manage the thyroid levels were started immediately. Through the diagnosis of hyperthyroidism, Cooper found his doctor!
Cooper’s doctor gave me her email to keep in contact with her if Cooper had any problems or if I had any questions or concerns. I have never had a veterinarian give me their direct contact information before. It was always, “Call our office if you have any questions or concerns.” That email was a lifeline for Cooper as the years progressed.
The Cancer Scare
Under Cooper’s doctor care, Cooper’s thyroid levels were back to normal after the radioactive iodine treatment. However, during treatment for his hyperthyroidism, a tumor was discovered on Cooper’s pancreas and spots on his spleen. With this discovery, I was in utter shock. She called me that day to reassure me that we do not need to jump to conclusions right away and explained that a tumor is not necessarily cancer. After some additional testing, Cooper’s doctor preformed the exploratory surgery on Cooper and successfully removed the tumor and his spleen. She called me and gave me the successful news on the surgery. When the lab results came in, she also called me personally to give me the wonderful news that the tumor and spots on the spleen had not developed into cancer! Cooper made a full recovery! When I look back at this time, I realized, Cooper’s doctor called me to calm me down and called me to keep me informed. I never had to call and leave a message. She did not keep me in the dark and she gave Cooper the opportunity for a new lease on life!
Cooper’s next chapter with his doctor became seizures. They were horrifying to watch, but Cooper’s doctor came to the rescue for Cooper’s wellbeing and my sanity. After a middle of the night full blown seizure, Cooper and I ended up at the emergency clinic. I had been told by an emergency clinic veterinarian that Cooper probably had 6 months to live considering his age and the probability of the cause of the seizures (without running a single test). I emailed Cooper’s doctor early that morning about the seizure and what the emergency vet had told me. Cooper’s doctor told me to bring Cooper to her right away. She calmed my nerves and explained all the possibilities of what can cause seizures, and she would test for each and every possibility. She looked at me and said, “Age is not a disease.” That is all I needed to hear. Although worried about Cooper, I knew his doctor would use all of the available resources to help him regardless of his age. Cooper and I went back and forth to the vet to be monitored and tested for the causes of seizures for weeks. During the tests, she discovered Cooper had hypertension and began treatment immediately. After eliminating all of the causes of the seizures, through a neurologist she recommended, Cooper was diagnosed with idiopathic epilepsy. There was quite an adjustment period on the anti-seizure medication, but Cooper’s doctor got Cooper to therapeutic dose and he lived for 3 more seizure-free years!
Kidney disease was the illness we all knew was a matter of time. Cooper was on medications for his epilepsy and pancreatitis that inevitably takes a toll on the kidneys. That day came when Cooper stopped eating and clearly was not feeling well. I called the vet, and they fit us in right away. I did not know which doctor Cooper would see, but to my relief, Cooper’s doctor came into the exam room. She listened to my concerns on Cooper and she ran tests right away. Cooper’s kidney levels and blood pressure were critically high. It was official, Cooper had kidney disease. Cooper’s doctor treated Cooper for 10 straight days getting his kidney levels and blood pressure back to a stable place. Once he was stable, she asked if I would give Cooper subcutaneous fluids at home to help manage his kidney health, and I immediately agreed. Little did I know the learning curve it would take. I was a nervous wreck and spent 30 minutes trying to muster up the energy to give Cooper his fluids in what should normally take 2 minutes top! I look videos of my sad attempts to give Cooper the fluids, and an understandably very irritated Cooper for having to put up with my insecurity. She watch my videos that I recorded giving Cooper his fluids and helped me through the steps of how to make it easier on Cooper. I never became a pro, but Cooper and I did just fine thanks to his patient and dedicated doctor.
Pancreatitis was the relentless illness that Cooper battled on and off in his later years. That did not come to a surprise since he was at a higher risk after the tumor on the tip of pancreas was removed. Cooper’s doctor tolerated my litter descriptions and how to manage Cooper’s food through emails. I probably sent too many emails, but she guided me through each digestive issue Cooper had (and there were a lot!).
The pancreatic and digestive issues that we managed over the years eventually were no longer responding to the medication or diet adjustments. Cooper’s doctor said she needed to have an ultrasound done on Cooper to get a better look at his abdomen. After the ultrasound and tests, she sat down with me and calmly yet clearly told me that Cooper had cancer. She went on to explain the options that Cooper had, but exploratory surgery was the only route we could take to know for sure. That surgery would ultimately reveal that Cooper had pancreatic cancer. Little did I know that Cooper’s doctor was the veterinarian that oversaw the chemotherapy treatments at the clinic. She consulted with other chemotherapy experts in order to map out a treatment plan that would not compromise Cooper’s kidneys. She found a treatment option, and Cooper began his weekly chemotherapy sessions immediately.
Although pancreatic cancer is generally a terminal disease, she still offered any available option to give Cooper the most out a quality and loved life. She kept me encouraged through the small successes during chemotherapy. Chemotherapy was a scary word until Cooper was in the thick of it. He had his doctor with him through each session, and we were even able to celebrate some physical improvements that Cooper gained during chemotherapy. Unfortunately, Cooper was not able to complete the chemo plan due to the cancer’s aggressive and brutal reality. But, Cooper’s doctor never left a stone unturned regardless of the diagnosis or his age. If there was an option available for Cooper without compromising his wellbeing, she extended that opportunity to him.
Cooper had taken a turn for the worse in his seventh week of chemo, and we had hoped that it was a reaction to the new chemo drug. After two days of Cooper in intensive care at the clinic, Cooper was not making any improvement. Cooper’s doctor called me and said it was time to make that decision. I made the hard trip to the clinic that I have been taking Cooper to and back home for years, but this time I knew Cooper would not be coming home. I was taken to a quiet room to wait for Cooper and his doctor. She opened the door sweetly cradling Cooper in her arms. She placed Cooper in my lap so I could spend a little more time with him as she explained what was happening to Cooper. We were at the point where we had done everything possible for Cooper, but there was nothing left to help Cooper at this point. The cancer had spread, and Cooper’s body was no longer able to function. She gave me time to talk to Cooper and say goodbye. Cooper was sweetly calm and brave, but he was ready to go and we all knew it was time. Cooper’s doctor helped him peacefully and comfortably leave as he rested in my lap. Cooper’s doctor gave him every chance at life to the fullest, and she gave him the dignity of a comfortable and painless death. As hard and painful as it has been to inevitably let Cooper go and move forward with his memories, thanks to Cooper’s doctor, I can live without regret and say, I would have not changed a thing.
I have always left Cooper’s doctor anonymous for the fact that she is a hero to many pet parents. She humbly dedicates endless hours to helping pets and their families. Her days are beyond busy but she still gives you her undivided attention. If you happen to be in the Birmingham, AL surrounding area you will find Cooper’s doctor among many of the best veterinarians at Riverview Animal Clinic.
Thank you, Cooper’s Doctor, for giving Cooper the ability to thrive in his life. You offered resources that many would have overlooked or disregarded. It has been an honor to care and love Cooper knowing you were right there for Cooper and guiding me along the way. As hard as things were, you made them easy. As fearful as things were, you offered security. As unsure as things seemed, you offered encouragement. And, as heartbreaking as the final day was, you gave comfort. There are no words to express how grateful I am for how you cared for Cooper and allowed me to live a loving and beautiful life with My Sweet Boy! Thank you!