Panther will start chemo

Panther Hartz with signature tongue blep

Panther saw the oncologist a week ago. It’s a rough time to be doing this sort of thing because of the necessity to social distance, but it isn’t as though we have a lot of choice on the timing. Panther went into the office, we did not. We spoke to the doctor over the phone. Her chest x-rays and abdominal ultrasound came out clear so at this point there is no evidence of spread. She went over some treatment options, and this is where doing everything over the phone was less than ideal. It was tough to have much back and forth. She seemed to have trouble hearing us at times and it was a ton of information to take in.

Back at my hospital I talked to her regular doctor, and he called and spoke to the oncologist’s office. The doctor who saw Panther was not there that day, but a different one was able to answer our questions. Then I took that information home and my husband and I came to some decisions.

We are not going to go the radiation route. There are problems with access (the facility is over an hour drive each way and she would need to go every day for awhile) Panther really, really hates the car. The cost is also prohibitive. Since she shows no signs of spread (except maybe a slightly enlarged lymph node near her tumor site) and is in every other way a happy, healthy young cat we considered doing nothing. Watching. Not putting her through treatment that might make her feel sick. In the end though, we are going to go forward with chemotherapy.

Her treatments can be done with me in my hospital with her regular doctor. They only happen once every 3 week for 6 treatments (as long as it goes well, if she has too many side effects or complications, then we stop). We thought this was a good compromise. We know from her histopathology report that we did not get the whole tumor out in surgery, so there are definitely still cancer cells in her. Doing nothing in that circumstance seemed riskier than a treatment that might have some side effects. Her first treatment is on Friday.

If you’ve been through chemo with your cat, (or any pet really), I’d love to hear how it went for you. Any regrets, anything you’d have done differently in retrospect, any advice?

books · crafty things

Fun at Home

I’ve seen several posts on Twitter of folks looking for ideas of what to do with their kids while they are all stuck at home together. This has also come up in some of my homeschooling groups as people have friends who normally use brick and mortar schools are asking for advice. The homeschoolers feel like our moment has come! We have insight that can help!

First, I’d say – don’t feel like you have to be doing something educational at all times. The world is stressful right now. If you or your kids need time to decompress, or are unable to focus then you need to just deal with your emotional health. That might be enough for now.

If you are looking for fun things that are also kinda educational to pass some time – I have ideas:

  • Reading. As above, don’t feel like this has to be ‘learning’ type reading. Its okay and good to read for fun. Audiobooks are also great. I get most of mine from my local library via their app (that also includes ebooks). Check out your library system’s website. I bet they have way more remote and digital services than you knew about. Our also has which is streaming movies and documentaries.
  • Art and Science kits. We subscribe to several crates. My 12 year old loves her Tinker and Doodle crates and the older one gets Eureka, but she’s less of a builder so they are hit and miss with how much she gets into them. There are lots of other options. Look around on Amazon for topics they are interested in, or Thames and Kosmos is another one my kids have liked.
  • Just use normal art supplies you have around anyway. Youtube is full of great and often free drawing and painting videos. Also maybe a good time to learn to crochet or do some other craft with the help of Youtube. If there is an art of craft they are interested in, someone has probably made Youtube lessons about it.
  • Other good video stuff: We like Crash Courses on Youtube (science, history, and a bunch of other topics) all fast and fun. BrainPop is also a lot of fun but can be a little pricey for the subscription. They do have a different free video each day though. Tons of topics and very well made. We also watch CNN10 which used to be called Student News – it’s a 10 min news summery each day and while that can get a little heavy they usually work to balance the bad with more upbeat positive stories of people doing good things too, and they always end with a funny (or trying to be funny) pun segment.
  • Board Games! I feel like there has been an explosion of amazing games over the past several years so this is hard to give specific suggestions, but some we have enjoyed are: Timeline (put cards in order of when each event happened in history), Evolution (make your creature the one that survives), Elemento (chemistry), Kloo (Spanish), we also had one that was about the Egyptian Gods and also required multiplication practice that they would even play just for fun, but I can’t find it right now. The point is, just pop your interests into the search bar at an online game store (or on Amazon or Ebay with the word game included) and see what turns up. Like reading, this doesn’t have to be overtly educational either. Exploding Kittens is one of the long time favorites here. All games encourage problem solving.
  • Puzzles too if they enjoy them. They make puzzles about everything. We have the periodic table, human skeleton, various maps, and the tanks of WWII, among many others.
  • Coding. There are probably a lot of resources online for this. All I really know about is Scratch from MIT, but there is probably a lot more out there and varies based on age of your kid. Khan academy might be worth checking out as well. They could be on the computer and learning too.
  • We use Math Mammoth and their website has a few free online math games. Additionally, their small, individual subject workbooks also include a long list on online games and resources for that subject. They were always a nice fall back if the kiddo was sick or tired and not focused enough for workbook work, but still got some math in that day.
  • Cooking – great life skill obviously, but also reading a recipe is learning, using fractions for measuring, etc.

Okay. Believe it or not this was all just off the top of my head, so I have probably left off a lot. If I think of enough additional things, I’ll write a new post. Find out what they are into – what they want to learn about, and help them do it!

If you have specific questions you think I could help with, leave a comment. My kids are in 11th (yikes!) and 7th grades this year and have homeschooled the whole way through. It’s been awhile since they were small, and if anything there is probably even more available out there than we had, but I can try to remember back to help out if needed.

In the meantime, try to walk the tough balance of enjoying the time you have together and not bothering each other too much. (And maybe don’t play the Pandemic board game, especially if anyone in your house is sick. We did that once a couple years ago when my youngest had the flu and she is still a little scared by the experience. )

books · writing

FogCon 2020

This was my second year attending Fog Con. It’s a smaller Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror literary convention in Walnut Creek, California. It’s just delightful. While the books above are the only physical books I left the con with I have a much, much, much, longer list of titles, authors, podcasts and a few games that I will be looking into in the coming months. It was hard to restrain myself in my purchases but I have literal stacks of books falling over because I am out of shelf space. Will I avoid buying more? – HA! of course not. But I’ll be looking mainly at ebooks for a bit.

The most fun part is meeting these amazing authors and listening to them talk about writing, fan over the stuff they love, and learning so much. It’s a small enough gathering that several times I would go to a panel and listen, sometimes figure out that, hey! that person wrote that book I like so much! Then at the next panel I went to, they were sitting next to me in the audience.

I attended panels on Societal Defaults That Carry Into Fiction, Choose Your Own Adventures, How Deep Do We Dig: Research for Writers, Small Scale SFF, SFF Podcasts, The Value of Hopepunk, and I went to a Reading with 3 great authors who made me want to run out and get their horror books even though I usually avoid horror.

I also did a very brave thing for me, and I signed up to attend a lunch get together for a local writing group that I technically joined some time ago, but haven’t actually ever attended any of their meetups. I’m glad I did. I enjoy the company of other writers, they are such interesting people (or maybe just because they clearly love books as much as I do). So now I am also signed up to attend one of their critique sessions and I think the lunch helped make me brave enough to not back out of that. Although I suppose it’s possible it won’t happen, at least in person. We’ll see what state of social distancing we are in come mid April.

Here’s hoping for the best.

And I’m already looking forward to next year’s con.


A Problematic Piece of Panther

Panther Hartz says hello.

We adopted Panther in December of 2017. She was a shelter cat who was housed at a PetsMart as they sometimes do. I remember the PetsMart employee who was in charge of the adoption center cried when we were doing the paperwork to adopt Panther. She said when they got kittens, they were usually there under 5 days before finding a home. Panther had been there for 3 weeks. Naturally, in that time she had gotten attached to her, but she assured us the tears were happy tears because Panther was getting a home, and she was such a great cat. I guess it’s true that black cats are harder to get adopted. Crazy, but true.

She is a great cat. We love and adore her.

She started growing a lump in her cheek. It was tiny, maybe a smallish pea size. Her doctor said it was likely a cyst and to just watch it and report if it changed. About a month later it was closer to a gumball size. That sort of rapid growth was concerning and it was time to surgically remove it.

In surgery the doctor could tell it was not a cyst, but he didn’t know what it was so he advised sending it to the lab for analysis so we did. That’s where it is now, waiting for yet a third pathologist to look at it. The first two have some ideas of what it might be, but not with as much certainty as they would like, so it’s going to a more specialized doctor now.

None of the possibilities to the identification of the problematic piece of Panther are good sounding. While we are still waiting for a finial word on the matter it sounding like some kind of cancer, just trying to decide what kind.

Panther is 2 1/2 years old. I know cancer happens even to the young (but it shouldn’t, that’s the most f’ed up thing there is), but it’s so hard to wrap my mind around. She looks great. She’s 11 days post surgery now, her incision is healed great, her coat shines her eyes glow her appetite and playfulness levels are all normal. It doesn’t seem possible something serious could be wrong.

The picture was taken when her lump was still tiny. You might be able to notice a slight bulge-y-ness on her right cheek (left side of the photo). I’m not sure where I’m going with this. It’s just on my mind, and Panther is adorable, so I wanted to share her picture. Send her good thoughts, I guess.

And give your kitties a head rub from me.