Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Happy Birthday, Maggie!

On April 1 (or thereabouts) our dear Maggie will turn 11.  She came to us at approximately four months old, as a kitten from the PetsMart adoption area.  There was something about that little calico kitten that spoke to me ... I knew she was mine.  It must have been the eyes.

Our first few months with Maggie were fairly normal ... then she started having weird health issues.  Over the course of the summer, our vet ran test after test, (FIV, negative.  FeLV, negative.  Everything we could think of, negative.) but no diagnosis was to be had.  In November 2002, Maggie got worse.  She was listless and refused to eat and we went to our regular vet ... who immediately sent us to the emergency department at Southpaws (a veterinary specialty practice).

Blood tests revealed that Maggie was dangerously anemic and her blood platelet count was only 10% of what is should have been.  She spent two days in Southpaws' intensive care unit, being treated with fluids and large doses of steroids.  Even when I brought her home, I still wasn't sure that she was going to make it.  All she wanted to do was 'hide' in my bathtub ... so she hid, and I sat in the bathtub with her and cradled her and tried to entice her to eat.

After a few more very dicey days, Maggie began to slowly regain her strength.  More tests revealed that Maggie had Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia, an autoimmune disorder where Maggie's own immune system attacked her blood cells ... and she would most likely require steroids and Cyclosporin, an expensive immune suppression drug, for the rest of her life.  (IMHA is very rare in cats.  My vet has only seen one other case in her whole career, and those owners chose to euthanize, so we were operating in almost uncharted territory.)

Maggie responded well to treatment, and life around here was pretty normal ... until right before Maggie turned eight.  I was petting her one day and I found a lump on her neck underneath her chin.  Back to the vet we went ... Lymphoma ... probably caused by her years on immune suppression drugs.  We scheduled delicate surgery to remove the cancerous lymph node (Bless you, Dr. Bradley) and a biopsy to determine where we went from there.  Biopsy results ... Hodgkins' Type Lymphoma, which is rare in cats and was treatable. 

Maggie received six rounds of chemotherapy (CCNU, to be exact) and she has been practically perfect ever since.  So good, in fact, that her oncologist weaned her off the Cyclosporin last year, because Maggie's bloodwork was the best it has ever been.  The doctor theorizes that the chemotherapy probably knocked out both the cancer AND the agent that was causing her IMHA.  Maggie will always be on a low dose of steroids, though, because her immune system will never behave normally.  Half of a methylprednisolone tablet every two or three days before breakfast, and she's good to go.

I tell this story every year to place Maggie's history online, so anyone who has a cat with a similar diagnosis can know that there may be hope and a future with an IMHA cat.  When Maggie was diagnosed, there was nothing out there to read to offer any kind of reassurance.  There IS hope, and Maggie is proof.

When Maggie was at our vet's for her regular check-up recently, her doctor brought a visiting resident student into the room to meet us.  The doctor looked at me, pointed to the student, and said, "She's never going to see another one of these ... tell her Maggie's story."

It's amazing to think that Maggie has been with us this long, considering how much she's been through.  The force is strong in this one, as they said in Star Wars.  If you have visited here, you have met Maggie ... because she greets everyone at the door, demanding attention and begging to be petted. 

There's just something about Maggie that is wise beyond her limitations as a cat ... perhaps she's doing some evolutionary pennance, spending lives as a cat as punishment for some sort of world domination plot in a past life.  I wouldn't be surprised if this was true.

Happy Birthday, my dear Maggie!!  Eleven already?  It can't be.  It was only a few days ago that I was standing in PetsMart, cradling you and trying to shoosh my inner voice that was screaming at me to take you home.  Our home is a richer place because of you ... but you know that already.


  1. She is beautiful. What a great story of triumph over the odds.

  2. Connie, she is a real beauty! That was a wonderful and hopeful story! Hopefully it will help someone out there facing the same thing with their little fur baby.~Hugs, Patti

  3. She's a testament to the love and wonderful life you have provided for her. Gosh, she's just the loveliest kitty!

  4. Happy Pre-birthday Maggie!! You couldn't have picked a better home! Connie, it's because of your love and determination to be the best pet owner, that she is alive and happy!!! And Maggie knows it! :) donna

  5. How lucky she was to have found you, and how lucky you've been to have such a sweet girl!

    Kat :)

  6. What a beautiful cat with such an amazing story! Happy Birthday Maggie!

  7. Oh precious Maggie is loved! What a wonderful story....

  8. I love stories like this! Thank you for posting this :)
    Maggie is a beauty, inside and out.
    Remember my Siamese, Maverick, who was a Radio Cat? After his treatments at the University of Georgia vet school gave him 5 years. He defied all odds and lived to be 22!
    My best buddy, he was! Sometimes I still think I hear him yowl or see him walking through the house.
    Maybe I do...

    Love to you and Maggie today!
    xo, misha

  9. She is a truly gorgeous cat and a very lucky girl. Just think, if someone else had adopted her, she may not have had the opportunity for the life she's had with you.

  10. Connie, You are such a wonderful mommy to all your pets and Maggie is very lucky to have found you. She is precious. Hugs, Sherry

  11. Talk about nine lives. She wants to live all nine of hers! She is beautiful.

  12. Connie I know you are blessed to have this sweet Maggie girl in your life. She is a testament to the power of love and a good Vet! Happy 11 years old Maggie. I know how you feel, since my Charlie is 13 and the sweetest kitty boy ever! hugs, Linda

  13. Happy Birthday Maggie! Everytime I look at her I miss my Maggie. Amazing how much they look alike and have the same name-- I'll have to show you a photo.

  14. Oh, sweet Maggie! Happy Birthday to you, darling girl! You couldn't have a better momma! :)

    Connie, what a testament of pure, unconditional love you are to this pretty little girl. A true blessing. ♥ She is absolutely gorgeous!

    xoxo laurie

  15. I'm so glad you shared this. Our kitty was a rescue 14 years ago and has been fairly healthy. I'm glad for each day he is with us ... I know we may not have many more. Loved your last paragraph ... brought tears to my eyes.

  16. What a horrible journey to health, but I'm always encouraged about successes. Do you know about Ingrid King and her work with cats--natural healing, reiki, especially effective with cats. Her site is She has quite a moving book about her own cat and the road to health, Buckey's Story. (you should be able to reach me through my Google account address, used to sign this comment) --Linda O'Neill

  17. This is a wonderful story. I think sometimes owners and vets are too quick to give up on sick animals. Having nursed humans professionally, and our own animals, I think animals cope much better with illness/surgery.
    Maggie is so beautiful and clearly happy, but it could have been so different with another owner.
    Happy Birthday, Maggie, and here's to many more!

  18. Hey Connie,

    Maggie has my all time favorite face (sorry Carmen). She looks like she belongs in a beautiful Disney movie about regal cats. She is simply gorgeous and even more so in person.

    Happy Birthday Maggie!!!!

    What a treasure of a home these animals have found with you and Steve..well done Mom!

    janet xox
    The Empty Nest

  19. What beautiful photos of your lovely Maggie. Thank you for taking such wonderful care of her. Happy birthday, Miss Maggie!

  20. She is so pretty, and such a feminine-looking feline. Happy Belated B'day to Maggie!


Thanks for stopping by and reading what I share. Comments are welcome and very much appreciated. Spam and trolls are not!

Related Posts with Thumbnails