Some Sad News And A Request for Help

Dahlia in a sun puddle

Dahlia basks in a sun puddle in our new home, the day before she got so terribly sick. Photo by JaneA Kelley

You all know Dahlia, the sweet baby-girl of the Paws and Effect Gang. Well, a week and a half ago, she had a wheezing and coughing fit that I videoed and shared with my vet, Doctor Jim. After giving her an exam, he diagnosed the problem as asthma and gave her a steroid shot — which seemed to have good results.

Five days ago as I write this, I moved to a new home, Portland, Maine, 150 miles away from where I’d lived before. On Wednesday, Dahlia started having breathing trouble again, so I made an appointment for the next day at a local cat-only vet clinic.

A few hours later, Dahlia’s problems got dramatically worse: she was open-mouth panting, crying in panic, and even peed herself, so I rushed her to the Animal Emergency Clinic on Warren Avenue in Portland. X-rays revealed that she had a pleural effusion — the area between her lungs and her ribs was filled with fluid and her lungs were compressed to a third of their normal size. No wonder she was having trouble breathing!

She spent the night in an oxygen cage at the emergency clinic. The night vet, Dr. Patricia Barber, drained the fluid out of Dahlia’s chest and found out it was not an infection or injury that had caused the problem. When she examined some of the fluid under a microscope, she found a high number of lymphocytes (a type of white blood cells), which led to two possibilities: either a tumor or heart disease.

Dahlia's ultrasound showing three tumors

Dahlia's ultrasound results showing three tumors.

On Thursday afternoon, I took her to Portland Veterinary Specialists on outer Congress Street for an ultrasound exam, which revealed three tumors: one in front of her heart, one on her liver, and one near her gallbladder, probably obstructing the bile duct. Sarah Noble, the vet who did the ultrasound, told me that the tumors are either lymphomas or carcinoma, but she wouldn’t be certain until the pathology lab came back with the test results.

Either way, it’s cancer, and either way it’s going to be a long but inevitable goodbye.

Dr. Noble wanted Dahlia to stay overnight on Thursday so they could monitor her and make sure she wasn’t going to “crash” again.

Thus far her vet costs are closing in on $3,000: almost $1,600 at the emergency clinic and $1,127 at PVS. Once the pathology results are back, Dr. Noble and I are going to discuss our options for treatment or palliative care.

I’m seriously considering chemotherapy — as long as the treatment will give her a good quality of life for a reasonable amount of time — but ultimately the choice is going to be up to Dahlia. What does she want?

All of this treatment so far has left me tapped out. I got Care Credit, but I’m pretty much maxed there with just the two nights of treatment.

I’m asking for your help in paying off these expenses and helping me give my sweet baby girl as good a life as possible until Siouxsie, Thomas and I need to say goodbye. I’ve started a ChipIn campaign, which you can access through the widget on the right-hand side of the page or through this link if you’re in a reader.

Some devices seem to be unable to deal with the ChipIn widget, so I’ll let you know that the funds go through PayPal. If you’d rather do that, you can PayPal to janea (at) paws-and-effect (dot) com; that account takes both PayPal and credit/debit transfers.

I know some people who would like to contribute might feel more comfortable sending their payments directly to the veterinary hospital. If you’d like to go that route, please send your check to:

Portland Veterinary Specialists
2255 Congress Street
Portland, ME 04102

The invoice from the Animal Emergency Clinic.

If you do this, please include a note indicating that the payment is for the care of Dahlia Kelley and to be applied as a credit to Account #13208, Janea Kelley. Any payments sent that way will help pay for further treatment Dahlia receives there.

If you’d like to use a credit card, you can call PVS at 207-780-0271 and give them your information. Again, please request that they apply it as a credit to Account #13208.

Portland Veterinary Services bill for Dahlia's care

The bill from Portland Veterinary Services

If you can’t contribute money, please don’t feel bad: good wishes, prayers, blessings, magick, merits, Reiki, or whatever other kinds of mojo you want to send are at least as important and welcomed with just as much gratitude as financial assistance.

Whatever choice you make, do not sacrifice your own, your family’s or your pets’ well-being for Dahlia’s sake: I know what it’s like to be so poor that you can barely meet your own needs, let alone send money to someone else, and if you’re in that situation, I’d much, much rather you take care of yourself!

I’m already amazed at the generosity and kindness that has poured in from Dahlia’s fans and friends on Facebook and around the world.

Because I want you to be sure my request is legit, I’m sharing the bills from the Animal Emergency Clinic and Portland Veterinary Specialists. You should be able to click these images to embiggenate them, but just in case you can’t, here are links to the AEC bill and the PVS bill.

Dahlia rubs Mama's hand after retuning home Friday night

I finally coaxed Dahlia out from under the bed last night, and she was so happy to be home! Photo by JaneA Kelley

Dahlia was able to come home last night, and I’ve got three medications I’m supposed to give her: two antibiotics (she’s running a slight fever and seems to be kind of snotty and sneezy) and prednisolone (to stimulate her appetite) and so far she seems to be doing OK. She spent her first few hours here hiding under the bed, and once I sat down to watch some silly TV, she showed herself and sat on the back of the couch, which is her favorite place. This morning, I woke up to feel her rubbing her head all over me and hear the beautiful sound of her purr. She ate some breakfast — about a third of what she usually eats, but I didn’t want to overfeed her and make her puke. Since then she’s been spending most of her time on top of the bed, basking in one of the many sun puddles that make our new home so awesome.

Dahlia lounging on the bed Saturday morning

Dahlia lounges on the bed Saturday morning. See that huge shaved patch? That's from the ultrasound. Photo by JaneA Kelley

I’ll be posting updates here and on the Paws and Effect Facebook page, as well as on Dahlia Blooming Health Support, a page my sister-in-law created as a gesture of support and a clearinghouse for Dahlia info. I’d encourage you to join both of those pages if you haven’t done so already.

If I should happen to raise more money than I need for Dahlia’s care, I’ll donate the surplus to Forgotten Felines of Maine, an all-volunteer rescue group that helps people all over eastern Maine to save cats and manage feral colonies. They even helped get the electric company to turn off the lights to a whole town to rescue a cat trapped on a power pole!

Thank you for your kindness and your support, from me and the entire Paws and Effect Gang!

  • Angie Stringfellow

    I am sending all the good vibes and prayers that I can for her. She is a beautiful girl and I can see the love in her eyes. so I am sending the love too.

  • bev n darrell vriesema

    I really wish we could help. But we both aare disabled. We have a love for animals too. We have a store bought cat whose 12yr old next week, then we have a store bought bunny whose 5yr old this month as well. We also have 3 rescues that we saved and added to our home…ages are 7yrs, 5 yrs and a soon to be 1yr old. We will keep u and her in our thoughts n prayers and to ask the animal gods as well to help heal her. God bless u for doin all u possibly can and God Bless her as well.

  • JaneA Kelley

    Angie, thank you so much. Dahlia is just about the sweetest, most loving cat I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing … and even if our time together is going to be a lot shorter than I’d hoped, it’s still a huge blessing to have her in my life at all. :-)

    Bev & Darrell, that’s so sweet. Your prayers and healing thoughts mean as much to me (and all of us) as all the cash in the world. <3

  • Nerissa’s Life

    Oh Dahlia… I do hope you’re feeling better and that your breathing is easier. Remember to keep eating to keep up your strength and to get lots and lots of rest… preferably snuggled up all comfy and cozy with your peeps. I’m sending you my absolute best purrs and so are the other members of my fur family. There are twelve of us in all so that means LOTS of purrs. Stand back… here they come!

  • Dee

    I’m so sorry to hear about Dahlia. I would love to chip in but taking care of my 14 rescue cats keeps me broke. My heart weeps for you and Dahlia and I’m praying for the best results possible.

  • Sparkle

    I have been purring nonstop for Dahlia ever since I read about her troubles on Facebook. She will continue to be in my thoughts and purrs in the days to come.

  • Bernadette

    JaneA, my heart aches for you, and all five black cats are purring for you both.

    When you described her symptoms I knew it wasn’t going to be something typically survivable; I was guessing FIP with her age and general health status since the pleural effusion was the final symptom that helped my vet and I diagnose my little Lucy and it all sounded so similar. Lucy was Mimi’s daughter and the Fantastic Four’s sister from another litter, and when she died a few months later she gave them all to me as a gift by guiding a very pregnant Mimi to my house. I loved reading Dahlia’s story, and I hope you and Dahlia have more time than you ever hoped for to spend together, and I know that in the end she will give you a gift to extend her love for you beyond her existence.

    Chemo for pets isn’t used like chemo for humans–it’s meant more to control the cancer, not cure it so it’s not as aggressive and not so hard on them. I hope it brings you some both some time and relief.

    I’ll keep track, and if I come up with some extra cash I’ll send it along.

  • Sunshine

    Oh my gosh. I just discovered your site yesterday and have been combing through the archives ever since. This is so crushingly sad. I am so very sorry for your hardships. I can not even imagine how I would cope if this were to happen to me. I have to say, Dahlia is a dead ringer for my 3 year old mutt (haha) I’ve raised since he was a kitten. They have the same exact fur and eye color, and my kitty doesn’t have even a spot of pink on him, except for his bum, hehe. His fur shows the same brown in bright sunlight, which I find so beautiful. Isn’t it?

    I know the best thing for your kitty, despite whatever you choose in the way of treatment – even if it’s nothing at all – will be a lot of love, warmth, and understanding. I know you’ll give her plenty of that. Good luck to you and stay strong. I really wish I could help you in a huge way, but I’m fresh out of high school and literally have only a penny to my name. I’ll keep you in my thoughts until/if I can help out monetarily.

  • Robin Olson

    JaneA, you and Dahlia have been on my mind a lot. I so know this painful road of not knowing, but knowing…all I can suggest is to focus on being in the moment. Right now Dahlia is with you in her sun puddle. Things are ok. It’s good to rest, give her love. It’s healing for you both.

    Make sure you take lots of photos and carve out special time for the two of you. You know you have lots of friends who care about you and will stand by you during this difficult time. xoxox

  • Peg

    I’m so sorry to hear about your lovely Dahlia – Kira and I send hugs and purrs to help you through this tough time. We are in the other Portland – for which your new home city was named – and wish you and all your kitties more “sunshine puddles” to warm your days.

  • Jane Hulsopple

    Thoughts & Prayers are with Dahlia & those who hold her close to her heart. So sorry to hear you are going through this tough time…. I know your Dahlia feels your love & caring. We understand your days of sadness and our MamaBoo left us in January of this year. Her Daughter, ‘Alice’ at times still seems to look for her. Stay strong as sincere thoughts & prayers are with you. We will do what we can. ~: –
    Sincerely, Jane, ‘Alice’ & family ~~~: )

  • Chooi Yee (Danny)

    My thoughts and prayers are with Dahlia and I am so sorry to know that you are devastated with the sad news. Be strong and I am sure Dahlia will too. I know how it is like to see our beloved pets fall ill especially when it is terminal. I have gone through this myself, having to see off my beloved cats. All are of age and suffer from kidney failure and diabetes.
    I have chip-in a small gift to support your request. Hope I can contribute more but having to look after 5 dogs and 6 cats, that is all I can afford for now.

    Good luck and big hugs for Dahlia.

    Chooi Yee ( aka Danny)

  • charlie

    Sorry to hear about this but our five little girls drain us pretty well dry. We’re pensioners and our little girls welfare comes before ours and doesn’t leave much.
    Hope you get help we’re in a similar situation as our little girl Nosey needs a medical because of mistreatment before we got her but the cost would be out of our world and there may be some legal problems for her former owner.We wish you all the best

  • Ingrid King

    My heart breaks a little for you all over again each time I read one of your updates. I’ve been down this road too many times, and it’s so hard. I’ve been sending Reiki and healing prayers to Dahlia, and to you.

    Like Robin, I can’t stress enough how important it is to stay in the moment. Try not to get too wrapped up in test results and prognosis and treatment options, but rather, treasure each and every moment you have with Dahlia. Let her be your guide. She’s not worrying about her illness and how much time she has when she is basking in that sun puddle or cuddling with you.

  • Sally Bahner

    Gentle paw pats and head butts to you both. Know that we are all here for you and Dahlia. Words cannot express how precious they are to us.

  • Linda

    So sorry to hear about your lovely kitty. I have sent a little bit to help you out. Sorry I couldn’t afford more but I hope it helps. Hugs, Linda :)

  • Angelique

    My thoughts and good wishes are wish you and your family. I wish you the best and have the need to tell you something that will touch your heart almost as much as it touched mine.

    I was watching my nephew at the time I read your email and he heard me gasp. He approached me and asked, “What is wrong, Auntie?” I told him that there was a really sweet and pretty kitten was really sick and her mommy was asking for help. He then asked me if I was going to help and I replied that I couldn’t because money was really tight right now, but I will send my good wishes to her. He nodded and said ok and then walked away. I thought that he was just dismissing it, but about a half hour he came up to me with a small hand full of change and asked me where my envelope was. “What envelope?” I asked. “The one with the good wishes to the kitty, I want to put this in there too,” he said putting the change in my hand. “I haven’t been good lately so this would be better.” I almost started crying on how sweet the gesture was.

    This reminded me how even a little can go a long way. So, even though it is a little, I am more than happy to send my, and my nephew’s, contribution.

    AJ, mommy of Tracks, Obsidian, and Othello

  • Melissa

    I am so very sorry. I sent a contribution, and will be sending vibes and prayers for sweet Dahlia, and comforting thoughts for you.

  • Caroline

    I linked to your story from Conscious Cats on Twitter. I have an idea what you’re going through as I had a similar experience with my beloved Rocky in 2004. He was 13 years old when he had acute symptoms similar to what you described about Dahlia, panting, peeing himself while sitting on the bed, loss of appetite. He was anemic with a high white cell count and at first the vet hoped it was a tick borne illness(unlikely as he was always indoors only). Then he had an episode of wheezing after I gave him his antibiotic pill and washed down with a syringe of water and we eventually ended up at the vet specialty hospital on a Saturday. He had to have two blood transfusions as his anemia had worsened over the two days since I first took him to the vet and spent . He stayed in a critical care area until the oncologists came in on Monday to diagnose the abnormal sample of bone marrow biopsy he had drawn on Sunday by the on staff vet. He was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. The bills added up so quickly and it was tough to afford such an unexpected expense. I am going to call your vet to make a donation later this week when I have time off work, which is where I’m off to now. I am a pharmacist and have worked in a human oncology outpatient clinic so I am familiar with drugs and treatments for cancer and if you have any questions feel free to email me at the address I provided. My Rocky had a year of treatment and lived for four more years before suffering a kidney stone which eventually caused acute renal failure. The money I spent was definitely worth an extra 5 years with my precious boy, but it was difficult with the knowledge I had to make all the decisions I did. Experience always teaches us how to do things better and that is what I would like to offer you and Dahlia. One suggestion from what I read so far is that it might be better for both of you if you ask the vet about getting a steroid shot every few weeks to replace the oral prednisolone. The cost difference would not be that much and it would be one less negative experience for you to not have to force the steroids orally. I’m sure they taste as awful to cats as they do to humans. Good luck.

  • Kristin

    I cannot begin to tell you how sorry I am for both you and your beautiful girl, Dahlia. My family and I, four years ago, adopted 2 ocicats (brothers) from the shelter, one chocolate brown and one cinnamon. The cinnamon ocicat, we named Henry, must have been the runt of the litter as he was very small to begin with and very sick when we adopted. His brother, we named Pablo, was sick as well, but still robust and obviously much healthier. As they acclimated themselves into our home, Pablo became healthy and strong. Henry became healthier and bigger but never could quite shake his health issues… he was my baby. Six days before their 3rd birthday, we had to put Henry down as in the preceeding months, his heart had weakened, his weight had dropped from a healthy 10 pounds down to 5.4lbs and he couldn’t keep anything down. Despite all ours and our vets best efforts for months and month (actually, his entire life with us) we had to let him go… it was cancer. My heart broke that day and we ALL still miss him every moment. It is not an easy road so all I can do is send you strength, prayers and the ability to let her go when it is her time. She will tell you and you will know. And as difficult as it will be for you, knowing you are sending her off with love and a promise of no more pain, this will help you get through it. I held my Henry in my arms when he died and that last moment of looking into one anothers eyes will always be with me. Knowing I was the last person he saw, his mommy, gives me great peace. He died knowing how much he was loved. I pray so much for your strength and for hopefully, her recovery! Do all you can within your means but know.that as long as you love her, that is all she will ever need. God bless!xied a

  • Anita Biers

    So sorry about Dahlia. I, too, work with rescued cats and we had one the nice lady at a housing complex named Charmayne. She looked almost like a Maine Coone and was quite sassy.She lived in the woods behind the project and had a litter of kittens that soon died. Finally I trapped her and went to have her spayed by a vet who told me she was already spayed?? We released her to the project and of course a couple months down the road she had more kittens. Finally, my organization took her in and got all the kittens a home. Charmayne couldn’ t have been more than three years old. Last week the leader of our rescue told us Charmayne was coughing a lot and she though it might be a hairball. Unfortunately she continued and was taken to the vet (who finally spayed her for real). The vet found a cancerous tumor in her throat and somewhere inside her body. She died so young. Charmayne’s life was short and very troublesome but she had one good year without having to survive for herself. Dahlia is so lucky to have had you. I wish I could help you with all this but my belief is that you should just keep her comfortable. Not crazy about the chemotherapy or anything like that. Better quality of life. I kept my baby calico (18 years old) alive for three months with only the water therapy for kidney failure. When I came home from work one day and found her unable to walk I knew it was time. Bless you and Dahlia. I enjoyed all her posts.

  • Donna

    Ah, my heart is breaking for you…I’m coming up on the 1 year anniversary of ny beloved Omen’s passing- she died at the age of 2 of acute liver failure. A gorgeous black kitty much like lovely Dahlia. I so love her informative advice, along with the rest of the gang’s. Not knowing of these recent events, I just posted a comment on the other article about catnip asking if Dahlia’s sniffles were due to a cold- please disregard! You and your precious kitties are in my thoughts and I will send a little something as soon as I figure out which way to do it. As others have stated, try and enjoy the remaining time together- I really feel for all you guys. Kitty hugs and kisses- Donna

  • Kathy

    I too am disabled and can not send money. But I know that GOD cares for all his creations. I know this because I once had a friend named Kermit. Well he got up under the car and we did not know it. But when I couldn’t find him, I figured out what happened. This was on Saturday. On Sunday when we went to church. I asked the preacher to pray for my kitty. A day or two went by. And then a man from the church came to our house. With him he had my Kermit . So you see, GOD does care. I and my friend Monet are thinking about all of you, And I will say a prayer for Dahlia. Give her lots of hugs and kisses from us and Monet sends many purrs,Kathy

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