Chester in his T-shirt
I saw him for the first time when he was just a few days old. He instantly charmed me! He had soft, white fur with a few tan blotches along his sides, a tan tail and a patch of tan on his head resembling a helmet. These were fairly tame features when compared to his feet. He was a polydactyl kitten,sporting six toes on each front foot. They looked like the feline equivalent of human hands and as I watched him kneading his mother's belly to extract the milk, he flexed his little toes into fists, cupping the nipple lovingly. I fell in love that day and I knew he had to be mine.
He joined my feline herd, currently numbering fifteen, at the age of two months. Though I am not a lover of weaponry, I named him Winchester after a maker of six-shooter guns. Chester's arrival caused some consternation among the ranks of the already established but he soon won over even the most fractious of his new companions. With his easy-going personality and his winning ways, he was on the way to charming nearly everyone who crossed his path.
He continued to spread this charm and good humor as he advanced to maturity, his kittenish, buzz-saw purr deepening into a low, throbbing rumble. His expressive kitten-blue eyes had become a luminous olive green; in short, he was beautiful.
In December, 1993, when Chester was two years old, he contracted cryptococcus through a scrape on the pad of his left front foot. It is a fungal disease, dangerous if it infects the respiratory system, fatal if it infects the nervous system. Not realizing at the time, that he had been invaded by this fungal atrocity, I was not worried. Assuming that the wound was only a scrape, I thought that Chester would heal quickly with proper care.
Even when the pad refused to heal, I was not worried. I thought that there might be some foreign matter imbedded in the pad that needed to be removed. After two exploratory surgeries, a minute fiber was found in the pad and I thought that the matter was closed. Once again, however, the foot swelled, reeking of infection and a lymph node on Chesters chest had swollen, looking as though a water balloon had been surgically implanted.
The lymph node was removed and sent to a lab in Michigan for biopsy. The biopsy revealed the cryptococcus and my pity for my little Chester grew along with my love for him. I admired the patient tolerance Chester displayed during his foot soaking treatments and medicating. When his chest wound broke open, revealing the dull pink of his musculature, Chester had to endure wearing a hand made shirt to prevent his kicking the wound open again.
Throughout all of this, including two more surgeries to remove cryptococcus lesions, Chester bore each new indignity with great forbearance. He always maintained his loving attitude and charm. His only form of complaint was a soft keening noise from the back of his throat. It was an utterly mournful sound and it broke my heart each time I heard it.
As time passed, the treatments continued, the medication having been switched once to avoid an overdose reaction but it was clear that Chester was growing worse. Each day, it seemed, brought on new and more distressing symptoms. There was a large swelling along the side of Chesters nose. It looked as though someone had shoved a garden pea up his nose and it lodged there. His eye began watering copiously and he became lethargic. Worst of all, Chester, who always sleeps with me, began avoiding me and hiding in the closet. Knowing that cats will hide when they know that death is near, I was in a panic. The possibility of life without Chester was intolerable. I spent many sleepless hours contemplating the possibility of having to put him to sleep. I knew that if it had to be done, I would hold him as he took his last breath but it would be the hardest thing I would ever do.
Trying to prepare myself, I took Chester back to the veterinarian at the earliest time available. I begged the doctor to let me put Chester back on his previous medication and she agreed, reminding me to watch him for signs of reaction. Slowly, over several months, Chester began to heal. As his symptoms disappeared, his charming personality returned. His favorite pastime was to lie back in my arms like the worlds furriest infant, nursing on my ear lobe, a holdover from his kitten days.
The doctor took blood for a crypto-titer on September 29, 1995. It took three of us to hold him down while the blood was extracted from his neck. That was the only real fight we had with him over any procedure. I was on tenterhooks but I knew that I had at least two weeks to wait for results. I alternated between hope and worry, wondering if we were going to get that 0 we were hoping for.
When I picked up my paycheck on Friday, October 13, I stopped by the veterinarian's office to pick up a bag of food on my way home. I was not even thinking about the test at the time. I had assumed that they would call me when the results were available.
The doctor, upon seeing me rushed out of the back room, asking her assistant, Did you tell her?
I perked up instantly, Tell me what?
No. I havent had a chance to give her the results
When I heard that, excitement welled up within me. Breathless, heart pounding, I could barely ask the question, He got a 0??
Beaming broadly, the doctor replied, The test came back yesterday and the results were negative!
Restraining myself so as not to scare the resident cats, I cheered as loudly as I dared! I paid for my purchases, thanking them profusely and left the building. The second the door closed, I let out a war-whoop that had to be heard for several blocks!
Chester is twelve years old, now. He is healthy and happy, a joy to behold. Whenever I look into those loving, trusting eyes, I know that the fight for his life was well worth the expense and personal anguish involved.
This is the condensed version of Winchester's story. The original is much longer. I may replace this version if enough visitors ask to see it.
This must be more rare in cats than I thought!
I never did find a link for cats on this disease but one of the
readers of this page found a link and sent it to me for use
here. If you find another site on cryptococcus in cats, let me know!
Thank you so much, Deb!! :-D
To Fresca & Chester To The 'Bru Clan'
Tip: Most cats love to play with yarn, strings or cellophane. It's a good idea to not let your cat have any kind of 'stringy' playtoy. If they stop playing and start eating it, there's a chance that the object could get tangled up in the kitty's intestines. If not detected and treated immediately (usually surgery) your cat could die. Please remember to keep harmful objects away from your cat! They'll be healthier and happier for it!
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