Ups and Downs

Posted on: September 24th, 2015 by

I look at the doctor. Worried. Things have not been going well.

She remains calm, but it hardly reassures me.

Even though I’m not the patient, each visit is traumatic, and I can’t seem to calm down. “Don’t cry in front of her,” I tell myself on most visits, though I know the veterinarian would understand.

The patient is Hemi, my tuxedo cat – and his glucose levels are out of control.


Hemi is a sweet Manx named for his Hemi-engine purring. I fell in love with this rescue animal the moment I saw him. A deeply affectionate, gentle cat, Hemi is quite dapper: his black and white coloring makes him look as if he is always ready to step out for a black tie event. He especially likes the ladies and flirts with my friends regularly, once he gets over his initial shyness, that is.

Dapper Hemi with his pal Cosette

Dapper Hemi with his pal Cosette

A few months ago, the veterinarian informed me that Hemi is diabetic but he had an optimistic prognosis: Hemi had “a good chance of remission.” With a prescription diet and regular doses of insulin, we believed he would do well and eventually no longer need insulin.

But his check-up last week indicated skyrocketing glucose levels.

Hemi now gets his insulin shot twice a day and has his glucose level checked every 7-10 days; each glucose check is 6-8 hours after his shot. When his insulin treatment began, we seemed to hit a homerun. His glucose level was perfect. So perfect, in fact, that I just needed to bring him in in a few weeks for a routine glucose follow-up.

But the veterinarian and I had a false sense of security.

The follow-up showed his glucose level to be too high again, so we increased the insulin dosage. A week later, his glucose level was way too low; if it dropped much lower, he could die. We lowered the insulin dose, and I fed him more when we got home. The veterinarian then recommended doing a glucose curve, where Hemi would spend the day at the animal hospital and have his glucose levels tracked hourly.

But the vet couldn’t put a handle on a pattern. Hemi’s glucose level was lowest only about four hours after I had administered the insulin. Glucose levels went up and down throughout the day with no rhyme or reason. This glucose yo-yo-ing is disappointing.

I’m so worried about my tuxedo boy. How is he feeling, I wonder. I want his glucose levels to cooperate. I want him to be healthy. I know diabetic cats’ glucose levels take some time to regulate, but I find patience elusive.

Part of my dismay is spurred by self-doubt, which creeps in every day. I wonder, did the needle actually penetrate his skin and did the medicine get into his body? This feline gentleman allows me to give him shots, no problem, thankfully; in fact, I don’t think he feels them. But sometimes my hands shake or he moves a bit, and I’m sure I have missed sometimes. A few times, his fur had the medicine smell of insulin. I asked the doctor whether the smell was emanating from his skin, but she said the scent was probably due to a couple of misses and not to worry about it.

Not to worry about it? I’m emotionally tormented about it.

And another thing: Given my cancer history, I am in turmoil whenever my cats have medical issues. I realize that all doctors – yes, even veterinarians – scare me. Hospitals – even animal hospitals – give me the jitters. It is so emotionally draining to keep this cat healthy day in, day out. But some days it’s even more difficult to keep my emotions under wraps and keep me strong and steady through this glucose-regulation runaround.

But my emotions are like Hemi’s glucose levels: up, way up, and down, way down.

I’ve come to dread each visit with the veterinarian and must recalibrate myself: to check my anxiety levels and deep breathe to keep panic away.

It’s way too early to throw in the towel. He gets a fructosamine test tomorrow. We are keeping Hemi as healthy as possible, and we hold onto the hope that his glucose levels will eventually become regulated. Once that happens, perhaps Hemi will be in the mood to step out on the town after all.

Have you had/Do you have pet(s) with a medical condition? What’s been your experience?

Would you care to share stories of your pet(s)? ? I really would like to hear from you.

Hemi trying to do math

Hemi trying to do math

To read about my other cat, Cosette, click here.

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17 Responses to Ups and Downs

  1. Lisa Hoare had this to say about that:

    Hi Beth!

    I follow your blog and find you an amazing woman. I think that your daughter is beautiful and lucky to have such a great role model. I too, have a diabetic kitty, mr. whitey cat (my daughter names him when she was four :)). My story is almost the same as yours and it is a daily emotional roller coaster, more so for my husband then myself. We have exactly the same anxieties and questions every day. We cant seem to get his levels at the right place, he still is thirsty and really needy. overall, he just doesn’t look well, it’s very tough as you well know. I think this, like many other obstacles in life is a test of strength and fortitude. Maybe it is preparing for something that we just don’t know yet. keep the faith, feel your daughter’s love and know that each day is a gift. I will pray for Hemi, he is a beautiful cat 😉


    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Lisa,

      Thank you for following my blog and your kind words about me and my daughter. I so appreciate them! I also appreciate your prayers.

      Mr. Whitey is a cute name. I’m sorry you and your husband are dealing with the same difficulties that I am. Like you say, life has so many obstacles that can be seen as a test. I hope you will eventually be able to get your cat’s levels under control, even if it seems elusive right now.

      Take care. All we can ever do in this life is take the best care of our animals that we can. You are doing right by your cat.

  2. Rebecca had this to say about that:

    Beth, I am so sorry you are dealing with this problem with your furry friend. I have to admit, I fear veterinarians more than my own doctors. Why you ask? Because it is a huge responsibility to carry, especially when you care too much about your pets. I wish our animals can at least speak to us. I want to save the life of my animals no matter what. I can’t accept the fact that they too have an expiration date. But it hurts even more when I get to choose that date because seeing them suffer hurts me more.

    Cats can live a long life with diabetes. I hope yours recovers from this.

    My cat was under a lot of stress and that caused her glucose levels to rise. I was testing her urine from home and just watching her behavior (for example, if she drank too much water). I made some changes with her environment at home to make her feel more at ease – I didn’t even know cats could get stressed out? She is getting older— now 12 – and demands more of my attention which I can’t always give to her because I work full time. So now I bring her with me to every room in the house. I even let her sit next to me when I am eating (and she tries to pick food off my plate! – bad kitty! I love her.). Sometimes making changes helps with their recovery (I am not sure if being stressed has the same effect as the one you described — maybe ask the vet).

    You mentioned about the needle not penetrating the skin. I think it is. If you want to be super safe, I would shave a couple of areas so you are able to see it better for peace of mind. You are lucky he allows you to do that. My cat is a tough one!

    You know I had three guinea pigs and they got sick a lot during their old ages. It was hard to watch, although I knew they would get better with the medications. But we never like to see our furry babies suffer or being sick. Your cats are good-looking (mine is a tabby like Cosette).

    I know how challenging this is for you. Take deep breathes and know you are doing your best to take care of him. I am sure he knows it too. They really do know. XOXO

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      Thank you for sharing about your special babies. Like you said, it’s so difficult to know they have an expiration date. Cosette is 16, so I worry a lot about how much time she has left. So far, so good.

      You are such a great mom to your cat! She is so lucky to have you. Animals give us great joy, and I can understand why you fear veterinarians more than doctors.

      You’re right about stress. In fact, the veterinarian ordered the fructosamine test because she suspects that stress may be factoring into his higher glucose levels.

      Shaving spots is a great idea! I never thought of that. Hemi is a scaredy cat and won’t stay still for it, I’m afraid. Still, that may be the way to go.

      Thank you, as always, for your support. And thanks for sharing about you and your kitty.

  3. Lisa Plotnick had this to say about that:

    Hi Beth. My cat was diagnosed with diabetes when he was six years old and he’s now 11. His glucose levels have been all over the place. As was the case with Hemi, our little guy’s glucose curve gave us no information on how to handle his treatment.

    We give him insulin shots twice a day. I’ve learned to vary the levels based on his food and water input and his urine output. It took three different types of insulin to find one that brought his levels down. When he was diagnosed, we were seeing numbers in the 400-500 range. We now keep him around 200, which is high for most cats but appears to be optimal for him.

    Call me anytime if you’d like to know more or if you have any questions. BTW, five years later, occasionally I have the same doubts as to whether I administered his medication properly.


    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Lisa,

      Kudos to you all for keeping your cat as healthy as possible all these years. The 200 range doesn’t sound so bad, compared to what his levels could be.

      I think it’s amazing that you are able to know your cat’s water input and urine output. I don’t know if I could ever totally tell.

      Thanks for leaving your comment. We will have to talk about this and catch up about many things. I don’t feel so alone when wondering whether I gave him the medication.

      Thanks, Lisa, for your encouraging words; I appreciate them so much.

  4. Eileen@womaninthehat had this to say about that:

    I don’t have a cat unless you count one in the neighborhood who I often feed, but I grew up with dogs. I’m sorry you’re going through this. I know how unnerving it is when a pet is sick.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Thanks, Eileen. No matter what type of pet one has, medical problems are scary. I appreciate your support. :)

  5. Nancy's Point had this to say about that:

    Hi Beth,
    I’m sorry you are dealing with this situation with your sweet Hemi. I totally understand the emotional turmoil because as you know, our golden recently was diagnosed with cancer. Pets truly are members of our families, so when they are sick, we literally feel their pain. I hope that test went okay and that Hemi’s doing alright. Please keep us posted. xo

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Thank you, Nancy, for the support. You are absolutely right: pets are part of our family. Hemi is a special boy, and I hope he’s stable soon. His glucose levels are still too high at this point, so we are slowly upping the insulin. I appreciate the kind words!

  6. Kathi had this to say about that:

    Oh, Beth…

    I had a cat with diabetes years ago, and I was able just to grab the loose skin at the scruff of his back, just behind the top of his shoulderblades, to give him his insulin. It only took a second, and he tolerated it very well.

    It’s so nerve-wracking that his glucose levels are going up and down, but I can tell you that even for people, it does take a while for the body, feline or human, to adjust to treatment. Hopefully, the new food will begin to make a difference, too.

    Hate that you are going through this, though. You know I and my Fiona have endured a heck of a sleighride this past year with her hyperthyroidism. I’m just fortunate that there was radioactive iodine treatment that could fix it, hopefully once and for all. So far, so good.

    Fiona and I both send you lots of feline healing & human love. xoxo, Kathi

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:


      Yes, you and Fiona have been through so much this year. I’m glad she is doing fine.

      I appreciate your reassurance; you are right: it does take time for glucose levels to stabilize. Hemi doesn’t even seem to feel the needle, so he’s tolerating this well. Still, giving him a shot in the scruff of his back sounds appealing.

      Thank you for sending healing thoughts and love. I so appreciate it.

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  8. Cathy had this to say about that:

    I’ve just discovered your blog, which is just what I need, as I am currently struggling in a bad marriage and trying to help some loved ones fight cancer–and have memories of my own beloved cats and their medical crises. None had diabetes, but I have friends whose cats lived a long time with that condition, despite some rocky starts to their treatment. What I mainly want to tell you is that I understand the special sort of worry and panic that comes with having a beloved cat get a serious illness, and remember how hard it was to deal with humans who didn’t understand or belittled those feelings. Recently, a close friend lost her wonderful, capable 92-year-old father (whom she adored and whose house she had moved into a year earlier in anticipation of his eventually needing her care), then three months later lost her elderly female cat. That friend confided to me that she is having a harder time coping with losing her cat. I’m honored she told me this, that she knew I wouldn’t be judgmental and would understand this feeling didn’t diminish her respect and love for her Dad, but just indicated how really special our pets are to us and the solace they give us in our daily lives. Good luck with Hemi and be sure to ask a good veterinary technician (rather than the vet) for any tips for taking care of him.

    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Cathy,

      I’m so glad you discovered my blog, too! You are so right about pets having those special places in our lives. I appreciate your sharing what your friend went through.

      Hemi is doing better, which is great. Thank you for the good wishes.

      By the way, you and I have a lot in common. I write about my bad marriage here:

      Thank you for your comment. I value your readership!

  9. lisa lipinski had this to say about that:

    I’m glad to hear that Hemi is doing better.
    It’s hard when our pets are ill. You have my sympathy and prayers.


    • Beth L. Gainer had this to say about that:

      Hi Lisa,

      Thank you for your comment. You are right: it is so difficult when our pets are sick.

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