Life, altering decisions.

 

The vet called. While Inigo’s lab work is 95% great, there is evidence of a lot of fat in his blood. He has had high cholesterol for a while, and her suggestion is to start him on some kind of omega-3 supplement.

I love the little guy to the moon and back, but I will not do that. He is on three daily medications and Lupron shots every six weeks. I understand that some people feel you cannot put a price on a pet’s life, but actually, you can, not only in terms of money, but in terms of quality of life and stress for both you and your pet.

When he was diagnosed, he was initially given a few months to a year to live. It has been over four years, and while I am extremely grateful my little buddy is still with me and I cherish every day we have together, I cannot keep doing this to him, keep adding more and more treatments. He will continue to get his current level of care with his medications and Lupron treatments, but anything new going forward will not be treated except for small infections that can be treated with simple antibiotics. Major infections for which he would need to be treated and kept in a hospital, broken bones (though he has never had one), and other calamities would be the time to let him go, to set him free of the stress and pain of his survival instinct. Same for if he is in intractable pain, which he does not seem to be at the moment. He is already on tramadol and meloxicam. There really isn’t anywhere to go from here, and I will absolutely not mess with unproven treatments like CBD, which you should not mix with an opioid for any species anyway.

Likewise, I am not going to adjust his diet beyond trying low-fat pellets. I am not going to stop his treats or his little pasta pig-outs. He gets so much joy out of them, and quality of life is a thing.

It is unfortunate that we don’t do humans the same courtesy. I used to want to live to a ripe old age of 90, but I keep adjusting that downward. Right now, it’s 83. The way this country is going, not only will most of Generation X, including myself, never be able to retire, much less comfortably, it simply will not be safe to be old and middle class in the United States. It’s not safe now, but it will get much worse, and that goes double for single people and triple for women. As it is, if I were ever incapacitated to the point where I ran out of money, I could not work, and my long-term care insurance and so on did not cover my expenses such that I faced homelessness, well, I know where to get the fentanyl. Same goes for if I am ever diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and there is no cure yet. In a moment of lucidity I will spare myself an existence where my body is still here but my mind is gone.

I hope it will never come to that. But the reality is that it might. I will simply refuse to continue on, weak and in pain, so that people at the top of the medico-pharmaceutical chain can buy second homes in the Hamptons, only for me to possibly end up pushing what is left of my belongings in a shopping cart up Pennsylvania Avenue before someone steals them. I will not subject myself to the risks of street life and being raped and beaten by random thugs.

Think it can’t happen to you? Unless you are in the 1%, it can, and the younger you are now, the greater the chances of it happening because the burden of student loans combined with stagnant wages and an ever-rising cost of living puts you in an even worse position as a middle-class Millennial or a Zoomer than Gen-X in terms of being able to save money for retirement—and that’s if you have the desire and the privilege to be able to go to college. If you’re in manufacturing or the service industries, it will be even harder for you.

And all of this, college or no, is assuming you never face a catastrophic illness or injury.

Yet our system and society are rigged to keep people alive long past when their quality of life deteriorates to little more than pain and anguish. We are simply not allowed to make those choices for ourselves, if not legally, then ethically, especially if we are younger than 70. The medical establishment all too often regards refusing treatment or making plans for a dignified death as a sign of mental illness, which of course must be investigated, evaluated, assessed, and treated, too. We have to get Do Not Resuscitate orders to protect ourselves from lingering on as a shell of what we once were, and we have to get living wills that transfer our earthly belongings to someone else to protect ourselves from the state, which will take everything we own before paying for a catastrophic illness via Medicaid. My mother had to do the latter.

I shudder to think of what would happen to women and children if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v Wade. The people who would support that call themselves “pro-life.” What they should really call themselves is “anti-choice,” because they would take away a woman’s right to make choices, not only about what to do in the event of an unwanted pregnancy, but to enjoy her sexuality as the natural and beautiful thing that it is, without worrying about what would happen if a condom breaks.

But even more so, the “pro-life” crowd should really just call themselves “pro-flesh,” because that is all they seem to care about. As long as a heart is beating, keep it going, no matter how much of a trial of anguish and suffering the life attached to the heartbeat might be, whether it is keeping Terri Schiavo hooked up to machines or forcing a woman to accommodate a pregnancy she does not want. In the context of abortion rights, these folks like to talk about “hope” for children born of unwanted pregnancies. Really? Where? I am not so naive as to believe most of these people would see to it that the children born of unwanted pregnancies would have all they need not only to survive, but thrive. The way these same people oppose funding for education, housing assistance, environmental preservation, and a single-payer health system suggests otherwise.

So again, hope of what? Malnutrition when parents cannot afford to prepare appropriate food for their kids, and the lunches provided by schools that fail to provide an education that gives a kid a fighting chance in the first place are comprised of high-fat, high-sugar, high-sodium junk? A childhood exposed to adverse experiences such as poverty, neglect, parental substance use, domestic violence, or the incarceration of a parent? And if a child is lucky enough to escape that, what’s next? They grow up to toil away to pay the state, insurance companies, large corporations, and the military-industrial complex, only to end up worrying if they will outlive their bank accounts and spend their final years on the street?

Can we really call that “life?”

I joke that it’s time to move to Canada or find a Canadian, Scandinavian, or Nordic husband, someone who lives in a country not quite as enslaved to the religious, the oppressive, the sexist, and the misogynistic as the United States. But that shouldn’t even cross a woman’s mind. Autonomy over our bodies is a human right. Yet our Supreme Court stands poised to strip that right away, one element at a time, starting with the right to a safe abortion. Our government and our society would allow us more choice over the lives of our pets than our own, and that is a travesty not only of justice, but of the very liberty on which our country was founded.