Starbuck needs chemotherapy in order to fight back against lymphoma.
His loser family has run out of money, but not out of hope!
Please help him get better, so he can go back to being his usual fat, hilarious self!
Please Donate AND Share!
THANK YOU for your time.
Patient: STARBUCK Allington
Physician: Dr. Luis Lembcke
Facility: Animal Emergency & Specialty Center
10213 Kingston Pike
Knoxville, TN 37922
Starbuck is a foundling, rescued from a public park in High Point, North Carolina, where some idiot who had NO IDEA what a treasure they were dumping had simply abandoned him, probably assuming some gullible family would come along and scoop the poor kitty up.
Enter the aforementioned gullible family -- Mine.
Myself, the husband, and our four kids, to be exact. Our youngest was not quite a year old, and our eldest a whopping six years of age when we went for a picnic one day, on a mild spring afternoon. As we sat under a small shelter and ate our lunch, a tiny, tiger-striped black and grey kitten ambled out of the bushes toward us, VERY interested in our food.
Our six year-old stopped crying over a scraped knee long to marvel at this adorable sight, and it wasn't long before ALL the kids, including the ones not our own, were paying rapt attention to our feline visitor.
My kids fed the little guy a few bits of meat from our sandwiches and gave him some tentative petting, but soon the less restrained children on the playground were snatching the kitten up in their grubby mitts and toting him around like an accessory, pulling his tail, sending him down the slide, and just generally treating him as if he were a toy.
...none of them even received a SCRATCH.
Despite this uncouth treatment, the kitten remained amongst the rowdy children, eager for attention and remarkably patient with all their rough-housing, and that's when I KNEW I had to bring this very special animal into our home.
FLASHBACK to 1981 (or thereabout)
I'd had a cat once, as a child. His name was Sonny, and he was a TERROR. I still bear a number of the scars he gifted me, as I'm sure some of my childhood friends do, as well. I'm also pretty sure Sonny beat up just about every single canine in the neighborhood, as I vaguely recall one of our neighbors once yelling at my dad for 'what that there vicious hellbeast done to his new bird dawg'.
Sonny was kind of a LEGEND on our street, no joke.
I mean, I didn't do everything 100% perfect in caring for Sonny, when I was at the ripe old age of seven, but he was always more wild animal than housecat, right from day one. Sonny and I reached an agreement to keep a respectable distance from each other, and as long as I continued to supply the food and the shelter, that was the extent of our relationship.
So, as you may already be able to tell, I became mostly a DOG-person from that point.
FORWARD LEAP to 2004 again:
I went back to the park the very next morning and made off with that adorable, surprisingly gentle kitten, took him to our local vet, and... then found out that 'he' was actually a 'she'.
Confused yet? So was I.
So, at this point in the narrative, I have to tell you that Starbuck was YOUNG, and none of us had any idea what sex this kitten might be. We'd been saying 'it' and 'he' for the most part, but the paperwork I received from the veterinarian, detailing the test results and vaccinations and such I'd just had done, clearly read FEMALE.
I just took their word for it.
IN WHICH WE DETOUR INTO GEEKERY & NERD-DOM FOR A MOMENT
Hey, back in 2003, there was this mini-series that came on TV. It was a remake of that old sci-fi movie/TV series 'Battlestar Galactica', remember that one?
Probably my favorite thing about that remake was how the creators decided to 'gender-bend' several of the original characters, and reinvent them as female, which, as a female myself, I thought was AWESOME.
Most every other Battlestar: Galactica fan thought so as well. One of the main characters in the show, a brash, wise-cracking fighter pilot known by the call-sign of 'Starbuck', rapidly became a fan-favorite and feminist icon, very much welcomed in a genre that wasn't previously known for its well-rounded representation of women.
STARBUCK! What a great name for a girl-kitteh. Yeah! I'm a genius! How clever of me! Etc, etc, and so on and so forth.
Fast-forward a couple of months, and now we have Starbuck, the not-so-much-of-a-kitten-anymore, indolently strolling along the back of the sofa, rubbing HERself against the back of my head and purring loudly in my ear while I am trying to watch television (AND discharging a frankly ALARMING amount of static electricity into my hair), and as I turn around to politely reason with the furry noisemaker behind me, I get a reallly, really, REALLY close-up view of cat-butt, right in my face.
"Honey?" I call to the husband, lounging in a recliner to my left. "Come over here and look at Starbuck's... um. Look at... uh, her... nether-regions."
He does as I request.
"Holy sh*t, are those what I think they are?"
Am I painting a clear enough picture for you?
Despite the fact that the dang cat inadvertently destroyed the oh-so-very-clever wit and feminist intent behind the glorious name that was bestowed upon HIM, I've never been sad or disappointed for a second that Starbuck went and sex-swapped himself. He's the sweetest, gentlest, most mild-mannered feline I've ever encountered, and let me tell you, my experience with the street-fightin', rough-and-tumble Sonny had NOT prepared me for THAT.
I DID worry, albeit briefly, that as Starbuck got older he might start displaying some of those testosterone-fueled tomcat tendencies, but then I remembered: Oh, this is STARBUCK we're talking about here. He was eventually neutered, however, after we moved across the state and the new environment SO upset our dear kitty that he had to express his displeasure by PEEING all over our stuff.
Starbuck only became MORE of a giant baby after that, for real.
If he does something bratty and gets caught out at it, all you have to do is look at him sideways and he'll flop over onto his side and make pitiful mewling sounds. He's SUCH a pushover.
As I mentioned before, my youngest child was not quite a year old when we found our Starbuck, her older brother was around three, the next child up the scale being five, and my oldest was the six year old with the scraped knee.
I have NEVER worried about their (or any other child's) safety around Starbuck. He is truly, honestly, the most even-tempered, mild-mannered, gentle, patient, and loving animal I have ever known.
This isn't to say that Starbuck hasn't ever gotten a few good licks of his own in from time to time, but in all the years he's been a part of our family, Starbuck has only ever given WARNINGS. He'd stick a claw out here and there when he'd had enough tummy-tickling, or give a gentle bite if he didn't want his ears tugged on any longer.
Our little guy is one-of-a-kind, that's for sure.
Oh hey, how about we re-visit that six year old with the scraped knee? She's about to turn twenty now, and she's Starbuck's favorite person in the whole wide WORLD. Still sleeps at the foot of her bed every night, still climbs in her lap to purr and offer comfort when she's upset. Being almost twenty and all, she's not home as often as she used to be, but that never stops Starbuck from setting up camp outside her bedroom door, waiting for her return.
That five year old who used to tug on Starbuck's tail (and occasionally paid for it) is starting his second semester of college in a few days. He told me recently how he remembers Starbuck waking him up on the morning of his very FIRST day of school, hopping up on the bed and trampling all over his chest and stomach, meowing loudly along to the alarm clock.
It's a tradition he continues to this very day, even if he now restricts himself to the hallway outside the boys' bedroom. It's not as easy as it used to be, going up and down that bunkbed ladder.
My three-year old is now sixteen, and practices his driving every day that one or both of his parents can find the time to ride along with him. He says he used to live in 'mortal terror' of walking into a room barefoot, dreading a grey-and-black blur that enjoyed leaping out of hiding, attacking feet, and then darting away again in a streak, smug and satisfied with his clearly superior hunting skills, and ever-ready to savage some other unsuspecting passers by.
Now it's far more common a sight to find Starbuck napping on top of someone's shoes, rather than stalking the feet that go in them.
Lastly, that almost one-year-old, the baby of the family? She'll turn fourteen in a few months, already grown an inch or two beyond her mother in height, and doesn't show any signs of slowing down, either. She's always been our age-gauge for Starbuck.
"How old is that cat now?" visiting friends and relatives sometimes ask, as Starbuck twines his way around their legs while they're trying to hang up their coats.
"He's a year younger than me!" my youngest will pipe up, because she's always considered Starbuck to be the baby of he family, not her.
Adorable example: we found some old VHS home videos in a box not too long ago, and we watched them as a family while they were being digitally transferred to our computer for safekeeping.
We have our youngest child's FIRST steps immortalized on one of those tapes, staggering and giggling her way across the room, from mommy to daddy and back again, an excited black-and-grey kitten prancing at her heels, happy to be a part of the action.
Even now, Starbuck still has a tendency to tail her throughout the house, from room to room. However, gone are the days when she would run out of energy before her furry shadow did.
And that's a not-so-brief history of our lives with Starbuck, also known as Cat, Dammit Cat, Big Fatty, and, on occasion, Mister Kitty Fantastico. I know I need to edit the hell out of this, but everything so far has merely been the tip of the iceberg. He is so SO precious to us, and I've barely even begun to explain WHY.
Starbuck is LOVED.
He's an extremely inept escape artist. Sometimes, if the weather is to his liking, Starbuck will get a wild hair and dart outside when someone leaves the door open long enough, but he never goes far. Just a few feet into the landscaping to sniff/chew some shrubbery before he chickens out and scurries back inside. An intrepid adventurer he is NOT. Like everything else about him, it's kind of adorable. (Okay, and a tiny bit annoying, too.)
He LOVES waffles. He doesn't always wait until we're already having them for breakfast, though. Sometimes he will 'suggest' we get out the waffle iron post-haste, by perching very attentively (and expectantly) in a seat at the kitchen table, waiting to be served. "Starbuck wants waffles!" someone will yell when they notice him there, and every now and then, his patience will be rewarded. I've read that cats actually can't taste anything sweet, but... I have my doubts about that.
Starbuck has a small blue and yellow fish stuffed with catnip. At random hours of the night, he will pick this fish up with his mouth and march back and forth through the house with it, questioning very loudly, "MRRRRROWW? MRRROWWW?" over and over again. We have dubbed this near-nightly event 'Fish-O-Clock'.
Cute stories, I know. Everybody has one or two of those about their own cat(s). But now we're down to the not-so-cute parts.
We have a second cat, and he's been with us about five years now. His name is Tom Riddle, and he's also a foundling, like Starbuck. They're great friends, and all that. Only problem is, Tom likes to chew on cables and wires. Like, a LOT. We protected our Christmas tree this year with one of those 'kitty-away' cans that are motion activated, and spray a burst of air to startle mischievous kitties away from places they're not supposed to be. Jackson Galaxy from Animal Planet endorses them, or whatever. Worked pretty well, actually. Kept Tom out from under the tree, and SCARED THE LIVING CRAP out of poor Starbuck.
Before we put our tree away for the year (late, as always) Starbuck had taken to hiding downstairs in fits and spurts, whenever his not-so-bright cohort Tom would set off the spray can, which was OFTEN. We didn't think that much of it, and just generally resolved to make it up to Starbuck with treats and pettings and such, after the tree was packed up.
Only... the tree finally went back in the garage, but Starbuck continued to hide himself away in weird places. That's not normal behavior for such a social guy, lemme tell you. When it comes to Starbuck, if he's not being social, he's eating, and if he's not eating, he's sleeping, and if he's not sleeping, he's... well, okay he's almost always sleeping, he is kinda OLD.
But still, he wasn't sleeping in his USUAL favorite spots. Not on my daughter's bed, not stealing the warm spot on the sofa left after someone gets up for a bathroom break, not in the chair with the fuzzy-soft blanket that is inarguably HIS chair, not on the heating vent by the door that he sprawls across in the morning, so that when the heat kicks on the whole room smells like CAT, not on the warm clean laundry that just came out of the dryer, not on the first step leading down to the den, where you're sure to trip over him in the dark and break your damn fool neck, or -- you get my drift.
Something was WRONG with Starbuck, and we were worried. Turns out, we were right to be.
Our vet was worried, too. She found fluid in Starbuck's chest and attempted to drain it, but didn't feel confident that she'd gotten it all, as their ultrasound machine wasn't quite up to the task. She referred us IMMEDIATELY to the Animal Emergency & Specialty Center across town, where they used their more sophisticated equipment to drain the majority of the fluid from Starbuck's chest. He was then able to breathe much better, but unfortunately, the accumulating fluid was only a symptom of a much larger problem.
Pleural effusion, they said. Enlarged kidneys, they said. Anemic, they said. It all added up to only one thing: Lymphoma.
That was our diagnosis, $1900 in.
But... I can't put a price on Starbuck's life. No one can.
The oncologists at the Specialty Center have continuously given me hope. I've also done my research, and I've asked a lot of questions. I know his lymphoma can't be cured. But they continue to assure me, Starbuck isn't beyond SAVING.
Lymphoma can be put into remission. Starbuck can reasonably expect to return to his previous quality of life, maybe even for a year or more, if he receives and responds well to chemotherapy. The statistics all support this.
Starbuck's prognosis was initially guarded, and there were a few setbacks after he was first diagnosed. As of right now, he continues to gradually improve. Getting there wasn't easy OR cheap. The first chemo treatment hit him pretty hard. He's had a couple of blood transfusions to boost his red blood cell count, and he's stable now, coming home from the hospital tomorrow. His kidneys have shrunk back to the size they're supposed to be, he's eating again, and the fluid buildup in his chest has subsided. All good news.
The downside is that to get to this point has cost us over $3700, and I'm told I can expect the remaining chemotherapy treatments to be around $2000 over the next six months. That estimate also doesn't take into account any additional care he might need along the way. We're financially devastated at this point, all cards on the table.
We just want a little longer with our 'youngest child'. Our oncologist says 8-11 more months of survival is what we're looking at, conservatively, if Starbuck continues to respond well to treatment.
This is HARD. I don't want him to suffer needlessly, and I feel like I've prepared myself, in case I need to make that call, if his doctors tell me he's gone beyond all hope. If it's the best and most humane option, I'll do it. And even if he manages to eke out a few more months of life but he's miserable and in pain (he's a giant baby, I've mentioned that before, right?), I can still make that call, because... hell, that's what I'D want too, if it was me.
Here's what I DON'T want to have to choose: I don't want to have to KILL a member of my family just because I've run out of goddamn MONEY. The thought makes me sick, and I try to avoid dwelling on it, but it's not an uncommon story.
As great as the doctors and staff at the Specialty Center have been for us, it's still their policy to demand payment prior to treatment, and installment plans aren't an option. Can't find anyone who'll let you pay as you go, these days. As much as I want to say 'money's no object', and as much as I'm willing to rack up more medical expenses in order to save Starbuck's life, that's probably not an option at this point. No one will accept 'I'm good for it', or 'I'll pay you a hundred bucks a month for the rest of my LIFE', in lieu of payment up front. I think it USED to be that way, but these are different times we live in. Obviously.
Meanwhile, I see Starbuck fighting, every day. He's not giving up, so neither will I.
My oldest son and I visited Starbuck in the hospital today, after his latest blood transfusion. He perked right up when he saw us, and it gave me hope. It gave me IDEAS. Ideas like sitting down and writing out exactly what Starbuck means to me, in the hopes that someone out there will listen, and respond. I'm not above begging, not when it's this important. Life and death, y'know?
Starbuck has been such a HUGE and integral part of my life, and my family's lives, for so long now. We want the chance to say good-bye to him, and we even hope to make a few more good memories with him before he's gone.
Here's the hardest part, though. It's gonna take MONEY. Moolah. Benjamins. Green. Cold hard cash. We just... don't have it.
Sob story follows, brace yourself.
I was going to go back to school this spring, but now that money's gone. I've sold and pawned a few things, even my wedding and engagement rings, I'm ashamed to say. Haven't confessed that one to the husband yet, either. I hope he'll understand.
Today I'm going to be putting books and DVDs on eBay, but they aren't worth much. I don't know what else to do.
The few credit cards we have are maxed. We're a family of six (and two cats!) who live paycheck to paycheck. Straight up, our credit sucks. Both of our cars are old, '01 and '03, respectively. We rent our home, we've been here for 8 years now. We have nothing in savings. Our two oldest children attend community college by virtue of federal grants and the generosity of grandparents.
Speaking of, the $5k that we've spent so far? Mostly courtesy of my parents' credit card. My 'rents are both recently retired, barely making ends meet, and in not-so-great health. Oh, and they just spent around $7-8 grand on surgery for one of their two dogs this past year, and the other dog is currently going blind, in need of a double cataract operation soon. When it rains, it pours.
This HURTS my pride, to ask for help. I mean, I literally found this site by Googling 'I need a loan to save my cat.' I'm beyond desperate, I feel that's more than obvious by now.
Random tangent: Are there people out there actually able to pay $8000 a pop when tragedy strikes? Do those people exist? I honestly can't wrap my brain around it. Worrying over money is just such a basic and integral part of my everyday life. Having enough funds on hand for surprise expenses is like, a modern day fairy tale? Jeez.
I love -- WE love Starbuck more than we love our pride. Does that even need to be said? It galls us to have to ask for charity, or funding, or hand-outs, or whatever you choose to call it. That's a no-brainer. No one's pride is worth more than his life. Period.
I'm a cynic, yet I still believe people are mostly good, as contradictory as that sounds.
If you can, please help. Even if you're only able to give a little. Don't pass us by. A few bucks would mean the world to me, to my family, and to one very special cat.
His name is Starbuck, and he's my hero. Thank you.