Cat Lady’s Diagnosis

I couldn’t get the doctor’s words, “…you’ve got cancer” out of my head as I drove home from the appointment.  After the doctor delivered the ominous news, I felt out-of-body, numb. “Okay…”  I said without sheading a tear.  I’d heard this diagnosis with three of my beloved cats, and each time, I cried.

Miss Bella



But, I couldn’t cry for myself.  I just sat there robotically asking questions about what to do next and treatment.  I was relieved that finally, I had a diagnosis, a proposed treatment plan (depending on if the cancer had metastasized) and that I was in the hands of an experienced, compassionate cancer specialist with Hoag Hospital.  I drove down Pacific Coat Highway, devoid of emotion, but my mind was anxiously active. I’d known that something was going haywire in my body, but, seriously, cancer?  Despite the cancer-related symptoms, a nine-centimeter mass in my uterus, and an oncologist’s diagnosis, I could not believe in something so threatening.  As I approached Crystal Cove, an uncontrollable sob shook me.

By the time I got home, the sobbing stopped, but the internal running commentary continued: Oh my God, I have cancer. What if it metastasized? How do I tell my parents? What if I get too sick to take care of Bobcat?

I would need chemotherapy and surgery. Thoughts raced over the things I’d have to do before my first chemo treatment: get a CAT scan, a biopsy, more blood work; tell my boss; take medical leave; file for disability—and what I had to do that afternoon—tell my parents and my friends who knew I had an appointment with an oncologist.

My mind stopped spinning when Bobcat jumped onto the sofa and cozied-up by my side. He looked up at me and began to purr.  I leaned over and wrapped my arms around him, rested my chin on his head and took a deep breath.  Bobcat grounded me.  After a long cat hug, I sat up and announced to Bobcat, “I have cancer.” It was no longer a thought spinning in my head.  I spoke the words, sending the diagnosis out into the universe, making it real.  With the comfort of my cat came an acceptance of this new reality.  I made my first move towards coping with it and picked up the phone.

My parents took the news with grace and strength, and so did my dear friends.  Everyone went into supportive action offering help with anything I needed.  By the end of that afternoon a “Help Cat Lady Kick Cancer” support team was created.

I tackled all those things I was so worried about with my team by my side, checking-up on me, cheering at the great news that the cancer did not spread, bringing meals, groceries, keeping the cottage tidy, and taking care of Bobcat when I was too weak to feed him and clean his litter box.

And with my loving feline companion by my side lending a comforting paw, I’m never alone.

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The Concerned Cat

I opened my eyes after a long nap on the sofa to see Bobcat’s big green eyes staring at me.  I weakly propped myself up against the pillows and took his furry face into my hands and kissed his the top of his head.  He came closer and “kissed” my forehead, then pulled back and continued his concerned stare.  “Bobcat, yes, I feel awful but I’m going to be okay—don’t worry sweetie!” 

Yet, I knew that something was terribly wrong with me, and so did Bobcat.  I could almost hear his mental chatter; the questions in his mind as he tried to understand why I rarely moved from my reclining position on the sofa, why was I sleeping so much and why was I up at 5:00 a.m. dry-heaving so often?  Maybe he thought I had a bad case of fur balls…

Like most of us, I was preoccupied with the pandemic and doing all that I could to stay safe and stay healthy, and thought I did so successfully.  So when my tight skinny jeans started to become baggy and my usual high-energy self struggled to get through the workday, I figured the weight-loss and unusual fatigue were related to stress from dealing with the COVID way of living—so did my doctor back in July over a zoom appointment. Her recommendation was to self-monitor and if my condition didn’t improve before my annual check-up on September 4th to let her know.

I experienced slow but continued weight loss despite efforts to add more calories into my daily food intake and reduce stress.  As my September appointment approached, I began to experience nausea, dizziness, increased thirst…sharp pains in my lower abdomen and relentless mental and physical fatigue.  After more blood work, doctor visits, diagnostics, and finally a referral to a gynecological oncologist, my fear of what ailed me became a reality. In early October, I was diagnosed with uterine cancer. I was careful not to get COVID, but social distancing and mask wearing doesn’t stop cancer.

Coping with cancer has debilitated every aspect of my being, but in the midst of pain, fear and shock, I found the blessings.  I have a compassionate oncologist and medical team at the Hoag Cancer Center; the cancer did not metastasize; my treatment includes only three rounds of chemotherapy to shrink the large mass; then surgery with an expected full recovery. I’ve had two rounds of chemo and with that, signs that the mass is shrinking. The enervating symptoms brought on by the cancer have been reduced to lingering weakness and mild fatigue.  Although it may be a few months before I fill out my jeans again, I’m starting to gain weight.

Bobcat’s mood is lighter as he senses the uplifting shift in my energy. I no longer catch him broodingly staring at me.  Now, on those tough days following chemo, he curls up next to me and looks at me through slow, comforting blinks that seem to be saying don’t worry, you’re going to be okay.

My gratitude for my support team of family and friends who have overwhelmed me with their compassion, generosity and love goes beyond what words can convey.

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Choosing Optimism Over Fear

“Some day, yeah / We’ll walk in the rays of a beautiful sun
Some day / When the world is much brighter”
Lyrics to “Ooh Child” by Stan Vincent, performed by The Five Stairsteps

I’m starting to feel like myself again.  That crazy dark side has departed, I hope for good, and the crazy had nothing to do with my passion for felines.  The drastic shift we’ve all had to make overnight to adhere to the shelter-in-place orders to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 has been more difficult than I anticipated.  I thought I’d be more resilient to the fear, anxiety and shock experienced worldwide.  And I was, initially.  But the chronic worry of how this pandemic is going to pan out while having minimal interaction with human beings for the past month, and trying to efficiently meet demands of my job while working from home with constant computer disruptions has collectively wreaked havoc on my mental and emotional state. I’ve become extremely edgy, impatient and overly emotional.  The meaning in “We’re in this together” initially suggested to me strength in numbers—we’re not alone, we have each other.  Now this slogan insinuates that we are all suffering together in varying degrees.

Yet, despite my exhausted psyche, I am grateful. I still have a job, I’m healthy and I have my entertaining and loving Bobcat by my side.

My heart hurts for those experiencing truly devastating effects of the pandemic:  those who’ve become seriously ill, folks who’ve lost loved ones, and to those experiencing another kind of distressing loss – that of a business or job, and to business owners barely hanging on wondering how they are going to survive.

After six days of rain, the sun came out.  I walked the neighborhood and bird watched from my patio. I witnessed a mama crow preening her baby.  I’ve seen the barn owl take flight from the king palm tree in the yard twice this week, and I’ve stargazed. Venus has never looked so bright, and Sirius was seriously a gorgeous twinkling shade of blue last night.

Communing with Mother Nature helped to dissolve the negative emotions that assaulted my being—that and an attitude shift.  “Enough.  I need to start sending out positive vibes into the world.  That’s got to help in some way,” I said to Bobcat.  I’ve been talking to him a lot, and to the crows (Good morning, crows, how’s the baby?) Even to my Easter décor (Hello little lamby…whatcha doin’?).  I know, crazy, right?  My Mom told me she’s been talking to bumble bees, so it’s not just me.  I think talking to whomever or whatever is around even if these beings or things can’t talk back is comforting.

Of course, Bobcat speaks to me with his eyes…

When he’s not screaming demands at me.

I’m wishing everyone peace, comfort and good health.

Please let me know how you are doing.  Has anyone else been feeling a little cray cray?  Talking to the birds or inanimate objects?

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