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.
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.