Cat Lady Turned Cap Lady

Before my first chemo infusion I was warned by my oncologist’s nurse that more than likely, my hair would fall out thanks to one of the many common side affects of chemotherapy.  She quickly followed with a recommendation—don’t shave your head now; there’s a chance it won’t fall out.  I’ll go with the recommendation. I was blessed with good hair and was not in the mood to loose it.  Cancer’s attack on my body, mind and soul was quite enough, thank you very much.

A couple weeks after my first chemo session, I noticed more than just a few strands of hair intertwined in my hairbrush after brushing.  Then I started seeing several strands of my long hair seemingly everywhere; on my clothes, the floor, countertops, inside the freezer (go figure)…it was happening.  My hair was falling out.  I would soon be bald, surely not the best look for me.  Yet, I was already feeling better.  The chemo was killing the cancer cells (along with the hair follicle cells).  I should have been thrilled about feeling better and hair should have taken a backseat.  I was thrilled, but hair loss…that was a low blow. This humiliating side effect took a few days for me to emotionally process. 

I consulted with my trusted feline companion.  Bobcat, do I shave my head now?  He just leaned in and gave me a gentle headbutt on the forehead.  I could have horns growing out of my head and Bobcat probably wouldn’t have cared (although he wasn’t so crazy about his 2019 Halloween costume).

I decided that seeing my long healthy locks fall to the ground at the wisk of a shaver would be too traumatic.  I let my hair fall out on its own, cutting it every couple weeks as it thinned out and became lackluster and matted. I pretty much had dreadlocks by the time I cut my hair to chin-length, along with a scalp that revealed far more skin than hair.

The bob-with-a-patchy-scalp hairstyle didn’t last long. I finally cut the remaining patches of hair down to about two inches.  And there I had it:  a baldhead with some wispy blonde remnants.  I showed Bobcat my “baby head.”  He looked at me unimpressed, as though he didn’t notice that my look had drastically changed.

I put on a burgundy knit cap with an oversized pom pom on the top of it then reclined on the sofa, settling in for the evening as I settled in with the fact that I lost my locks.  They would grow back, and in the meantime, I was healing.  

Bobcat joined me, relaxing alongside my legs facing me, my sweet comforting cat who looked me in the eye, then slowly moved his head and his gaze up from my face, up to the pom pom, then back down to my face.  

Bobcat finally had an opinion.  His motion said it all, “What happened to your hair and what is that gigantic puffy thing on the top of your head?”

Looks like I’ll have to get a wig.

New wig, complements of Hoag Hospital

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 28 Comments

Bobcat’s Goodbye

As I became conscious before opening my eyes, I instinctively reached for Bobcat.  He was not in bed sleeping next to me. He must be standing guard at the front door or reclining by his scratching post, I thought. I anticipated that any moment I would hear him clawing at the scratcher or the click-clack sound of claws on the hardwood floor.

Within seconds of those thoughts, in my pre-dawn haze, I remembered that Bobcat was no longer with me.  Just the day before he’d joined his best buddies, Topper and Lexington in Heaven.  Over the course of three days after an advanced kidney failure diagnosis resulting from diabetes, Bobcat slowly started to succumb to the inevitable. Before he got any closer to suffering, I called Home Pet Euthanasia of Southern California.  On Friday afternoon, January 15th, Bobcat’s spirit was peacefully set free from his dying body.

Lexington and Topper

For the first time in thirty-three years, I’m without felines in my household.  I’m a cat lady with no cats.  Having had two or three cat companions in my life for all these years, and now, being completely alone is jarring to my soul.  

Three Cat Night. From the top: Topper, Lexington and Bobcat.

Mornings are the hardest without Bobcat.  I miss his good morning greetings of head-butts and “kisses” on my forehead and cheeks.

Early this morning I walked out to the old picket fence enclosing the yard to take in a stunning view of the full moon nestled in storm clouds.  While moon gazing, I thought of Bobcat.  He would have been standing right there next to me in the lemon clovers if he were still here. 

Magical Moon

Not wanting tears to ruin my view of the beautiful scene in the sky, I stifled them.  But as I walked back towards the cottage, tears started to slowly run down my face.  Tears of sadness, yet, I smiled thinking that Bobcat’s precious spirit was with his compadres, Topper and Lexington, flying in the clouds and saying an enthusiastic “Hi Mommy!” to me from the moon.

I was in the midst of writing an entirely different story before I became a cat lady with no cats.  I wondered how I would continue writing about my life with cats—sans cats.  My mom and cat lady friend Gail both reminded me that I’m still a cat lady and have stories to tell.  So I will continue my stories about Bobcat and other cats who were, or are still in my life.  And once I’m past the grief of mourning; once I’m rid of cancer and I’m back to my lively self, I will have more stories to tell about a new feline family member…or two.

Photograph courtesy of Rachel Ault

To my precious Bobcat (who also responded to nicknames Bobby Cat, Bobba, Bobba Cat and Bibbidi-Bobbidi as called by friend Laura who thought him to be quite magical), thank you for your unwavering love, companionship, and for being a strong healing source in my life throughout my dealings with cancer.

 

I will miss you forever.

XOXO

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 30 Comments

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

Topper

Lexington

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 22 Comments