Cat Lady’s Last Chemo

On Friday, April 16th, I spent my last day in the infusion lounge at Hoag Hospital receiving my final chemo treatment.  Getting chemo isn’t uncomfortable or painful; it’s the knowing of the week-long (sometimes longer) side effects that lie ahead that I always dread, even with the final round.  But this time knowing that a sweet spirited kitty would be awaiting me at the cottage helped to quell my anxiety.

Chemo side effects kick-in two days after all of the long acting premeds given before chemo subside.  So when I get home from a chemo treatment, I feel peaceful and relaxed from the Benadryl buzz, and when that wears off by Saturday, I’m left with the lingering energizing effects from the steroid.  Last Saturday after my final chemo, my kitten-like energy rivaled Samantha’s as we played “get-the-mousey,” “toss-the-pom-poms,” and hide-and-go-seek throughout the day.  I asked Alexa to play some Sly and the Family Stone and danced my booty off as Samantha watched, saucer-eyed and intrigued with my movements until she joined in by prancing alongside me (no kidding).  I organized my closet, vacuumed, did laundry, washed dishes, watered my garden then finally slowed down about sunset (oh to have that kind of energy everyday!). I got through Sunday with only mild nausea.

By Monday morning, intense nausea awoke me and by Tuesday, nausea was followed by fatigue, muscle aches and weakness, and thrush.  Before my first chemo the nurse told me that chemo side effects feel like having the flu—excuse me—you mean the flu on steroids.  Even the muscles in my feet became weak and achy.

For the remainder of the week I remained sofa-bound with the exception of random bouts of playtime with Samantha.  As I would recline back on the sofa, completely worn out after playing get-the-mousey for five minutes, Samantha belted out sorrowful meows, begging for just one more round…

I awoke today almost side effect free, feeling somewhat celebratory in my chemotherapy treatment accomplishment.  I’ve been called a warrior and have been praised for my perceived strength. But coping with cancer and chemo has been so debilitating that most of the time I’ve felt small and meek.  I’ve just been riding out the storm, doing what I have to do until the clouds break and the rays of sunshine clear the darkness. I can see those rays now.  I can feel them energize my spirit and reposition my outlook to better see the approaching end of this “long strange trip” I’ve been on.

I start radiation treatments in a few weeks, and will say that I’m anxious about it.  I will be facing more side effects, but as I’m told, they are not as harsh as chemo. I hope that’s my case and that my renewed spirit can maintain its newfound power throughout radiation.

My gratitude for the love, support and understanding of dear friends, family and my beloved Bobcat (RIP) is never ending.

Wendy and Cat Lady before Final Chemo…I’m gettin’ my guns back!

And now Samantha is here to help see me through the last leg of my journey.

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Daydream Kitty

Bouncing back from my post-surgery chemo treatment in early March was tougher than anticipated.  My body’s constitution had been weakened from surgery and was still recovering, so adding chemo to that caused the fatigue, weakness and GI distress to drag on longer.  Yet, I was recovering from the loss of Bobcat—still missing him—but the heaviness in the atmosphere around me and in my heart had lifted.  I started daydreaming about having a kitty and thought that having a girl again would be nice.  I’d not had a feline gal pal since Bella died in 2012.

Miss Bella

Miss Bella

One particular image in my daydreams became more frequent; that of me holding a young female feline with fluffy cream and peach-toned fur.  This visual worked its way into my mind at night, as I would fall into a twilight zone before falling into a deep sleep.  And actually, this image started popping into my mind shortly before Bobcat passed; yet I dismissed it.  But now I started to pay attention.  Could this picture in my mind be a sign of what was to come?  I imagined living life alongside a feline companion again. I started visualizing the kitty in my daydreams snuggling next to me on the sofa and thought about what I would name her.

On a recent Saturday morning after scrolling through Instagram, I texted a friend, Ann Marie, asking about something she’d posted.  I also gave her a heads-up that I was in the market for adopting a kitty, as she volunteers at the Laguna Beach Animal Shelter.  Three days later, Ann Marie sent me a text telling me that she’d met “Annie” on Saturday (the same day we texted) and if I liked Persians, I’d love her.  She included a link to the online news publication, Stu News Laguna, where Annie was featured as the Laguna Beach Animal Shelter’s  “Pet-of-the-Week.”  My heart started racing and I had that feeling in my gut that you get when something big is about to happen.  I clicked onto the link, and the photo of Annie made my jaw drop.  There she was…the cat of my daydreams.  This is my kitty! My girl! I said out loud as tears streamed down my cheeks.  I’ve been extra emotional since the cancer journey began, but this emotive visceral reaction was coming from my knowing that Annie was The One.

Daydream Kitty

I met Annie at the shelter the following day. At one point during my visit with her after taking a break from tossing cat toys and watching her enthusiastically bat them around, I sat on a towel placed on the floor and motioned for Annie to sit next to me.  She pranced over and sat close to my hand that was resting on the towel in the space next to me.  Annie then carefully placed her paw on top of my hand and held it there as she looked up at me.  I melted.  A volunteer asked me what I thought of Annie.  My reply: “I’m in love.  If you approve my application, I want her.”  My application passed the shelter’s scrutiny with flying colors.

Annie saying good-bye to me after we first met. We did the slow blink with each other for several minutes.

Annie was recovering from bladder stone surgery and couldn’t be released until the following week, around the time I had another chemo scheduled.  The shelter kept Annie until I was able to sign the adoption agreement and take her home, and in the meanwhile, I was able to visit her.

On April 2nd the adoption became official and I brought Annie home with me.  I re-named this elegant, playful and affectionate kitty of my daydreams Samantha.  And that day she settled into her new life with a new name and her new mama in a cottage by the sea as though she’d been with me forever.

Samantha on the sofa next to me at the end of our big Adoption Day.

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Eight Days and Nine Nights of Sunshine

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been feeling ready to invite a new kitty into my life, which has caused me to reflect on an adoption attempt I made last spring.

By June of 2020, Bobcat had gained weight and became diabetic since his best friend Lexington passed in December of 2019. He was still affectionate and attentive towards me, yet seemed so sad.  I came to the conclusion that a new friend; specifically a girlfriend would be good medicine for Bobcat.

I began my search spending several weeks of reviewing cat bios on Petfinder, finding only two prospectives.  After no response to my inquiries from the shelters, I moved on. Another cat of interest was at a shelter run by just one woman who did call me back, sounding out of breath saying that she had too much going on, but she would call me back at 7:00 that evening.  She never did.  Trying to find a girlfriend for Bobcat was becoming as arduous as online dating.

After a two-week break I got back on rescue websites to give it another shot.  Within an hour I found two prospective girlfriends for Bobcat and got a call back from the director of the rescue group. The two cats in question had already been adopted, but she invited me to a PetSmart adoption event happening that weekend.

Me: Bobcat, I’m off to PetSmart to find you a girlfriend! Bobcat: A what?…

I arrived at the PetSmart adoption center on Saturday morning and immediately noticed a pretty two-year-old girl named Sunshine.  Her bio stated that she was sweet and sociable. Perfect.  Sunshine bonded with me instantly, and I adopted her on the spot.

Sunshine, photo courtesy of Susan Brown Matsumoto Photography

On the drive home I began to feel apprehensive.  While Sunshine seemed like a good fit for Bobcat, She did not tug at my heartstrings.  I suddenly felt I’d made a hasty decision, made in the moment out of tiring of the selection process, and just wanting Bobcat to have a friend.  In the past, I always knew upon meeting my prospective new cat—sometimes just by looking at the photo that he or she was the one.  Yet, I’d “sleep on it” before making my final decision to adopt.  If I woke-up the day after meeting the potential adoptee with the same excitement I had upon our meeting, I scheduled another visit.  If the same warm-fuzzy feelings filled my heart during the second visit, I’d adopt. Unbeknownst to me at the time, that apprehension was my intuition giving me a warning, just the same as the strong “knowing” I’ve had when the right cat came along.

Sunshine was sweet and sociable and was also pure alpha—domineering, aggressive and possessive of me. In my attempts to bring the cats into each other’s space I broke up two catfights, one that landed me in urgent care with serious cat scratches and another with Bobcat at the vet for a scratched eyelid.  Bobcat became withdrawn and spent lots of time hiding.

Is she gone yet?

The circumstance had become unhealthy and very stressful for everyone involved, so I relinquished Sunshine to the shelter.  She was a wonderful cat, but not for us.  Once she was gone, Bobcat and I rekindled our love and life was peaceful again.

Ahhh, I’m in the clear, she’s outta here!

In retrospect, I realized that Bobcat just needed more time to grieve, not a stranger invading our space and our one-on-one time together.

I felt horrible having to return Sunshine and guilty that I added more stress to her life.  I wished I’d been more discerning, but I couldn’t go back and undo the situation.  I found solace when I heard that she was adopted a couple of weeks later, and was reminded to always listen to my internal insight.

Let’s see whom my intuition will lead me to this time around…stay tuned!

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