Books, Music and More

Getting to know Samantha has been not only entertaining but also very enlightening.  It turns out that Samantha and I have quite a bit in common:

Samantha the Bookworm.  Although I tend to be drawn to historical fiction and memoir, with my most recent favorite good read, The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes, Samantha sticks to books that contain the word “cat” in the title, with her favorite being Men & Cats by Marie-Eva Gatuingt.

Music.  Who knew that Samantha would be into music? I now get a helping paw when picking out CDs. In the below photo she selected a CD by the Rolling Stones, Forty Licks.  After that we played Live at Blues Alley by Eva Cassidy (one of my favorite female vocalists—you must hear her arrangement of “Over the Rainbow”), which includes a sassy rendition of “Stormy Monday.” Some of Samantha’s favorite musical talents include Cat Stevens, The Pussycat Dolls, and The Animals, and her eyes light up when she hears Tom Jones belting out “What’s New Pussycat?”.

Yoga Kitty.  Samantha amazes me with her flexibility and determination to hold an asana (yoga pose).  And when I roll out the yoga mat she is right there with me watching my every move.  When I’m in downward dog pose, Samantha reclines underneath me, forcing me to hold the pose as long as possible.  And although she does a mean downward dog herself, I think her favorite pose is shavasana (a relaxing, meditative pose at the end of a yoga session).

Asana entitled: Spiralled Head to Knee

Shavasana

Cat Dancing.  When I dance around the house, Samantha prances along with me. She even has ballet in her genes like Cat Lady, often standing in a perfect first position, and becomes mesmerized with the ballet steps I can still execute, especially pas de chat (cat’s step).

Vintage Furniture.  Besides the bookcase, Samantha has a thing for the vintage chair where she spends hours on and under this lovely piece.

Samantha is purrrfect for me in a different way from Bobcat, Lexington, or any other of my beloved cats. We are both starting new chapters of our lives together.  We’re both recovering from surgery and helping each other heal from recent trauma; for me—a life threatening disease and for her, negligence by her former owner (I will not dignify that woman by calling her a cat mom).

I look forward to our growing bond, our respective transformations, and to seeing where our lives together will lead us.

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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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