Recovering Without Bobcat

Dealing with cancer without my feline companion/nursemaid has been more challenging than I expected.  I had surgery on February 1st, which was supposed to be a full hysterectomy and the removal of a cancerous lymph node, all done robotically on an outpatient basis.  My, how surgical procedures have progressed, except my surgery took an unexpected turn, and I ended up in the hospital.  Some of the cancer inside my uterus decided to take an adventure outside landing on my colon, forming a tumor that had to be removed. Rather than getting home around 5:00 p.m. that day, I awoke to my surgeon telling me I was in the hospital, and would be there for about a week.  Excuse me…WHAT?

The next day while lying in the hospital bed and staring at the ceiling, memories of Bobcat’s antics and his healing ways went running through my mind like a vivid slide show. Images of his frequent concerned stares at me in my exhausted state of being haunted me.  I cried knowing I’d be going home to an empty cottage.  But realized that if Bobcat were home, he would be all alone, wondering what happened to me, and in my post-surgery daze, I would’ve had to figure out who could take care of him.  There’s no good time to say goodbye to a beloved, but maybe the timing of Bobcat’s passing was actually good.  Or was it?

My initial recovery went much quicker than my doctor anticipated.  I was released from the hospital after only two and a half days.  The weeks following were filled with lots of reading and bird watching out the French windows while resting on the sofa.  I also did some writing, binged-watched my current favorite TV shows, When Calls the Heart and Heartland, and started taking walks around the neighborhood.  The pain was manageable with Tylenol, the fatigue with lots of rest, but the loneliness was incurable. I wasn’t sleeping well at night and waking up at 2:00 a.m. without Bobcat to talk to and snuggle created an immense emptiness for which there was no remedy.

I’ve taken to spending probably too much time on Instagram watching cute cat videos, but it’s helping me get my feline fix; a little anyway.  I started following the “cutest goat”, which, well, who can’t be uplifted by a spirited baby goat leaping, jumping and head butting with his pals?  A friend and fellow Blue Bell Foundation volunteer gave me a kitty stuffed animal.  I named him Bobcat and he hangs out with me on the sofa, but sometimes prefers the vintage chair.  I’ve learned that one is never to old to snuggle with a stuffed animal.  It’s been very comforting—thank you, Lynette!

These are Laguna’s fire mitigation goats and in this location are a hike from the cottage. The spotted baby goat leapt over the little white one. Easter 2019.

Today marks the two-month anniversary of Bobcat’s passing.  I miss him every day and every night, but I’m not quite so sad.  Some loneliness still lingers, and I suppose it will probably hang around as long as I am a cat lady with no cats, but I don’t think I can go too much longer without hearing the pitter-patter of paws on the hardwood floor.

Who knows what spring will bring…

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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

 

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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

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