About 16 years ago my husband and I left Denver, Colorado for a small Texas town.
We took with us our cat, Snoopy. People think that cats bond with places, not people. This was not true with ours.
She wasn’t a great traveler — she needed to be medicated while we drove to our new home. But it was clear once we arrived that she was glad we’d brought her.
Bringing her into our family had been unplanned.
My husband had really bad allergies. He was allergic to dairy products, pollen and many other things, including cats. He went through allergy treatments using acupuncture (more on this in another article). These treatments worked!
The healer asked if he’d like to be treated for his cat allergies. He said, “What the heck.” The next day Snoopy showed up on our doorstep.
She was a tiny little thing, a ball of fluff. We thought she was a kitten. She looked hungry, so we fed her.
She kept showing up, and we kept feeding her. She bulked up really fast. It turned out that she was actually about 6 years old. The reason she was so small was that she was starving. The heavy fur coat hid how skinny she was.
We found this out (her age) when we took her to the vet. Because, you see, she had become part of our family. So she got her shots and we made sure she was spayed.
After that, she was totally bonded to us. She would even accompany us on walks. We walked most evenings after dinner, and she would trot along behind us like a puppy. On the route back home, she’d trot a few feet ahead of us, leading the way.
She continued to do this after we moved to Texas. She quickly adapted to her new neighborhood, as did we.
We went for walks in the evening, as we used to do, and met new neighbors that way. People would ask if we knew we had a cat following us, and we’d introduce them to Snoopy.
In the evenings, we often liked to read. When we did this, Snoopy liked to lie on my chest as I reclined in an easy chair. She would put her head on my right breast and purr.
Then, one day, she stopped doing this. I wondered what was going on with her, but none of her other behaviors had changed, so I didn’t think much of it. She would still like in our laps and was affectionate.
I had my annual breast exam and the doctor didn’t find anything. Yet, just a few weeks later, I noticed my right breast had swollen up. It hurt, and had an inflamed, pitted appearance, like an orange peel.
When I went to the doctor, he seemed to panic. It turned out I had something called inflammatory breast disease, a virulently aggressive form of cancer. It is always considered a type IIIB/IV cancer upon diagnosis and the prognosis is not pleasant.
At the time I was diagnosed, only 15% of patients with this type of cancer survived more than 18 months. My doctor gave me 6 months to live.
Amazingly, Snoopy had diagnosed the cancer before any doctor or lab equipment. Somehow she had sensed something not even our modern technology could.
While I was undergoing chemotherapy for this cancer, I was bed-ridden. The chemo I needed was incredibly aggressive. At one point I could not move — if I stood up or lay down flat, I would throw up. I needed to keep myself propped at a 45 degree angle.
I was so dehydrated that my skin formed little peaks when I pinched it.
During this whole time, Snoopy lay at my side. She was normally an active cat. Prior to my going through treatment, she would often be out several hours a day. But while I was bedridden, she never left me, except to eat or use her litter box.
Sometimes she purred, sometimes she was silent. But she was always there.
I cannot begin to describe how much this helped.
They say one of the best ways to fight a disease like cancer is to keep a positive attitude. I believe this.
When I was propped up in bed, unable to hold anything down and unable to move, it was hard sometimes to stay positive. Snoopy helped. Just knowing she was there helped. The sound of her purring helped.
A lot of people say that cats don’t love their people. I know this isn’t true.
Several months after I completed my last treatment, I found myself reclining on the couch again, reading a book. Snoopy jumped into my lap. She put her head on my right breast.
I felt this surge of joy. I knew I was in remission again.
My husband called this my in-home “cat scan”. We knew that as long as this “test” was positive, we had nothing to fear.