This I Believe

Shanna - Hermosa Beach, California
Entered on January 24, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
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The Cat Lady Unplugged

I believe in old ladies with cats. For that matter, I believe in the young ones too.

Amanda lays stretched out on my lap as I type on the computer. White flecks of wayward popcorn cornels from my afternoon snack dot her black fur. She doesn’t care and stirs only as I pick the evidence of my indulgence out of her coat. A sleepy purr and a couple seconds of kneading her paws into my leg, and Amanda dozes off again.

I watch the smooth rise and fall of her stomach as she sleeps and wonder if I’m doing the right thing. Through the pale green puppy pad, her feline shape radiates a warm imprint onto my thighs. The large square of absorbent cotton backed with plastic protects my jeans from my cat’s leaky bladder.

Amanda has transitional cell carcinoma or, in the language of those not in the veterinary profession, a tumor in her bladder. When informed of the diagnosis a year and a half ago, I chose to treat the cancer. For my otherwise healthy cat, this initially meant surgery and subsequent chemotherapy and radiation with a guidance of a feline oncology.

Many, if not most, people looked absolutely baffled when I explained Amanda’s health issues. “Chemo for a cat?” they’d say faces screwed into disbelief. In one sentence, I went from a young, independent writer to the crazy cat lady, my single status surely not helping my cause.

But I went ahead with the weekly vet visits and ultrasounds to track the affects of the treatment on the tumor. I did it because I believe in chances, and I believe in hope. I believe in taking care of Amanda as I would any other member of my family who had a little more life left to live.

Though few of my friends understood my decision, Saturday mornings brought a quiet club of others like me who weren’t ready to let go. As I waited in the lobby of the oncologist’s office, I was kept company by other cat and dog people hoping for just a little more time with their animal friends. It was unusual to hear discussion, but we recognized the common denominator in each other’s presence.

Though she wasn’t cured, Amanda’s tumor was held at bay with few side effects save for the incontinence while sleeping. Medication at home has become the only option until the time comes to say goodbye. In the past eight months, Amanda has since resumed her life as a house cat aware of neither her lingering cancer nor the fact that she is the cause of my tarnished image.

I’ve come to the conclusion that a cat can be summed up as a physical manifestation of the human soul. When I awake in the morning to Amanda’s gentle head butting, I know why I’m a cat lady. I believe in old ladies with cats, and the young ones too.