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Article Archive >> Community

Daze of My Life: Creature comforts

Daze of My Life
Creature comforts

If I've said it once, over the past 17 months (nearly to the day), I've said it a hundred times: I couldn't have endured my cancer treatment and subsequent lifestyle changes if Cappuccino and Biscuit, our two cats, had not been in my life and provided the nurturing nuzzles only cats can occasionally provide. The comfort, and joy, and stress reduction, that their constant attention and proximity to me created (they are both on the dining room table at this very moment as I attempt to write between tail swipes), along with their desire to be petted, has provided a less-than-thrilled cancer patient some real emotional relief, especially during chemotherapy initially and eventually through my date of destiny (the 13th month of my original 13-month-to-two-year prognosis) and presently, as life has gone on with better-than-expected scan results, as you regular readers may recall.
Part of the cancer process/experience (some experience) has involved real treatment: chemotherapy, diagnostic scans and X-Rays, regular lab work, physical examinations by my oncologist, change in diet (including ingestion of some immunology-supporting pills and miscellaneous supplements) and lifestyle (exercise), daily consumption of alkaline water, among other changes; and some has involved un-"real" treatment: positive attitude, reduction of stress, and having animals in my life/home. In fact, if it were not for these two feline brothers rubbing against my arms, I don't think I could have exhibited the kind of positive attitude I have and experienced the reduction in stress as well, important considerations which health care professionals often cite as non-medical-type means which might prevent the less-than-ignominious-end many terminal patients experience. Though these kinds of beneficial effects are not exactly written about in chapter and verse, the health care providers with whom I regularly interact have been most encouraging and respectful to those patients (me in particular) fortunate enough to find a way to integrate such anecdotal assets into their treatment.
Anecdotally speaking then, I would say, the most tangible example of this non-medical-type effect which my two cats have provided is, companionship: I have never felt alone in all these months fighting this disease. And "Loneliness" as M*A*S*H's Capt. Hawkeye Pierce (Alan Alda) advised Corp. Radar O'Reily, (Gary Burgoff) in response to Radar's discomfort regarding his widowed mother's recent dating, "is all it's cracked up to be."
In addition, their companionship has given me, on occasion, something to do that needed to get done: feeding, treating, litter box cleaning, playing; in general, taking care of somebody other than myself. And it's those animal responsibilities I think, that helped push me/pull me forward. Oddly enough, it was a care and concern for others ("the Buff Boys" as we call them) that comforted me most during my darkest days as I struggled with my own cancer-related demons. And though cats may not reciprocate their affections for their owners the way dogs typically do: licking, tail wagging, coming-when-you-call-them/following commands; nevertheless, there are signs of affection from cats: they get in your way, they sit or rest/sleep nearby (occasionally even touching you), they rub up against you as they sort of walk away, and sometimes, they even lick you. For cat owners, the smallest signs - from their cats - carry the biggest meaning: a paw placed on your body somewhere, a tail curled up under your nose or jaw, a night spent sleeping in your closet and/or on top of your clothes/laundry, secure with your scent.
They do care, and in their caring, I have found comfort and serenity. It's a good thing, too, because I really needed to find something. Cappuccino and Biscuit are not just "something," they're everything! I couldn't have made it without them, yet again.

Kenneth B. Lourie is a regionally syndicated columnist who resides in Burtonsville, MD.

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