Do you think your “furry friends” sense emotional distress, sadness, sickness or conversely, joy? When was the last time you took for granted the unconditional love and readiness-on-demand your pet(s) provide you? Pet: sometimes referred to as “family member, fur-ball children, four-legged friend” to name just a few. For purposes of my story, I refer to my two intuitive loving cats as my “fur-balls”, sisters from separate mothers with distinct personalities and companions with distinction.
I have been pondering lately how my Coco Chanel and Baby Bella comforted me during my breast cancer fight. Did I rely on them to be near me after rounds of chemo, hiding under the covers, shades drawn, tears falling as I sought solace in my bed? Come to think of it, they were always there. Did Coco and Bella know from the tone in my voice, the noises my sobbing made or just being horizontal all day that something was wrong or different? The fact is, I am not an animal psychologist or a “cat whisperer” but what I do know is that Coco eagerly nudged her way under my chin, close to my shoulder and I have pictures to prove it. In fact, I recall writing in my journal about the brightness my “babies” brought me during darker times recovering, seemingly always in my bedroom, after various treatments. Was this new behavior for Coco especially? Yes, I believe it was.
It’s been a few years since those memorable days bedridden. I recall thinking to myself and having an inner dialogue about how lonely I would feel right now if it wasn’t for the love and closeness of these darlings. I know I even pondered that first question I asked in my opening sentence: do our pets know when we are sick? As my memory refreshes and I take myself back 6 years ago, I recognize, like many of you, that I was not paying attention to much of anything. I was doctoring, doing what I was told, sitting in chemo chairs, driving to and fro and sleeping. Sleeping a lot.
When I reflect back on that time though, the constants in my life and my space were always my two cats. My space quite frequently was my bedroom, resting under my favorite XL handmade cotton throw blanket. Oh how I loved that throw and still do, but what was surprising was little Coco Chanel making her way to the top edge of that blanket. She made sure she nuzzled, made contact with my body, literally spooning with me each and every time. In fact, I do recall one evening as I was praying and talking in a whisper. Coco was tightly spooning with me, my arm resting over her belly in an embrace, her warmth and purring so genuine and loving, that a moment of gratitude washed over me as I realized I felt a lot less lonely because of her love. I honestly cannot recall this little lover spooning with me so consistently until then. It felt like something new happening which begs the age-old question of do “they” know we are different in some way.
So where is “Baby Bella” in this story of sharing her love potion during my cancer journey? She was right there too. Even though she is not the resident spooner, she found my belly, the curves behind my legs when on my side or hovering by my head on what little space of my pillow was left. She defers to her big sister Coco who has first dibs at everything, yet she quietly made her presence and touch known at every opportunity. I’ve been paying more attention to my fur-balls lately as I grab the moments of joy and love they unselfishly provide me. Did cancer jump-start Coco’s spooning or Bella’s pillow talk? That I don’t know for sure, but the fact that they comforted me at some of my loneliest, lowest times is good enough for me.
Written by Susan Pettit. A hobbyist writer, breast cancer survivor, and on-line vintage shop proprietor living with two intuitive loving fur balls, Coco Chanel and Baby Bella. Breast cancer awakened my writing (I call it lifestyle therapy) in the pursuit of a re-purposed life. Thank you Firefly Sisterhood for letting me share some of my raw truth-telling stories.