Sunday, June 23, 2013

Ode to My Cancer Companions

Ever since I can remember, animals have played a hefty role in my life. From dogs, goats, pigs, cows and horses, my sister and I grew up surrounded by the animal kingdom. We spent our weekends and summers on the back of our horses with our herd of dogs and my cousin's pig 'Amos' trailing behind us. We frequently ate our lunch in the saddle, glided through creeks on horseback in the summertime and showed sheep and pigs at all of our local fairs. My sister always wanted to be a vet and our collective dream was to live in a big house on a ranch with our cousin Marion and raise a ton of animals. And although that's not how things turned out, animals still continue to play an essential part of our lives.

Fast-forward 5 decades and I find myself for the first time in more than 20 years, without a single animal in my life. Our dog and my cancer companion Romeo passed away at 14, a week before Christmas last year and our 15 year old cat Katsu passed just a mere few days ago. Absolutely a difficult and emotional pill to swallow.

Among the scientific data out there advocating for animal therapy for cancer patients, I definitely experienced the benefits of our furry friends throughout my cancer diagnosis and treatment. I personally experienced the loyalty of our sweet little doggy who was by my side every step of the way. From laying in his crate next to the bed for hours at a time, to escorting me throughout the house and going down the stairs step-by-step at my snail's pace, Romeo was there for me literally and emotionally. Once, when I was by myself and had to crawl my way to the bathroom, he ushered me inch by inch as I made my way across the floor. And when I went bald, both Romeo and Katsu stared at me like I was an alien, but eventually, settled into my new look, pre/post treatment routine and days of illness.

Post treatment, Katsu couldn't seem to cuddle close enough to me giving me the unconditional love and devotion that animals crave. Romeo seemed to worry if I sneezed or groaned in any atypical way. So my point is that animal companionship during a catastrophic illness is such a gift and I can't express enough, the gratitude that dwells deep within my heart for such authentic amour.

So a final WOOF, MEOW and bow to my amazing cancer buddies who championed around me during the fight of my life. I hope they felt at least a fraction of my love and gratitude in return. Now go run through the meadows of the Rainbow Bridge.

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