April - Noticed my breast had changed shape...went to my gynecologist...had mammogram and breast ultrasound...my son, Derrick, asks me to adopt a homeless kitten....no, too many pets already.
May - First needle biopsy...negative results...doctor unhappy, orders an MRI...Derrick begs me to take still unadopted kitten.
June - MRI suspicious...second needle biopsy....Derrick brings home kitten curled up in his backpack....I fall in love.
|Dusty's first picture|
July - Cancer diagnosis...sentinel node biopsy...kitten owns my heart.
Dusty fit right in with our two cats. They bathed and cuddled with her, treated her like they'd given birth to her..weird since they were both male. She took to me instantly, wanting to be held, always on my lap if I was sitting, always under my feet if I wasn't. At night she slept beneath the covers curled up against my stomach. She seemed to know that I needed her as much as she needed me.
I think of her as my cancer kitty, a little gift from God. When I listened to her soft purr and stroked her fur I was reminded that everything would be okay and in time I would be well. During the months of Chemotherapy she gave me great comfort. By the end of the grueling treatments, I spent most of my days on the couch sleeping, watching movies, or crocheting while Dusty perched near me batting at or chewing the yarn ball.
Sometimes my other two cats paid a visit and I've have three warm bodies stretched over my legs and stomach.
|Harry and Domino|
Oh yes, we have a dog too, an Australian Cattle Dog. He'd check on me then go to his spot on the floor at the end of the couch.
As much as I loved my other animals, Dusty was special. She still follows me upstairs every night, meowing and purring until I settle down in the bed. She weasels her way under the covers and nibbles at my fingertips until she's bored. By the time Todd is in the bed and we are asleep, she's settled into her favorite spot near my feet.
When I see how much she's grown I'm reminded that two years have passed. I am well and she is part of the reason. Science has shown that caring for a pet is therapeutic for people with chronic illness. I didn't know it then, but when I'd pet Dusty or my other animals my body released oxytocin, the same hormone released when a woman breastfeeds her child. This helped me to feel relaxed and promoted a sense of peace and well-being.
|Dusty all grown up|
I found a wonderful article on NPR. In the audio interview, Rebecca Johnson, a nurse who heads the Research Center for Human/Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, says, "Oxytocin has some powerful effects for us in the body's ability to be in a state of readiness to heal, and also to grow new cells, so it predisposes us to an environment in our own bodies where we can be healthier."
I certainly needed a boost to my body's ability to grow new cells. Thank you to my pets, especially my Dusty, for helping me in my time of need. It's a win/win situation for people with pets, even if neither of you are sick. Loving an animal who loves us back (unconditionally) is tremendously soothing. We can all benefit from that!
Here is a group of children from my hometown in Northeast Georgia performing a song promoting shelter pet adoption. Save a life. Take home some love.
|Adopt a Shelter Pet|
|Fearless Leader on the left|