This piece was an entry in a Berkeley Humane Society writing contest. I made it into the semi finals.
I adopted Archie and his sisters, Maya and Kasey, as kittens in 2005. Archie had been born with asthma, so he was denied health insurance because of his preexisting condition. He went batshit crazy every time vet techs took him “to the back” for tests. Eventually, I found a vet who understands Archie, and she allows me to stay with Archie during procedures.
In early 2014, I contacted an animal psychic because of Archie’s intense anxiety about vets. When Maureen and I first spoke about Archie, I accidentally called him Charlie, and I began weeping. Maureen told me that Archie was Charlie - a cat I had lost when I was ten - and that he had come back to me. In June, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and I lived in dread and fear of what that meant. One night in July, a cat fight started downstairs. It wasn’t the short dramatic scuffle that the girls often had. It sounded hostile and mean. Maya was angry with Archie, and she and Kasey stalked and attacked him. The troubles (the cats’ choice of words) continued intermittently all summer. Eventually, Maureen managed to convey the connection between their nocturnal fights, my sleep, work, salary, and their food. It worked. Peace returned to our home. I worked for three more years and retired in 2017. My mother passed in early 2018. On what would have been her 94th birthday, Archie was diagnosed with small cell lymphoma. Apparently, it’s the “best cancer” for a cat to get, and the average life expectancy for this illness is two years. He would have to take chemo and steroids and get blood tests every two weeks. The first time I took him in for tests with the new cat oncologist, the vet techs insisted on taking Archie “into the back” without me. It did not end well. Several techs were injured, and he was kind of blacklisted from that clinic.
A year and a half into Archie’s diagnosis and five years into my Parkinson’s diagnosis, we’re both doing fine. After a bad diagnosis, there’s a fork in the road at which one can go down the rabbit hole of defeat or learn to enjoy life one day at a time. As Archie told the psychic: My spirit soars. My spirit floats. Isn’t it a miracle to be here? Every day. A beautiful miracle.