I’m not one for battle metaphors.
But if the armor fits, the cats will wear it.
As a general rule, I think there’s quite enough warfare and woe as is without having to cast everything as some kind of fight. We do not need epic warfare between potato chip flavors or badminton teams or people lip-syncing to “Lady Marmalade.” (OK, we do kind of need the last one, but we don’t need to call it a battle. Lip Sync Ballet, anyone?) Our words have more power than we commonly consider, and all this talk of war can numb us to the real, wretched thing.
(Angela descends soapbox here.)
But sometimes, fighting words fit like a chain-mail glove. Sometimes, there is a real enemy who really needs to be given the real smackdown.
I am, of course, talking about cat cancer.
I don’t write up every one, because I don’t want to send you into permanent fetal position, but Tabby’s Place has an airship full of cats quietly fighting cancer at any given time. Given that October is traditionally the month of all things creepy/kooky/altogether ooky, now is a fine time to celebrate cats fighting the darkness.
Pollen is the long-germinating bloom just beginning to unfurl. She came to us in 2012, semi-feral (and by “semi” I mean “completely and entirely”). Our minky grey girl was nursing four newborns, despite being at an age where she should be rocking grandbabies and dozing off to All in the Family reruns. But although she didn’t want us to touch her; although her body was exhausted; although her heart was broken by the deaths of one, then two, of her kittens; Pollen soldiered on.
We sprinkled Pollen with ten thousand seed packets of love through the years, doing our best to plant something good that would sprout into something like trust. All we got was weeds — and not the pretty ones, either; the sharp, spiky ones that leave you bleeding and embarrassed, with a handful of your own blood and no flowers.
It was OK. We loved her.
And then, one day, the earth broke forth into bloom.
One day, hard dry ground and thorn-wielding weeds; the next, dahlias and zinnias and hyacinths and a pettable, purring Pollen.
Right around the time Pollen’s trust took root, so did something more sinister: mammary cancer. As of this writing, our brave, beautiful, beginning-to-blossom girl has gone through two surgeries, and she’s currently receiving chemotherapy. In her locker at the senior center, she has a photo of mammary cancer clobberer Raja posted for inspiration.
Pollen is a warrior.
Some soldiers are quiet about their strength. They have no need to vaunt and flaunt their medals, and if you ask, they won’t tell you. But courage is always in the eyes. Just ask Impy.
Impy came to Tabby’s Place in the midst of Snowtober 2011. Impy did not want to come to Tabby’s Place. Impy did not come quietly to Tabby’s Place. And if Impy had to come to Tabby’s Place, Impy was going to take everyone down with her.
But anxious as Impy was, Impy had been loved well (by none less than Brother George), and you can’t fully forget love like that. Over time, Impy eased into our love on her own inchwise terms.
Over the same period of time, that strange, swirly splatter in Impy’s eye got stranger and larger. As it happens, that splatter is rattling swords of its own; it’s melanoma. Fortunately, it’s so slow-moving that we need not engage in hand-to-hand combat. Moving slow has always been Impy’s strategy, and it continues to serve her well.
Meanwhile, someone in Suite C is perpetually at your service. Do you need a hug? A song? A reminder that goodness, truth and beauty have a beachhead in this bawling, bewildering world? Mango is here and happy — nay, exhilarated — to serve you.
Mango’s been at Tabby’s Place longer than Impy and Pollen put together. That extended stay is courtesy of one unbreakable habit. But at this point, we’re convinced that Mango only urinates everywhere because he doesn’t want to go anywhere but Tabby’s Place. This is a long-haul lover who has chosen us.
So why in heaven or on earth would cancer choose such a pure-hearted creature?
We don’t and can’t know — but fortunately, shockingly, cancer has adapted to Mango’s long-haul lifestyle. Although Mango has one of the worst cancers in the feline universe (squamous cell carcinoma — the very variety that took the original Tabby) in one of the most inoperable locations in the feline physique (his teeny tiny tongue), Mango has outlasted his original prognosis by over sixteen months.
Is his cancer progressing? No, it is not.
Do we have any explanation for this? No, we do not.
Is reality harder and stranger and crueler and kinder and better than we can conceive of? Yes.
So soldier on, precious people. A lasting peace is calling all of our names.