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Pearl of Wisdom

Friends and family know about Pearl, my beautiful kitty, who’s been undergoing treatment for nasal lymphoma for the past year-and-a-half.  The blessing of this tenacious cancer is that she hasn’t been in a lot of pain.  It’s mainly manifested itself as a tumor inside her nasal cavity that gives her a runny nose and some visible swelling around her nose and eye.  She has otherwise appeared to have maintained a good quality of life while she’s been going through chemotherapy, and even enjoyed a period of about 6 months when it went into remission.

Pearl  – aka Pearly Poo, Miss Poo, Pearl Marie, Poo Cat – is my 9- year old rescued blue point Siamese.  She doesn’t have the tall, skinny body type of modern Siamese cats; she’s got the old- fashioned, rounder body type.  She is sweet, unassuming, friendly, and just lovely to behold.  She was a starving dumpster kitty when she was found, and once she came to our house and discovered the pleasure of regular meals, she seemed to make up for lost time by eating as much and as often as she could. At one point my sister nick-named her “Portly Poo,” because she was a little on the rotund side.  She’s since slimmed down but she’s still a Big Boned Girl at about 15 pounds, and that’s the right weight for her size.  She is my big, beautiful Pearl.

Pearly gives head butts so hard they snap your head back a bit. I put my face down near hers and brace myself for the mini Battering Ram of Love.  Even the technicians at our veterinarian’s office tell me she’s one of their favorites because she’s one of the few patients that actually seems happy to see them.  When I’d pick her up after treatments Pearl sometimes smelled like a couple of different perfumes, signs that the loving staff of the Veterinary Specialty Center of Delaware had been cuddling with her.

She’s best buds with my border collie, Cate.  Cate “protects” Pearl when my other cat Custard comes round to bother her, big brother style.  She knows Pearl’s been ailing so she’s been particularly protective of her.  Custard goes towards Pearl, Pearl gets her hackles up, and Cate’s right there to give Custard a shove with her nose as if to say, “Keep moving, you!”  Pearl gives Cate tail hugs when she walks by, and they touch noses.  It’s very sweet.

Pearl is just the epitome of very sweet and I love her dearly.  That’s why this is so hard.

When she was first diagnosed, Pearl asked me what was going on, and why I was so upset.  I explained what the vet had told me, what I understood about the illness and the treatment.  I asked her how she felt about it and she said she felt fine and wanted to know what I thought. I told her the vet said that they could help her and I thought it was worth a try. She told me that if I thought it was the thing to do, then she trusted me and wanted to try it.  She was relying on my judgment and my optimism.  So for the past year-and-a-half we’ve been operating that way:  I’d ask the vet, the vet would guide me, I would tell Pearl what the vet said and ask her what she thought, she’d defer to my judgment, I’d make a call on next steps… And so it went. She went with the program, trusting that the vet and I would know what’s best for her.

A couple of weeks ago I noticed that the swelling around her eye was flaring up again so I called the oncologist to make an appointment to bring her in.  As I was hanging up the phone I heard the words, “No more chemicals.”  I was feeling very anxious at seeing the return of these symptoms, so I wasn’t sure if it was her talking, my angels talking, or my fears talking.  I waited a few days but, in a panic, I decided to go with the oncologist’s advice and we tried another dose of chemo.

It didn’t work. A week went by and the chemo didn’t appear to have had any therapeutic effects at all.  Her symptoms were worse, not better.  I didn’t know what to do.  I decided I would clear my head, sit down and offer Pearl some Reiki healing, and see what came to me.

Now I have been giving Pearl regular Reiki treatments for some time, and when I do this, I always ask for the help of the Folks Upstairs. Each time I have felt them join me in a circle around her and, as a group, we’d offer her this loving, healing energy.  This time when I sat down to give Pearl Reiki, summoned the help of my spiritual friends, and began the process, something was different.  I suddenly felt I wasn’t part of the circle. They were there, they were around Pearl, but I was not part of the circle around her.   I heard them tell me wait, and I felt loving energy around me, as if I was receiving some sort of healing, too, separately from Pearl.  I then felt my dear-old-friend-and-cat-in-spirit Nile appear.

Nile told me he was here to talk to me while they were working with Pearl.  He sat in my lap and I could feel his weight and the soft texture of his fur.  He felt as solid, alive and as vibrant as ever.  Nile told me that when Pearl passed back into spirit I would be able to do this with her, too.  He was gently trying to tell me that it was her time.  She didn’t want to continue the treatment, and she was ready to go.  Nile was also reminding me that I was not losing my dear friend or the ability to be with her.  It would be different, yes, but it would be okay.  But “No more chemicals” was Pearl’s choice, and I had to honor that.

When I was sitting there with Nile, finally taking in the reality of the situation, the image of a raven appeared.  Raven was one of Pearl’s guardian angels and he was making himself known to me.  He said we would work together to escort Pearl back in to spirit when the time came.  I would be helping her on this side, he would be helping her on that side, and all would be well.

This was not the news that I wanted.  She had been in remission, we had seen successes along the way… I had been so encouraged.  But there was no denying what was happening and now it was up to me to be at peace with it. That was one area where Pearl was still taking a cue from me: Was I going to be able to handle it and support her wishes? I would be making it harder for her if I couldn’t do this.  I fought back my tears and told her I was, and that I would.

So now we wait.  My job is to keep her company, do what I can to keep her comfortable, and live in the moment.  Today is a good day:  Although her swollen eye doesn’t look very good, she’s active, she’s hungry, she’s purring – she seems happy.  The sun is shining on my bed and she’s rolling around in the sunlight as I type.  And I know Pearl, her raven friend, and the lovely Folks Upstairs will tell me when and if there’s something I need to do to facilitate her passing.  And I know that when she passes back into spirit, she’ll reach out to me again.  I am grateful.

Update…

Pearly made a peaceful transition back into spirit on Friday, January 6, 2012.  We were so grateful that we’d had her through the holidays, and even for a few days into the new year.  She’d continued to have a pretty good quality of life up until the last day or so, at which point she told me she was done.  She’d stopped eating and hunkered down, as cats so often do, to weather out the end of the storm.  With Pearl’s consent, and with the help of the lovely folks at the Veterinary Center of Delaware, we helped Pearly get home.  It was heart- breaking to let her go, but she was tired, and she was ready.
On the drive home I got my first contact from her, a confirmation that she’d landed on her pretty kitty feet in her new home: I felt a sharp smack on the left side of my forehead and immediately recognized Pearly’s trademark headbutt of love. It made my heart sing.