My cat Patrick has intermediate cell lymphoma in his stomach and intestines. Intermediate cell lymphoma is a type of cancer that is in between small and large cell (the one that results in large tumors). Not much is known about it, so there is a lot of mystery surrounding what the rest of Patrick’s life will look like and how long chemotherapy will help him. In other words, the prognosis is unknown. One of my traits of autism is that I need to know all of the information, however, I obviously cannot in this situation.
Luckily, in the last few years I have been forced to learn how to deal with the unknown out of necessity for my sanity. I have been pummeled with memories about trauma that I was previously unaware of starting in June 2015. The memories continue today, and I still don’t know a lot about my life. I have many missing memories, skills, and am not fully sure about the details of the trauma that I went through. So much is missing, and I have had to come to peace with that.
I have learned to come to peace with the unknown mainly by acceptance of it, and by learning mindfulness techniques. Mindfulness is a technique where one heightens awareness of oneself and his or her surroundings, while maintaining calm. A person also tries to be accepting of their own behaviors, thoughts, and feelings. What I found over time is that mindfulness has helped me to stay cope with the memories more than anything else. Furthermore, it has helped me to cope with what is going on with Patrick.
Part of caring for a cat who has cancer is staying aware of his or her symptoms without panicking. I used to be one who was frequently prone to panic, but dealing with everything that I have, including Patrick’s cancer, has taught me that staying calm and allowing my emotions to surface without judgment helps panic to pass, and even avoids it for the most part. I believe that underneath anxiety and panic lie a variety of fears, emotions, and thoughts that we are afraid to deal with. I have had to work through a lot of these thoughts and feelings in order to cope effectively with everything that is going on with my life today.
What I have learned is that thoughts, even panicked or “negative” ones, are okay. The more that I acknowledge them and listen to my inner self, the more that I am able to work through both the past and be mindful of the present. With this, I can be mindful of my own behavioral patterns and tease out the behaviors that I have that are due to my traumatic past.
Unhealthy thought patterns interfered with my care of the cats in the past, but they rarely due anymore. My ability to analyze my thoughts today, including where they come from and why I’m having them at a given time, helps me to be more responsible, productive, and have some peace in my life. I am far from perfect when it comes to this though, and overall I believe that dealing with thoughts, feeling, and establishing awareness if a lifelong process.
I am very afraid of what is going to happen with Patrick. The last few weeks his desire to eat has been decreasing, to the point where he’s not even interested in his favorite dry food. He’s eating a bit of wet food, but it is not enough to sustain him. It’s devastating to me to realize that this could be a progression of his cancer or something else that is serious. For most of his life I was pretty much in denial about the fact that I would lose him and his brother someday. Today I am harshly aware of the fact that someday I will. While this is really hard to admit, it does help me to stay calm during times like this.
One thing that I do not need to do anymore is tell myself things like “he’s lived a good life”, “I’m happy for the time that he’s had”, or try to pummel myself with a plethora of positive thoughts. For me, these kinds of statements simply prevent me from working through what’s going on. When I used to hyperfocus on things like gratitude, I would be floored when something catastrophic happened in life because I became dependent on feeling good emotions. Today I aim for balance, and this helps me to deal with the negatives that come my way in a health and realistic way. I would never want to jeopardize my cats or my own health simply because I was trying to think positive when being realistic and asking the tough questions might make our lives easier and help to find solutions to our problems (even if it doesn’t save anyone’s life in the long run).
Patrick is going to be getting an ultrasound of his stomach and digestive system on Monday, and the veterinarian will also be running lab works and other tests to see what is going on with him. I am aware that a lot of things could be happening to him that are pretty awful, or it could be something as simple as he is too stuffy from a cold (our cats have feline herpes). Today I will be mentally preparing myself with whatever the vet has to tell us. I will, of course, be heartbroken and depressed if it turns out that he will be leaving us soon, but at least I won’t have the shock and denial that I used to when difficulties come my way in life.
Between blogs about myself and my healing I’ll be posting ones about how my cats are doing. I’ve thought about making a blog or website specifically for them, but I just don’t have the time or energy to set up another one with dealing with my own and my cats health issues. Hopefully I’ll find some readers who are interested in cats and willing to read my posts here and there. Also, at some point in the next week I’ll begin to categorize my blogs.
Above is a picture of Patrick. He’s a silver tabby/Egyptian Mau, and is also a complete sweetheart and total baby. Stay tuned to hear more about him and the rest of our cats!