A woman cries as she holds her cat

Saying Goodbye to a CF Support System

Ten years ago, my fiance and I adopted a fluffy dilute calico cat from a lady we met in a Target parking lot. She was beautiful with green eyes, gray, white, and tan long and silky soft fur. For the first few days in our care, she hid under the bed until finally she timidly snuck out and allowed me to inch closer and pet her, becoming more and more happy and purring loudly with each scratch under her chin.

As they say the rest is history…

My cat made CF easier

I have written about my cat, Sybil, before, detailing how she turned out to be an integral part of my CF care. Sybil was devoted to doing treatments with me, meeting me in my room every morning and night to shake, and receive belly rubs. Knocking on the door, she would make herself known if I started treatments before she arrived. "I am here, ready for duty", she would say!

She understood when I brought out my IV pole and settled into my bed, we would be spending extra time cuddling and committed to keep me company. Her insight into what I needed and when was truly unlike any relationship I have ever had with an animal. She was insightful. She read the room. She showed her white furry belly as a way to break the tension when I was fed up and exhausted with CF. Somehow she understood what I was doing every day was very lonely.

With that, she knew she could help.

Diagnosis: heartbroken

When I showed up at the emergency vet after Sybil had a sudden and terrifying attack of wobbliness and open mouth panting, I knew her behavior was worrisome and out of the ordinary. After she was stabilized, testing showed Sybil had a stroke. She couldn’t walk and was disoriented, but stable on oxygen. The question was why did she have a stroke? The answers came some hours (and a hefty bill) later as I sat in the waiting room in tears. Metastatic cancer, it’s always cancer. At least in my life it’s always cancer. And I hate it.

As the vet detailed her diagnosis, I let big tears fall from my eyes. How could she be so sick and I didn’t know? How long has she been sick? Was she in pain? Considering her quality of life and prognosis, I made the difficult decision to put Sybil down that night. She couldn’t walk and was likely to have another stroke. We didn’t know exactly where the cancer started but it was in her lungs and had enlarged her heart already. I knew I didn’t have the bandwidth and resources to care for her in that way. As much as I wished to, realistically I knew I couldn't.

Saying goodbye

For selfish reasons, I struggled to do what I knew was right for her: give her peace. I was shattered. Like many people who feel their pets experience all of life’s good and bad alongside them, I felt that way about Sybil. Especially when it came to my CF journey, Sybil was there to help me through it.

She kept me company when my disease made me lonely. She gave me a reason to focus on something else when it felt like I was forced to focus on CF. She was a constant in a disease that is full of uncertainty. She wasn’t just a family pet, she was a significant part of my daily CF care and routines. Now suddenly, she was gone.

Big CF love

I am no stranger to grief, the day Sybil had a stroke and received her cancer diagnosis was the one year anniversary of my mom’s stroke and cancer diagnosis.

Why today?

Why Sybil?

Why when I am already navigating loss?

These questions I'll never have answers to–but what I have tried to focus on since losing Sybil is why it hurts so much. Fortunately, love is to blame. With big love, comes big grief. How lucky am I to have a pet, a mom, a support system that is big and profound and difficult to say goodbye to. Those types of relationships do not go quietly in our hearts. They are mourned and with time the empty space of that love is easier to carry.

The love around you makes all the difference in this life with CF, and I am thankful for the devotion my sweet cat showed me through it.

Have you had to say goodbye to a significant person or pet in your support system? Share your story below!

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