As I was writing this evening, my gray cat Oscar jumped up on the arm of my recliner. He purred loudly and rubbed affectionately against my arm. Distracting me from my work, Oscar laid it on thick as he thanked me in advance for the tasty dinner he was about to receive.
Oscar is my multiple sclerosis (MS) buddy. He is my friend. He is one of three cats who keep us entertained and provide lots of laughs and affection. Oscar frequently joins Rob and me in bed after we’ve turned off the lights at night, and he is usually right at my feet when I wake in the morning.
Oscar is a gentle soul who seems endlessly thankful to be a part of our family. A skinny stray who showed up on our porch, he was starving for affection as much as for food. I fed him, but he always asked for pets before eating. One rainy night, he showed up bleeding at our house. It was all I could take. I brought him inside the house, and from this moment forward, he became a member of our family.
The other two cats in our family are Pippin and Musette, a brother-sister pair of litter mates who came to me from the home of a piano student. Shortly after my 19-year-old cat, Joshua, died, my piano student asked if I wanted a kitten. I was devastated from Joshua’s passing and had one of my more significant relapses afterward. It took me some time to decide, but when the time came, I took two.
Unlike Oscar, who is all cuddles, Pippin is a demanding sort. He is the one who comes in at 5 a.m. to awaken his servant (me) for breakfast. I have trouble sleeping sometimes, but it’s not the fault of MS. I blame the leader of the morning food crew.
When Pippin first started licking my face and hands to wake me up in the mornings, I suspected that what I was feeling was just another odd sensation, the result of my MS. It’s funny that in those first few moments of regaining consciousness, I would immediately think of MS. Now I know who the culprit is, my second MS buddy, Pippin.
Pippin also has another feline talent that I believe many furbaby parents would understand: he loves to distract me from getting work done. When I am trying to write, sitting with my laptop, he is absolutely insistent that my hands are all over him rather than on the keyboard. Oftentimes Pippin will climb between me and my laptop screen and lie over my hands and arms. While he makes work impossible, he also forces me to take the time to connect with another being.
Musette is an MS buddy of another kind. She is not very cuddly, nor does she interrupt my thoughts. Instead, Musette reminds me that staying faithful with medication is important for staying healthy. Musette has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and asthma; as a result, she takes medication 2-3 times each day.
The change in Musette after she was diagnosed with heart disease and began treatment was tremendous. She became a much happier and calmer kitty cat. She is so faithful that she will come to retrieve a human to let us know when it’s time for her medication. Even Musette recognizes its importance in her life.
Together, my MS buddies — furry felines, four-legged children, and members of the family — help me to appreciate my blessings. They entered my life when I was at an emotional and physical low from grief and MS. Now, they frequently remind me to take care of myself — physically, mentally, and socially.
Do you have a buddy in your life, someone or something that helps you cope with your disease? If so, please let us know.
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Lisa Emrich is a patient advocate, accomplished speaker, author of the award-winning blog Brass and Ivory: Life with MS and RA, and founder of the Carnival of MS Bloggers. Lisa uses her experience to educate patients, raise disease awareness, encourage self-advocacy, and support patient-centered research. Lisa frequently works with non-profit organizations and has brought the patient voice to healthcare conferences and meetings worldwide. Follow Lisa on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.