I'm not sure how he got to my clinic. He didn't look old enough to drive, although his child's body had begun to broaden and he moved with the heavy grace of young manhood. His face was direct and open.
When I walked into the waiting room, he was lovingly petting his cat through the open door of the carrier on his lap. With a schoolboy's faith in authority, he had brought his sick cat in for me to mend. The cat was a tiny thing, exquisitely formed, with a delicate skull and beautiful markings. She was about the boy's own age, give or take a year. I could see how her spots and stripes and her fierce, bright face had evoked the image of a tiger in a child's mind, and Tigress she had become. Age had 1dammed the bright green fire of her eyes into faded lace, but she was still elegant and 1self-possessed.
I began to ask questions to determine what had brought this charming pair to see me. Unlike most adults, the boy answered simply and directly. Tigress had had a normal appetite until recently, when she'd begun to 1vomit a couple of times a day. Now she was not eating at all and had withdrawn from her human family. She had also lost a pound, which is a lot when you weigh only six.
Stroking Tigress, I told her how beautiful she was while I examined her eyes and mouth, listened to her heart and lungs, and felt her stomach. My fingers found it: a tubular mass in 1mid-abdomen. Tigress politely tried to slip away. She did not like the mass being handled.
I looked at the fresh faced boy and back at the cat he had probably had all his 1ife. I was going to have to tell him that his beloved companion had a 1tumor. Even if it were 1surgically removed, she probably would survive less than a year, and might need weekly chemotherapy to last that long.
It would all be very difficult and expensive. So I was going to have to tell this boy that his cat was likely to die. And there he was, all alone. Death is something we push to the background and ignore as long as possible, but in reality every living thing we love will die. It is an omnipresent part of life. How death is first experienced can be life-forming. It can be a thing of horror and suffering, or a peaceful release.