Today, we said goodbye to our beloved cat, Akasha. We did all we could and remained hopeful even through this morning, but we were told she was just too sick to go on. When her heart stopped this afternoon, ours broke.

akahsabagOn Saturday, we took her to her oncology appointment, but while the prognosis for small cell lymphoma in animals is good, the doctor said that something else must have been going on aside from the lymphoma. She was so weak by the end of this week that I spent two nights sleeping on the floor with her because she couldn’t jump on the bed anymore. Still, she tried so hard to show her love and she even snuggled next to me on Friday night, what would be her last night at home. On Saturday, weak as she was, she still put her paw on my boyfriend’s shoulder and nuzzled his face with hers. She rested her head on my arm. I think she knew it was the end. We were still hopeful this morning when they told us that she ate, but the doctor said that even if we brought her home, she wouldn’t do very well. It’s already been so hard to see her suffer all this week. It seems like every glimmer of hope was dimmed by another problem or issue. Despite everything, the vibrant personality she always had shone through and still snuggled with us when she could. In the end, she was so diminished.

akasha1This week, I’ve done so much crying the necks of my t-shirts are wet. I’ve cried for her, hating to see her suffering. And I’ve also selfishly cried for me. I miss her so much. With a loss, there’s sometimes a void, but this feels like a vacuum. Eventually it will dull to the emptiness that’s left behind, but now it’s an aggressive loss that takes the air right out of my chest and pulls at my guts.

I don’t know what to do with myself. Nothing seems right. It seems sudden and at times, I can’t fathom she’s gone. akashaattable

akashacuddlingI suppose there are some who would say she was “just a cat,” but not anyone who knew her. She was truly special. And she was my friend. I know there are terrible things going on in the world—war, displacement, the environment. When I was dealing with my Hodgkin’s lymphoma, people would sometimes apologize for complaining about what they deemed a lesser problem, but I don’t think the fact that bigger problems exist diminish smaller ones. If only there was a finite number of problems and sadness in the world.

akashaandmeToday I feel like I’ve lost one of my best friends and it hurts and I am so sad. And isn’t that part of what makes pets so valuable to us as friends? When the world is terrible and things seem to be falling apart, they are there as constants, as a reminder of pure good, there to comfort with a purr or a paw or a nuzzle. That’s what is so hard about losing a pet—they are not there to console you about their own passing.

Before we went to the hospital today to say good-bye, I tried to rid the apartment of things that would make me sad, like her medications and the blanket still out on the floor, awaiting her return. Usually innocuous objects, after a death, can hurt so much. Instead we have the things that remind us of the happy times with her—a portrait my talented friend Matt painted years ago, another sketch a friend’s husband made for me while I was in the hospital (Akasha was quite the artist’s muse), her collar. The hospital offered a paw print, which we now have. And I may have a few photos of her.

Akasha admiring her likeness.

Akasha admiring her likeness.

Though it hurts so much now, it was worth the 15 years I was lucky enough to have with her. Even though it feels like they went by too quickly. I was extremely fortunate to have her in my life.

She was extraordinary. I could write about her for days and still not do her justice. Since she was a scrappy abandoned kitten trying to get into a grocery store, she demonstrated a big personality. She wasn’t afraid of dogs and stood up to a German Shepherd, batted at the face of a Weimaraner puppy (luckily for all dogs, Akasha was declawed), and was caught hunting the neighbor’s Yorkie, who obliviously frolicked in his yard as Akasha hid herself in the grass, ready to pounce. She loved hair ties and would tirelessly play fetch with them. She had a pink puff on a stick that she would drag across rooms and up steps when she wanted to play.

Akasha was a bird enthusiast.

Akasha was a bird enthusiast.

I can tell you that one of the best weekends of her life was when fledgling birds emerged from recessed can lights in one of my old apartments in Ohio. One Friday, I came home, and noticed the cats were staring at the lights above the staircase. But cats are weird, so I didn’t think much of it. Then a bird stuck its head out, looked around, and disappeared back into the ceiling. Shortly afterwards, it emerged, and the cats chased the bird, and I chased the cats and locked them in the bathroom. Eventually, after nearly an hour, I got the bird out the window. The cats remained watchful that weekend, and I found them looking hopefully at the lights. They were rewarded Sunday morning, when a new bird emerged. Apparently, there was a nest in the ceiling. I got that bird to safety as well. But as long as I lived there, Akasha would look at that light fixture, ever hopeful more birds would come through.

Akasha loved shoes.

Akasha loved shoes.

Akasha loved great shoes and all men. She would regularly cuddle with female friends’ boots and heels when she wasn’t draping herself across their boyfriends. She was a shameless flirt. Her favorite man, however, was my boyfriend. I was practically a third wheel around here. After he moved in with me, a few male friends who had since moved came back to visit, and immediately they greeted their old feline flame. “Akasha, my sweet!” exclaimed a friend who stayed with me for a few months. “Come here!” He scooped her into his arms. They spent so much time together when he stayed with me that she smelled like his cologne. When another friend who spent a lot of time with her came to visit before moving to Europe, he immediately said “Hi, lover!” at the sight of her. She was never short of admirers. She was as beautiful and smart as she was sweet.

Akasha loved my boyfriend.

Akasha loved my boyfriend.

Once we came home from a trip, and my mom had called my cell phone to tell me that my answering machine message was just meowing. When we played it, we heard Akasha meowing, with Maceo meowing in the background. I have so many stories about this loveable cat. I know anyone who met her was also often charmed.

I know that if there were reincarnation, we would be reunited, but Akasha would be a woman and I would be the housecat of her and my boyfriend. Maceo would still be a cat, I think.

She really loved my boyfriend.

She really loved my boyfriend.

This past week, I was also sick and stayed home from work for a few days. One day, Akasha snuggled next to me and rubbed her head into me even more than usual, as cats do to claim someone. But even without the cat scent, we will always be hers.

Thank you so much for your support on her GoFundMe page and for sharing your memories of Akasha. So many of you have told me what a special kitty she was. She’ll always remain in our hearts.

I would apologize to Auden for my take on his “Funeral Blues” poem, but I read that he actually wrote this as a parody. So I apologize for nothing. Goodbye, sweet Akasha. I love you so much.

Akasha’s Funeral Blues

Stop all the clocks, take the phone off the hook,
The silly dogs bark without her disapproving look.
Silence the cat collar bells and with muffled sighs,
Let us weep and mourn and say our goodbyes.

As the super blood moon rises overhead
It matters not for she is dead.
Put bows round the succulent necks of unbothered mourning doves
Let go of the mice, catnip and everything else that she loves.

Whatever the problem, she had a velvet soft ear to lend
More than a cat, she was a valued friend.
Her sweet meow and purrs my favorite song,
My love will last forever though she is gone.

Shut down the internet; no more cute photos to share.
Pack up all cardboard boxes, toys and ties for the hair,
Empty the oceans of tuna, let the birds be,
For there will never be another cat as beloved as she.



Maceo and Akasha as kittens.



This week I was blindsided by another lymphoma diagnosis, but it was not mine—it was my cat’s. Akasha, one of my two cats, had been throwing up with increasing frequency, so we took her to the vet a few weeks ago. Blood tests were inconclusive, showing only a slightly decreased red blood cell count, so they advised we keep an eye on her before moving to an ultrasound. She had, however, lost a few pounds and a little bit of back leg strength, but they say that’s not unusual for older cats.

adorableBy Tuesday morning of this week, she looked visibly uncomfortable, so we scheduled an ultrasound at the local animal hospital for Saturday. That evening, though, she looked weak and tried to jump on the bed and missed. (This isn’t unusual for the other cat, Maceo, who is just clumsy.) At this point, I was pretty upset so we called and scheduled the ultrasound for the next morning at 11 am. She was in really bad shape and I barely slept. At one point, I slept on the floor to be near her and my boyfriend set up the fold-out sofa bed, which is a lower jump for her, so she could sleep near us. Weak as she was, she snuggled with me, burying her head in my chest, and I worried it would be the last time.

After what seemed like an eternity, we finally took her to the animal hospital Tuesday morning and waited. And waited. I had been concentrating so much on 11 am that I could keep it together only until that time and not much beyond that, as it turned out. By 11:45, I was a wreck—as was Akasha, who had fluid coming out of her nose. We admitted her to the emergency care portion of the clinic to be examined.

At first, it seemed as if the ultrasound showed an obstruction in her bowels—maybe a ribbon or hair ties, we assumed, since she has a penchant for trying to eat those. We try to keep them away from her, but she’s mischievous and isn’t above knocking over a trash can or jumping up on a desk to find something to get into. She also had fluid in her belly. We agreed to a surgery to remove the object and drain the fluid that was making her uncomfortable once they re-hydrated and stabilized her. In the evening, we got the call that she was out of surgery. They didn’t find any objects, so they thought it had moved to the colon and was on its way out, but they had noticed some red irritated spots and took a biopsy just as a precaution. She was recovering and could come home Friday.

My boyfriend visited her Thursday morning. That afternoon, I got a phone call from the vet, who reported she was still doing well, but the biopsy results had come back sooner than expected. It showed lymphoma, low-grade so caught fairly early. The next step would be some drugs with little side effects, something that usually gives the cat a few more years.


Akasha offering comfort when I had painful phlebitis.

Though my own lymphoma is in remission, I feel as if it continues to haunt me. Just when I thought I was almost done—if my next scan is clear then I don’t have to have another unless I feel something is wrong—cancer has come back to claim my cat. Whenever I tell people who know that I also had lymphoma, there’s a pause as they process this cruel coincidence.

I know it seems silly to be so upset that she may have only a few years left as she’s 16. I shouldn’t be shocked that my cat is going to die one day, but having a timeframe put on it made her age very real. I can no longer pretend she’s immortal, like the Anne Rice vampire for whom she is named—a link to my goth girl past.

To have a pet at all, you generally have to put aside the knowledge that their time is most often shorter than yours. And it will always seem too short, no matter how long it is. But you also know that time that you spent with them—and the tail wags, the purrs, the snuggles, the companionship—will be worth the eventual and inevitable heartache of losing a creature who becomes a best friend.

We both visited Akasha that evening, though she seemed a little out of it, her pupils dilated. (She reminded me of how I was post stem-cell transplant, when I was on a morphine drip, waking up to say nonsensical things that I knew didn’t make sense and then nodding off.)

On Friday, my boyfriend picked her up, but they warned us she could have fluid in the chest cavity and to bring her back if she had difficulty breathing. I was finishing dinner with a friend who has been in town when he called me to let me know that he was taking her back to the hospital. She had been vomiting and was having a lot of trouble breathing. I was simultaneously upset I hadn’t been there and relieved, because I would have been hysterical to see her that condition. I rushed to the hospital and she was readmitted so they can stabilize her digestive tract. We expected her home yesterday but they want to keep her for the weekend.

We stopped by to visit her yesterday and it was hard to see her with a tube up her nose and a cone around her neck, with bits of food she’d thrown up on her cone, which we cleaned up. She seems more alert and since my boyfriend was eye-level with her, she put her front paws on his shoulder to snuggle with him. The best part was that she purred.

I will no longer submit Akasha to humiliating costumes, no matter how cute she looks.

I will no longer submit Akasha to humiliating costumes, no matter how cute she looks.

I find myself wrestling with some of the familiar feelings that I experienced when I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in February of 2013. Could I have found out she was sick sooner? The answer, in this case, is probably no, since the doctors noticed the red areas when she was in surgery and did the biopsy only as a precaution. It’s hard not to wonder, though, if you could have done anything differently.

There’s also the same feeling of bad news continually getting worse. (A few years ago, for me, what I thought was a dislocated rib turned out to be cancer, and then the “good kind” of cancer ended up not going away. Then there was the disappointment of the trial drug not working and the subsequent hospital stays and stem cell transplant.) It feels as if I waited a year and a half for good news. This too seemed like a relatively straightforward, if expensive, fix. But the news continues to not be what I hoped.

The cats were very comforting when I was sick.

The cats were very comforting when I was sick. This was taken not long after I got out of the hospital after my stem cell transplant.

The vets also found a heart murmur, so she is having an echocardiogram on Monday to see if she can even withstand the lymphoma treatment. My own heart is a little bit broken. Sometimes I find myself absentmindedly clutching my chest as if that will help me keep it together.

I know that with all the cat’s current health problems I might seem like a weird cat lady who is trying to selfishly keep a cat alive when it’s time to go. But that’s not the case. Until the past few weeks, she has been energetic and mischievous and much the same as she’s always been. A few years ago, the vet said she had the body of a cat one-third her age.

However, I don’t want her to suffer. When we had the surgery done, I thought she could recover and go on as she always had. I want her to have a good quality of life. I know tough decisions are ahead at some point. I just don’t want it to be now.

Akasha and I spend a lot of time together.

Akasha and I spent a lot of time together when I was sick.

For those who say she’s “just a cat,” well, I’m a cat lady. Since I worked from home for years, I spent a lot of time with the cats. I often worked with her snuggled next to me.

For those of you who know Akasha, you know that she has a lot of personality, whether she is playing fetch with hair ties, standing up to dogs twice her size, snuggling with visitors’ shoes or shamelessly flirting with any man who enters her territory. She has a charisma and charm that often wins over non-cat people as well. I have to advise people are allergic to cats to steel themselves against her whiles, because I often hear the same story from wheezing guests excusing themselves to go home early: “She was just so friendly, I couldn’t resist petting her a little…” At parties, she’s at the center of activity, flitting from group to group until she eventually sneaks her way to an unguarded part of the food table for a stolen snack.

I don’t know how 15 years have passed since I drove to pick her up as a 1-year-old kitten. A friend had forwarded an email from another friend who found her in November of 2000, but couldn’t keep her because of his wife’s allergies. They had found the little cat dumped in the parking lot of a local supermarket. Whenever the automatic doors opened for shoppers, she would run into the store and employees had been removing her all day. I admired her spirit.

After spending most of the night writing a story about reclaimed wood (way before it was trendy, I might add), I drove to pick her up before work. She stuffed her face through a hole in the box in my car’s backseat and protested her confinement. When I brought her to my apartment, Maceo hissed at her. After a defiant glare in his direction, she calmly walked over to his food bowl and started eating. I got home from work and tried to take a quick nap before a Dandy Warhols concert, but was interrupted by a neighbor oddly borrowing my toilet brush. I left the cats staring at each other and when I returned from the show, they were still staring at each other, in the same position.


Akasha enduring the humiliation of a “Breaking Bad” tortuga costume.

Since then, she has seen me through several moves and jobs and my own lymphoma treatment. She is featured in many of the blog pictures, snuggling, enduring a “Breaking Bad” themed costume and even putting her paw on my hand and offering comfort when I had a painful blood clot. Akasha has been of great comfort to me and, now that the tables are turned, I would like to help her as much as I can and make her remaining time the best it can be.

I have been a wreck—yesterday my stomach hurt and today my throat hurts. I think I might actually be coming down with something, or it’s a side effect of the vaccination shots I got on Friday. I had been so consumed by the cat’s health that I had completely forgotten about the blood tests they took on Friday when they called to tell me to continue my medication for hypothyroidism from radiation.

Akasha looking at an image that looks familiar.

Akasha looking at an image that seems familiar somehow.

My boyfriend set up a GoFundMe page to help with vet bills. Kind words and thoughts are invaluable. More than anything, though, I want her to get better just to have more time with her.

In a way, I feel selfish. I’ve already had so much time with her. I’m so lucky. But don’t we all want more? More luck? Who will attempt to bathe my face in the middle of the night with a scratchy tongue or push a wet nose against mine? I miss her and want her home.