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How My Cat Helps Me Through My Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

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I mowed today. Not very exciting or noteworthy, right? Well, when you’re chronically ill, everything can be noteworthy. It’s 86 degrees out. I brought out plenty of water. I took four breaks in the shade even though our yard is small. I sat in the grass, so I wouldn’t have to walk inside. I am sure heat impacts a lot of people with chronic illness. I know for sure it hurts a lot of people like me with chronic fatigue syndrome.

As I was putting everything up, I kept chanting over and over and over, “You did it. It’s done. You’re OK.” But I was far from OK. It’s just another trick I’ve learned to keep my body moving when it really doesn’t want to.

I went inside and collapsed next to where I had an additional water bottle, and I chugged as much as I could. Then I fell over onto the floor. I was a sweaty mess. My heart was pounding in my ears to the point where I thought I was getting a headache, which I never do.

Then I started crying. I looked up at the clock and worried whether or not my mom would find me sobbing on the living room floor. I’m an adult and some things are just my business, and I don’t want her to worry.

Then along came Piper – my 11-year-old half Siamese half calico cat. She rubbed her head into my sweaty face, which I did not like, but she had good intentions, so I let her. She laid next to me and struck a series of cute, playful and silly poses. In no time, I was laughing through the tears.

A picture of a cat named "Piper," with white and grey fur.

It reminded me of when I was a teenager and passed out in the kitchen from hypoglycemia. She laid next to my head and defended me from my brother’s dog until the orange juice and peanut butter kicked in enough that I could get up.

There are just some things I’d let my pets see than I wouldn’t anyone else. In my crying and sweaty glory of a mess, she was there for me and made me feel better. She didn’t worry over me incessantly. I wasn’t embarrassed that she saw me like that, because who’s she going to tell? Her sister? OK by me.

In about half an hour I was OK to get up – still shaking and all that, but OK. I took a very quick shower and am sitting here writing this. When my mom gets home she’ll probably thank me for mowing. She’ll see me sitting here watching TV or perhaps still writing this and think it’s a normal day, and I will let her think that by smiling and saying something like, “No problem,” or, “You’re welcome.” I want to be useful even if it means paying for it, which I will for the rest of the day and probably well into tomorrow too.

The chronically ill are tough cookies, I must say. We always find a way to get the things done that we must. Even though the heat made things worse, and I was upset over how sick I got, I did do it. I did it. It’s done. I’m OK.

Piper and I will know the truth, and that’s good enough for me.

Originally published: May 30, 2018
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