Oh that face!
This is the story of my love affair with Optimus, but I must give you a bit of back story. In October of 2016 we had to make the tough decision to put down our Himalayan cat Cairo who was 18 years old and just in poor health. He was my cat, my buddy, my little man. We had no plan to get another cat as we had brought in a stray a few years prior and let’s just say he is not the friendliest of cats, who we cleverly named Lucy Fur or Lucy (we thought he was a girl). At some point I just missed having another cat and started looking at shelters, I wanted to find an older cat that needed a home and keeping in mind Lucy’s personality. November 23, 2016, I used a site called Petfinder.com, knowing I wanted another Himalayan or Persian. I selected in the province of Ontario and up came this profile, Optimus-Team Cat Rescue. I am not sure how to articulate my feelings on this, I looked at his photo and that face and something about him just got me. His face, those eyes, and that name! His eyes were looking directly into me like we knew each other already. I thought about him for days and kept looking at his photo and every time had the same feeling come over me. I showed my husband, told him my crazy feelings and he said ask about him, get him. I contacted Team Rescue, Anna completed the application and interviews and thankfully Optimus was still available. Optimus had been rescued from a kill shelter in Montreal (oh yes he’s a French boy!), surrendered possibly because it was thought that he needed expensive dental work and turned out to be bad plaque build up. On December 9, 2016, we took the cat carrier and our two boys who were 11 and 13 at the time to downtown Toronto to meet Optimus at his foster momma’s apartment.
The timing of this adoption could not have come at a better time for my kids. Two days earlier I had been diagnosis with breast cancer-DCIS Ductal Carcinoma In situ. DCIS is cancer in its earliest stage and rarely caught at this stage, my prognosis was good. The distraction of going to meet our new family member was exactly what we all needed. With welcoming arms, foster mom Karen welcomed the four of us into her home. There Optimus was laying on the top perch of the cat tower, he never budged when four strangers walked in and up to him. He let the kids pet him, went belly up and that was it! Foster mom Karen had many names for him, sweet boy, and Mr. O. She said she loved to take him in the hallway to play because he loved to run after toys and that he was her favorite. We loaded him up and began our venture home to Burlington. Optimus was settled in the carrier between the two boys in the back of the car, Optimus did not make a sound the whole drive not a single meow. We got him into the house and into our bedroom to begin the introduction to Lucy. Optimus went around our room like he had lived there all his life. Rubbing around our legs, wanting to be picked up and totally relaxed. He never acted at all scared of anything, we were shocked and realized he still had not made a sound. We kept him in our room for the night and the next morning began our day together with one big question to foster mom Karen. “Does Optimus meow?” She replied with “Yes he’s super chatty and has the weirdest meow ever.” He finally did meow a few days later and it really is like no other meow we had ever heard. He was unlike any other cat we had experienced, he was not skittish, not afraid, wanted to be with you and see what we were doing. Because he was so easy going, we took him to everyone’s house to show him off and he made himself at home wherever he went. He made friends with Lucy and they are best buds today, and Lucy is a tough sell!
My cancer treatment began just before Christmas on Dec 19th, I had my left breast mastectomy and followed by 28 days of radiation. Optimus everyday sat beside me on the couch he was my recovery partner. He followed me everywhere I went, he would get on the back of the couch and rub his head on mine, get on the kitchen table and watch me eat. We have determined that he has no manners and now accept that he has dinner every night with us at the end of the table. His demeanour is so calm and curious that you forget he is a cat. For eight months we got to spend everyday together, he sits on the table and looks directly at me, I go over and put my face in his and say hello handsome. He is always by my side, he meows at me when he wants up for snuggles, dinner, or a grooming. He loves the love! I soon recovered and got back to daily life, all with having the best nurse ever!
In Sept of 2019 Optimus started to do something new every night that he never did, he would get up on my pillow and sleep on my head. He is a pillow hog, I thought it was cute first then realized he is a ton of fur! It was around then that I felt a lump in my right breast, I pushed it off as a cyst as nothing. He continued EVERY night on my pillow or right beside my right arm. It was in October that the lump had increased from a small pea size to about a quarter size. I decided I needed this to be looked at and sought medical. Eerily again 3 years after my first diagnosis, I found myself in the same situation, close to the dates of that first diagnosis and in many of the same medical rooms. It was confirmed that I did have cancer, this time it was a tumour that was growing very rapidly and I would require a mastectomy of my right breast. My breast cancers were different which is uncommon, but again caught early. Early meaning the tumor had not spread from itself (breached its edges) or entered into my lymph nodes. The first cancer was ER positive and HER2 positive, the second cancer was ER positive and HER2 negative but came with a high recurrence score. This time I would not require radiation but would require chemotherapy. By the time of my surgery on Nov 4th, the tumour had grown to the size of a toonie and could be visibly seen on my chest.
Once I had my surgery, Optimus no longer slept on my head. I know for sure this guy knew, he was telling me to get it checked, I had a fear to go, I think because deep down I knew. December 27th,2019, I began Chemotherapy for 8 treatments over 4 months. Optimus was my partner, chemo was very difficult I had allergic reactions to it, suffered nerve damage to my hands and feet. My recovery this time around proves to be harder and is taken much longer to get back to me. I have suffered many reactions to the different drugs used as inhibitors for long term cancer prevention following cancer treatment. One day at a time, we keep trying them until we find the one that will agree with me long term. When I lost all my hair Optimus began to sleep on my pillow again, this time he was keeping my head warm. When I sat on the couch, he gets behind me and rubs my bald head with his furry head. Every night he lays on my bathroom counter while I shower, he waits for me to get out because he knows I will comb the little hair I have. He meows and rolls so that I will give him his grooming too, I tell him to show me his belly and he does. He also has a fascination for my toothbrush and toothpaste. He waits for you to start brushing and pretty much is in your mouth trying to lick and bite the toothbrush. It’s pretty gross but how many cats have you met that like mint? Optimus was my light, that face that looks at me with deep love makes my heart burst. That face in his profile pic, that deep connection I saw in those eyes continues everyday. He seems to be able to see my soul and I his. He came into my life when I needed him the most, he has forever changed our family in a positive way. He is the king of snuggles and puffy bum runs, the king of the dinner table and the owner of his chair, if you sit in it, he will stare and meow until you move. Optimus and our rescue dog have a unique relationship, we call them Garfield and Oddie.
Optimus is the calm in chaos, he reminds me everyday of how grateful I am that cancer gave me the opportunity to spend so much time together. That my decision to put Cairo to rest led me on the path to him. I am on the road to recovery, my prognosis is good, I am thankful for how fortunate I am that my cancers were caught early. I am thankful for my handsome boy for knowing I needed him, Optimus saved me. Life is better with Optimus in it.
Thank you to Team Cat, you are an amazing group to work with and have amazing foster families that care so deeply for their fur babies. Every step of the way was easy and to be a part of the community after adoption is like an extended family. We are forever grateful for our sweet boy.