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The best Christmas gift of all – life

The best Christmas gift of all – life

Warning: this story has nothing to be with moving abroad!!

I don’t usually do personal posts on here but I thought that I’d share my Christmas story. It’s about my cat Polly. As you know she is pretty well-travelled, having moved with me by plane to Portugal and returned again by ship to the UK. She’s 14, nearly 15 but still very lively, loves to play, loves to hunt (including bringing dead rabbits back) and is full of vitality. She is my angel and anyone who knows me knows just how much she means to me.

Unfortunately Polly has cancer, she has a lump on her leg and a lump on her back. She has had this for a while and has seen the vet about it. It doesn’t seem to bother her too much and she just gets on with life as usual. It’s a concern for me of course because I do not know how long she will be with me.

On the Friday before Christmas Polly started to become unwell, she looked in pain and was behaving very oddly. I was very worried. The next morning though she perked up and was her old self again. The behaviour came back later on Christmas Eve and I spent all night awake with her as she battled against what looked like some kind of fit or stroke. She didn’t seem in pain but she was trying to hide and as the night progressed I realised that my worst fears were materialising.

When morning came, Christmas morning, I knew that I did not want her to suffer. She had been sick through the night and now couldn’t walk. She didn’t want food and just kept wanting more water and then throwing it up soon after. I was in tears as I made the emergency call to the vet to make an appointment to put her to sleep. I could barely speak on the phone.

All the presents lay under the tree unwrapped and the special Christmas breakfast lay uneaten as I left the house with Polly.

We arrived and waited for the vet to come and open up. She did and we went inside but I was in a bit of a daze, trying to fight the tears. I took Polly out of her basket for the vet to take a look while I gave the history of her illness.

The vet examined Polly and told me that she could well have had a stroke and that her condition was permanent. It was just a matter of quality of life – basically how long would I let her life like this. The other diagnosis was that she had some temporary nerve damage to one of her ears, the vet thought that this was likely because Polly was always falling in one direction and her eye movements indicated that she was constantly trying to balance. The vet said that her two dogs had had this condition and both had recovered from it. Finally, I had some hope. Polly could have an injection to prevent any pain and another one to reduce the nausea she was experience. The vet told me that I was to give it a week to see if she improves.

Of course I decided to go along with this second diagnosis as it would give Polly the chance she needed to get back to her old self. We went back home with my heart decidedly lifted knowing that Polly was still with me and Christmas wasn’t ruined for me and my family, who for the first time in years were altogether.

Polly steadily improved over Christmas and Boxing Day. Her appetite has returned and she has even started playing again, jumping around and using her scratching post. She comes and jumps on the bed when I’m at my desk working and has started sleeping in my arms again. Her balance isn’t perfect, she still falls over when she shakes her head or moves too quickly but I have great hopes that she will be with me for a good while longer.

One of the most important things that came out of this almost-tragedy is that no matter how much people spend for Christmas, no matter what presents I get, nothing compares to the most important things – life and love.

Do you have a special Christmas story you wish to share?


  1. Barbara

    Sarah – What a lovely bittersweet post. I’m so glad that Polly is still with you – that must have been the best present you got this year! All the best….

  2. Sarah

    Hi Barbara
    Thank you for your comment. I can’t tell you what emotions I went through on Christmas day but it certainly put things into perspective. She’s here with me now, much, much better and putting on weight which is fantastic.

  3. Linda


    I well relate to your post. I have four cats; two sets of “twins” as I refer to them. One set is brother and sister, 10 years old in April, and from the same litter. They are identical in color and most markings and as kittens were impossible to tell apart unless you looked very carefully. Now, you still have to stop and pay attention even though Jr is definitely stocky and built more masculine and Sissy is more petite. My other two girls will be two this year, both calico but Possum is grey, beige and white and Sparky is a black brindle. When Sissy was 5 months she got a bacterial respiratory infection that almost killed her. We were back and forth to the vet, endured x-rays and I spent many nights holding her hoping she would keep breathing. I clearly recall a night when her breathing was labored, she drooled constantly and the vet questioned whether she would survive. She did, thankfully, but it was at Thanksgiving time in the States (late November) and my biggest thanks was her survival.

    I too endured numerous emotions during the ordeal. Each year around our Thanksgiving I recall the events and am extra thankful for my now grown kittie that likely would not have survived had I not been vigilant with TLC and time. It is hard to describe those feelings, isn’t it, yet they are all so real.

    I’m glad Polly got through the ordeal and is still with you. All four of mine can be found in my office as I work. Sparky and Possum are often found snuggled in the blankets beside me each morning, Jr at my feet and Sissy near my head. We’re a family and my “fur kids” are very special. Sounds like Polly and you are similar.

    Here’s to more time with Polly and enjoying the laughter and delight she brings you watching her frolic and play in contentment.


    • Sarah

      Thanks for your comment Linda, it sounds like you had a very similar experience! Polly is with me almost constantly and I dread the day when I have to make the decision but every day we are together is a special gift. I am also lucky to have seen a vet who made the right call, it could so easily have ended badly had I seen a vet who made a different diagnosis.


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