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How my cat helps me with my MS

Rebecca is a friend of the practice. We wanted to find out more about her cat, Roger, and she told us how he helps her with MS (Multiple Sclerosis). MS is a chronic disease that attacks the central nervous system, (brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves).

Everybody needs a Roger for a pillow

I was prone to naval gazing before I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and, ooh, it’s been a battle with introspection ever since. Luckily I have great ally in our cat Roger. Cats don’t like it when you’re being all ‘me, me, me’.

Welcome distraction

Roger is a bundle of distracting stress relief. I am reciting a woe-is-me MS saga to Ben - my amazing human ally and sweetheart - and Roger steals the show by folding himself into an Amazon box that isn’t quite big enough. You’ve got to laugh. Or he races down the garden, leaps up the eucalyptus tree, freezes on the trunk and then tumbles to the ground. You know the sort of thing I mean.

Guilt-free rests

MS means I need to give my brain a rest from stimulation a couple of times a day. Ideally that means no TV, no radio, and no reading, not even household chores. Yawn. I only need about 10 to 15 minutes to reboot and feel revived but it can be annoying. I’ve got things I want to do!

Roger is the bonus here. He seems to sense when I’m taking a break and joins me. He doesn’t feel guilty when he hops on the bed for a 15 minute nap. Fifteen minutes? He’ll be there for four hours! I watch him breathing and stretching. And twitching when he has a dream. He’s relaxed. That’s what relaxation is. I can copy that for a bit. The only problem is getting up without disturbing him…

Support for all

Ben loves Roger and that’s really, really important to me. They talk; I don’t know about what but Roger makes him laugh. When I head to bed early, or have a brain reboot in the afternoon, I know I’m not leaving Ben on his own. As he says, everybody needs a Roger for a pillow.

Someone to talk to

And of course, I talk to Roger when I’m working at home. He has yet to reply. But he always yips ‘hello, where are you?’ when he rattles through the cat flap. He mews up and down the octaves until he hears: ‘Hello Roger, I’m in here’ and pads through to find me. Roger listens, without judging when I’m frustrated, tired, worried or sad. He hoovers up the food I propel across the kitchen floor. He counts my reps when I’m exercising.

A fellow survivor

Roger is a rescue cat. He was taken in as a one-year-old stray by animal charity Wood Green and he’s got a history we don’t know. He’s had the snip but he doesn’t back away from a fight. He’s tough, yet vulnerable.

He’s also got a stubborn problem with itchy skin. Without a tiny daily dose of steroids, he starts to nibble his skin until it gets sore. They’re the same steroids that I need to take when I have a relapse. So, we’ve got a bit in common there. It feels good to care.

Be like Roger

MS is unpredictable. Like many other chronic conditions, it causes symptoms that no one else can see, and presents challenges that change from day to day. My ideal approach is to ‘accept and adapt’ on a daily basis. My mantra is: be like Roger and live for today.

Yep, I know he’s a cat, not a human being. I project a lot on him. He’s a living, breathing, jumping, mewing, bum-licking, sofa-scratching, bundle of positive thinking. Roger is always living in the now. And I love him.

Rebecca Thomas is a freelance editor based in North London. Roger reminds her when it’s time to take a break from Thomas Editing.

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