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Rescue kitten comforts family after daughter's death

Rescue kitten comforts family after daughter's death

In this heartbreaking story, Robin Myers tells us how a tiny rescue kitten comforted her devastated family after her daughter’s death...

Kylie was so full of life; we called her Smiley Kylie right from when she was a toddler because she brought joy to everyone. She had so much enthusiasm and radiated joy and love.

She was the peacemaker in our family and was always looking for ways to make us smile. She was the baby of the family — I have three older daughters (Meredith, 21; Kendall, 19; and Jenna, 16) and she was the glue that held us together.

A parent’s worst nightmare

Kylie had just turned 12 when she first became ill. She had a pain in her knee and we first thought she had injured it in ballet class. We had also just come back from Disney World so thought she’d hurt it walking around a lot. She had been completely healthy and active until then.

At first, the doctor told us it was a growth plate issue, but she kept getting worse. She was diagnosed with metastatic bone cancer. It was every parent’s worst nightmare.

She had 10 months of treatment. It was so brutal — it’s unbelievable to think that no real advances have been made in cancer treatments to make them more bearable. We need to do better for these kids and their families; on this journey with Kylie, we met so many families who needed help.

We had two rescue Labradors when Kylie was little and the girls had wanted a cat, but I’d never had one before. When Kylie was in the fourth grade, we did get a cat, but he wasn’t very cuddly and wouldn’t come and sit with her.

When she got sick, we got a new cat and he did snuggle with her to start with, but as he got older he wanted to explore more. Kylie really wanted a kitten she could snuggle with.

We were in Charlotte, North Carolina, for nine weeks of radiotherapy treatment when she said again that she wanted a kitten. I said we’d talk about it when we got home, but the day before we were due to come home, doctors told us the treatment wasn’t working and the cancer had spread. We knew then that we didn’t have much time.

Rescue kitten comforts family after daughter's deathAnimal therapy

When we got home to Atlanta, Georgia, my husband Mark made a call to a rescue shelter and explained our situation, and asked if they had a kitten we could foster. They came over an hour later with this tiny, nine-week-old kitten. Kylie looked at her and said: “Her name is Eliza, and you shall call her Liza.”

Liza had a rough start to life: she was a stray and had had an eye infection, but the rescue organisation had done a great job looking after her. We’re so grateful to them.

When she first got to our home, Liza came out of her carrier and immediately went to Kylie and cuddled up in the crook of her arm. I’d never seen anything like it. Kylie gave her a bottle and the two of them snuggled up together for hours. We’d put her in her litter tray while Kylie was having her medication, and she’d play with my other daughters, but then she’d go straight back to Kylie and never left her side.

They only had four days together before Kylie passed away.

When we lost Kylie, I thought Liza’s rescue was over. She’d been there for Kylie and done all we’d wanted of her, but Liza wasn’t done at all. She was so intuitive to us — whenever we’d get upset, she’d come straight over to us and give us some cuddles. She’s been a tremendous help to us and offered us so much comfort. It wasn’t just us rescuing her — she definitely rescued us too, and when I take care of her, it’s like a way to do something for Kylie.

Sharing her story

Mark saw the ‘Eric & Peety’ video that Mutual Rescue (an initiative which highlights how animals can have a huge positive impact on human lives) put together in April 2016 and we were so touched by their story. It resonated with us, and when we saw Mutual Rescue was looking for stories, Mark got in touch.

Our story was chosen and we worked with Mutual Rescue to put together Kylie and Liza’s video, and set up the Kylie and Liza Fund to raise money for childhood cancer and animal shelters.Rescue kitten comforts family after daughter's death

The chance to help Mutual Rescue was a wonderful way to honour Kylie. Before she died, Kylie said to me: “I want you to take care of my kitty.” She said to Mark: “I want you to find a cure for cancer.” These were the two things she was passionate about. Bringing those two things together to make a difference through the Kylie and Liza Fund is amazing — Kylie would be so thrilled to be a voice for those who don’t have one.

One of the things Mutual Rescue says is that by supporting rescue animals, you’re not just helping animals, you’re helping people too. We encourage people to adopt from a shelter because Liza has done so much for us.

Liza is two now and like a kitten in a cat’s body! She’s very playful and mischievous, and always gives great cuddles. My daughters tease me that Liza can do no wrong; they’re always saying: “If we’d have done that, we’d be in trouble!” But she’s earned the right to be naughty after what she did for Kylie.

Kylie had a mission: to have joy in spite of her circumstances. One time in the hospital when she was really sick, she wanted to laugh — she took the clip on her finger measuring her vitals, which glowed red, and put it on her dad’s nose to see if it made him look like Rudolph!

Cancer stole so much from her, but she refused to let it steal her joy, and she always found ways to laugh, whether it was helping other children going through their own fight or being silly with her sisters.

Liza brings that mission to our family, that’s what keeps us going — to find joy in everything and savour every moment.

This article was first published in the May 2017 issue of Your Cat Magazine.