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Cat Scan

Laura Beil

Tri-City Tales Issue No. 2

Veronica, a pre-K teacher from Duncanville, walked into the Tri-City Animal Shelter one day in July, 2018. She was looking for a dog. She went home with two kittens instead—an abrupt change of plan she now believes saved her life. That summer four years ago, Veronica’s truck had been broken into twice in just two weeks. Although she had never adopted a pet, she figured a dog might help with security—a bark to alert her to lurking strangers. Plus, she thought, it could be a good buddy for her 6-year-old son. But as she walked through the corridors of the shelter, none of the dogs felt right to her. Just no connection. As she was leaving, she turned the corner and paused by the cat cages to watch the kittens jumping and tumbling around the enclosure like feline ping pong balls. Two black kittens stopped in their tracks and ran toward her. She was in love. She came back later that day with her son. They took the 2-month-old male kittens home, naming them Coffee and Donut.

What Coffee and Donut didn’t do for home security, they more than made up for with joy to the family. Six months passed. One day in December, 2018, just after Christmas, Donut jumped on the bed to snuggle next to Veronica. As he moved to hop off, one of his paws touched her right breast. The instant his paw touched her, she felt an unusual pain. She put her fingers on the spot where his paw had been. Was something there? The next day, she called her doctor, who scheduled a mammogram. She was soon diagnosed with breast cancer, stage 2. The tumor was already the size of a grape. She was just 39 years old. Veronica immediately began chemotherapy, and months later, had surgery to remove the malignancy. Her last round of chemo finished in June of 2020. Today, she’s back to being a healthy single mom. Telling her story, she tears up pondering the what-ifs: What if her truck break-ins hadn’t motivated her to go to the shelter? What if she hadn’t gone home with Coffee and Donut? Too young for a regular mammogram, she might not have detected her cancer until it was too late. “I like to think he wanted to give me a warning,” she says of Donut. “Without him, I might never have found it.” Today, Donut still curls up near Veronica when she goes to bed, and still spends his days playing with his brother Coffee. Donut isn’t a kitten anymore, but should still have a long life ahead of him. And thanks to him, so will she.

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