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Columnist
Keeping in contact with family, pets lifts the spirits
By Ruth Gesmer Silverman | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 8/25/2008 12:03 AM

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Contact with others plays an important part in cancer care. Consider some special contacts I've had in recent weeks.

As an only child, with most of my close family in the Boston area, where we grew up, I always thought of some cousins as pseudo siblings. Linda is only 16 months older than I am. Her dachshunds were mine; my standard poodle and Yiddish-speaking parakeets were hers. I loved sleeping at her house, often on the floor, where we'd giggle the night away.

Imagine my excitement when she spent a full day flying out of Providence and into Midway - to avoid heavy traffic and too many people at Logan and O'Hare - just to share a couple of days with me here despite her own health issues and allergies. Lou Malnati's pizza and Chinese food at Yen Yen also helped. I felt part of the real world again.

I also felt reconnected to her dad, the older of my mom's two younger brothers. Wedged into his professional life as a lawyer and businessman, he was the cantorial soloist in our temple, carrying on for generations of cantors dating back to Vilna in the 1800s and 1900s.

The other opportunity for close contact was a visit from one of my two 7-year-old Burmese cats. Gadi seemed to like my new digs, but demanded that I act on one issue. At 2 a.m., I suddenly realized what concerned him. I had forgotten to let the cold water run in the bathroom sink. He happily cupped his paw and slurped with satisfaction.

When he hopped back in bed, he patted my cheek with his wet paw and promptly fell asleep. First, he used my eye as a pillow, then my ear. It worked for him. I was up until the crack of dawn.

It took me two days to recover, but the connections were great!

Ruth Gesmer Silverman of Buffalo Grove learned in March 2007 that her breast cancer, originally diagnosed in 2003, has spread to her bones. Her column about living with the disease appears every other week in Health & Fitness.