The Elvis Experience
by Lisa Yonno, New Jersey
Elvis, my 20+ year old family member who transformation made a huge impact in the lives of his human and animal family.
Elvis is big tabby and a self-appointed lap cat, so much so that many nights I’ve watched some truly awful TV (one of his favorite pastimes) because he’s fallen asleep on my leg and the remote was out of reach. Elvis enjoys his daily routine: daytime napping, inspecting my dinner plate for interesting tidbits to swipe, getting his faced washed with a damp paper towel, his before bedtime music (his favorite artist is Deva Premal) and evening TV-couch time with me with the requisite belly rub and foot massage.
Why is this so important? What makes this seemingly mundane daily routine such an accomplishment? Elvis spent the first 17 years of his life determined to keep to his feral nature, choosing to be afraid of and not trust people and cats- myself included. During Elvis’s “Pre-Couch Era”, Elvis doted on his sister Gypsy and was very protective. Gypsy and Elvis were nearly inseparable from the time they joined my household as young, feral kittens and were rarely more than 10 feet apart. They were so bonded and so reliant on one other and no one else that when Elvis and Gypsy joined their first family communication and healing Circle, nearly 15 years ago, they did so with their backs turned to the group! Message received: ‘We hear you talking but don’t expect us to participate, human.’ Over the course of the years with numerous family group and individual sessions, Elvis and Gypsy slowly began to join the group Circles- first only turning to face the center of the Circle and eventually by sharing a few, short and carefully formed messages.
Elvis and Gypsy “came to the table”, as it were, in their own time and on their own terms. Elvis claimed the second floor of our home as his kingdom, his favorite perch being at the top of the stairs so he wouldn’t miss any cat intruders. And yet, as time went on, sometimes Elvis would venture out and find a close friend in another family cat. Elvis outlived most of those friends, including his beloved Gypsy.
As a side note, I should mention that during the years leading up to Gypsy’s illness I had become interested in Ttouch, energy work, alternative vet care and most of my animals were regulars for acupuncture, homeopathic remedy support and nutritional supplements, along with the ever present healing and communication sessions with Joanna. Learning about all these area and with a lot of hands on experience, I gained a solid foundation from which I could better support my animal family through crisis and in their daily lives. I learned the importance of being still and listening to them: listening with my ears, my eyes, my hands and with my heart. I learned the importance of searching for options and researching those options on my own because not every vet’s knowledge base includes all possible options. I came to understand that there is no one answer for every animal and every situation but rather that there are many answers which might, when combined, have a profound effect on a life. I began to accept that while there are always options, not all options are viable or appropriate. I became intimate with my limitations and weaknesses so that I could recognize them earlier and ask for guidance.
This time last year, Elvis needed to visit the vet’s office because he had been scratching his ear so much and shaking his head so vigorously that he had broken the cartilage on his ear and the flap folded over. Elvis had been to the acupuncturist a few times but didn’t trust the process so he still required sedation to catch and the vet was still a little afraid of this hefty, growling and otherwise pissed-off tabby cat. He could be an imposing guy at 16+ lbs and full of fury.
Elvis was diagnosed with an ear polyp at the base of his ear canal which was removed last December. Within 3 months the polyp had grown back and so did a cyst-like lump on the side of his head, almost like someone had stuck half of a ping-pong ball to his cheek. When the polyp was removed again and the cyst biopsied, the results revealed basosquamous carcinoma which is a fancy term for a rare skin cancer. This kind of cancer is extremely aggressive and few treatment options were available: two kinds of chemo, radiation, or surgical removal- which would have involved removing the entire ear canal, an invasive technique with a recovery period of up to 6 months. Surgery was not a compassionate option for Elvis and I wasn’t too keen on chemo. Together, Elvis and I agreed on Cyberknife treatment: pin-pointed, high intensity, short course radiation therapy- very cat friendly. Deciding on Cyberknife was actually easy as we had experience with it already through the “fortunate misfortune” of Tika, Elvis’ sister cat, who had already had this kind of treatment.
Several months earlier, Tika had undergone Cyberknife treatment for a nerve sheath tumor located on her cheek. Nerve sheath tumors have little in the way of treatment options and she was faced with either radical and disfiguring surgery or radiation. Tika underwent 3 treatments- the equivalent of 19 conventional radiation treatments- and experienced no obvious side effects: no burns, no loss of appetite or vomiting and no lethargy. Circle healings were a strong support in her treatment and recovery. Today she appears to be healthy and is definitely happy.
As an older guy- a “supersenior” at age 19-20ish- Elvis was robust and healthy and in no way ready to call it quits. So, Elvis underwent 2 Cyberknife treatments. We added oral chemo afterwards and homeopathy. For every procedure leading up to the Cyberknife and during and after treatment, Elvis received a series of “Healing Intensives” from Joanna to support his tolerating the treatment and improving his recovery.
Healing sessions and Circles- the Prayer & Healing Circles and the Healing Light Circles- have been a constant for Elvis. The Circle healings- and Elvis receives at least twice in each Circle week- really seem to amp up the impact of healing, especially with so many animal “friends in energy” healers coming together for a common goal. And, I've noticed that “shadow cats”- those family members not formally part of the Circles- have become a little more confident and more relaxed and expressive than they were prior to Circles.
The 1:1 healing sessions have been a critical tool for supporting all my animals pre and post-surgery or for dentistry. In Elvis's case, he was supported through 2 surgeries and sedation for the CT scan and for 2 Cyberknife sessions as well as oral chemo, all beginning at age 19-20 and all within a period of 6 months. Elvis was able to clear the anesthesia faster, heal from his surgeries sooner, and he was able to tolerate his chemo far better with regular healing work. Never once did he vomit or refuse food and his tumor responded brilliantly to all treatment, shrinking to practically nothing before my eyes. I can see that the healings afforded Elvis the opportunity to use the oral chemo and on a very conservative schedule, more so than the oncologist would have liked, and it allowed him to embrace his new reality and new relationship with me.
I don’t have the words to express to the universe my gratitude for this time with Elvis- gratitude for the transformation that he’s undergone, for knowing that he understands how much he’s loved and how important he is to his family and the Circle family.
Today Elvis has no visible evidence of that angry tumor- not when I look at him, not when I feel his face. Elvis is enjoying his life with no fear, no uncertainty, no discomfort and no hiding in the fireplace-although occasionally he will kick the butt of a younger cat, just because. Elvis’ personality has blossomed and softened from the cat who needed to be a fearful ruler to a cat who is truly happy and knows how much he is loved and how safe he really is. He even enjoys sharing the couch with other cats.
During couch time, when I stroke or scratch his head he leans into the gesture. When I lean down to kiss the top of his head, his face and eyes soften as he stretches upwards to meet me. If I scratch his belly, he rolls onto his side and stretches out to expose his stomach. His visits to the vet no longer require sedation and he sits patiently for the exam to finish, without a hiss or a swat. He understands that I am watching for a signal that he’s had enough and he trusts that we’ll stop when he says stop. And even though he does exercise his authority with the younger kids once in a while, Elvis no longer feels the need to be the King, which makes him just that, and more.
The cat who turned his back on that first communication session, the cat who sat just on the edge of so many family healing Circles, that cat is a mere shadow of the cat that Elvis has become. This transformation is what I call “The Elvis Experience”, an invitation for animals of any age to abandon fear and uncertainty and explore possibilities, perhaps realize that it's really okay to make humans and other animals part of their lives. For me, it's a reminder to never give up on a better future for these animals, to never give up on healing, and to never give up on trust and understanding. A befitting legacy for this King.