Cats are known for being independent and even coy with their affection at times, but when we’re under the weather or feeling blue, our cats have an uncanny ability to make us feel better. The sound of their purr soothes us and the warmth of their bodies snuggled next to ours reassures us. No one knows better how cats can provide comfort than Dr. Alvin Reiter, whose cats helped him through the most difficult time in his life.
Dr. Reiter and his wife, Karen, had a wonderful marriage and their life in Beverly Hills—together with their six cats—was blissfully happy. Then Karen, was diagnosed with early breast cancer in 1999. Although she was given a 95% change of total cure, she died four years later of metastatic breast cancer, her death drastically accelerated by medical negligence.
The years during which Karen bravely fought her cancer—and she and Dr. Reiter battled a medical system that repeatedly failed them with misdiagnoses and mistreatments—were a nightmare roller-coaster of medical consultations, surgical procedures, and shining moments of optimism that were burst by devastating new developments in her condition. Their six cats played a vital role during this time. As Dr. Reiter writes in his memoir Even Doctors Cry: Love, Death, Scandal and a Terribly Flawed Medical System—A Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon’s Story, “Those dear cats would soon become the one saving grace in the darkest days of our life that lay directly ahead.”
As he desperately sought treatment for his wife, whose breast cancer returned after mastectomy and multiple rounds of intensive chemotherapy, their cats gave them love and comfort, helping the couple deal with their overwhelming stress and emotions. Dr. Reiter even snuck one of their cats, Cecil, into the hospital to visit Karen, where the tabby’s prodigious purr and calming presence at the foot of her bed brought Karen comfort far beyond the most powerful painkiller. Cecil truly became “Doc Cecil”, doing more for Karen than many of her two-legged so-called doctors.
Seven years after Karen’s death, Dr. Reiter has entered a fresh chapter in his life—a life he happily shares with his wife Nancy who has wholeheartedly embraced Cecil and their four other cats. Dr. Reiter’s account of how his cats helped him through his tragic ordeal is sure to resonate with anyone who loves their pets.