Last summer, Matt and Simone Tipton began looking for a kitten for their 2-year-old daughter, Scarlette. The California couple wasn’t looking for just any cat. They needed one that was as special as Scarlette, whose “arm was amputated in October 2014 after she was diagnosed with … a rare soft-tissue cancer,” according to the Orange County Register. That surgery took place at Mayo Clinic's Rochester campus, where the family sought care after they were unable to find a local surgeon willing to operate on Scarlette, then just 10 months old. “Mayo was amazing,” Simone says. “We’ve never felt so loved by people we’d just met.”
While Scarlette is now cancer-free, she’ll carry reminders of her journey throughout her life. There will be more surgeries (in addition to the 20 she’s already had) and more challenges. “I know she’s different, and she’s going to know she’s different, and that’s okay,” Simone says. “We want her to know her uniqueness doesn’t define her. She’s not 'the amputee kid.' I want her to be able to say I know I’m different, and it’s good.” And what better way to help show her that, thought the Tiptons, than with a furry friend who's also missing a limb.
That turned out to be a surprisingly tall order. “I’d been looking for a cat missing a front limb for about six months,” Simone says. Finally, just before Christmas, a local TV station ran a story about a 3-month-old kitten who’d been brought to an animal shelter with a damaged front leg. Staff at the shelter weren’t sure the kitten would survive and determined amputation was its only hope. It turned out the kitten, like Scarlette, is a fighter. She survived the surgery and, the report said, would soon be available for adoption. A week later, the Tiptons brought the kitten home. They named her Doc — a nod to both Scarlette’s favorite cartoon character, Doc McStuffins, and to the many doctors both Scarlette and the kitten have encountered.
The Tiptons believe Doc has been good medicine for Scarlette. Matt told KTLA-TV that the kitten has “created a lot of joy in our family,” and has helped his daughter understand that “she’s not the only one.” But Scarlette and Doc have much more in common than what they’re missing. “They’re both adventurous and playful,” says Simone, who adds that that the kitten “doesn’t seem to know she’s missing a leg. She jumps on our couch and our bed, and chases our other animals.” (That includes Stitches, a cat, and Xero, a Great Dane the family plans to train as a therapy dog.) Scarlette, too, is always on the move. “She runs all over the place,” Simone says. “Nothing stops her.”
You can follow Scarlette’s journey on her Facebook page, Smiles for Scarlette — a name chosen, Simone says, to reflect her daughter’s sunny demeanor. “Through everything she’s been through, she smiles.”
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Tags: Patient Stories