Scarlette was born with a rare form of cancer. She was just 10 months old in October 2014 when her doctors had to amputate her left arm, shoulder, clavicle, and scapula in order to save her life. Now 2 years old, Scarlette is still recovering, but she just met a very special “Doc,” an extraordinary survivor in her own right, who’s become an important part of the healing process. Together, they make one truly brave and dynamic duo.
As her parents, Matt and Simone Tipton, explain, “Scarlette was born with an abnormally large left arm.” It measured approximately 3 times the size of her right arm. The official diagnosis was a kind of sarcoma called Undifferentiated Spindle Cell Sarcoma, which her doctors described as a “precursor” that mutates into cancer, and a case so rare that it’s expected to be documented in medical journals. So by her first birthday, Scarlette had spent most of her very short life in the hospital enduring 19 surgeries (including the amputation), blood transfusions and numerous invasive tests.
“Despite all that Scarlette has gone through in her short life she continues to bring joy to all who see her incredibly precious smile!”
As part of their daughter’s continuing recovery, six month ago, Matt and Simone started searching for a kitten for her. But not just any kitten… a kitten who was a fighter and a survivor like Scarlette, a “wonderful three legged kitty” who had gone through amputation surgery just like she did.
“Scarlette absolutely adores cats, and we wanted a little kitten to have her grow up with, so she has something that’s just like her,” Simone shared. However, finding a baby cat with a front limb amputation, close to their home was proving “IMPOSSIBLE” for the Tiptons.
But they finally found her… on Christmas Eve.
Before we get to that fateful meeting, let’s flashback one week…
On December 17th, a 3-month-old, grey and white kitten who had suffered a traumatic injury to her front right leg was discovered in a set of bushes by two women out for a walk, Edith Rios and her daughter-in-law, Kelley Gonzalez. Based on the shocking extent of her injuries, they assumed she had been hit by a car and immediately rushed the helpless feline to the San Jacinto Valley Animal Campus.
Despite the kitten’s initial prognosis being listed as “poor to grave,” amazingly, the vet team saved her. But to do so they had to amputate her mangled-beyond-repair, front right leg. Holly, the nickname she was given by the hospital staff, made it through the delicate surgery and fully recovered. She was ready for adoption. That’s when the Riverside County Animal Services put out a news release about Holly’s extraordinary survival story and it was picked up by several local media outlets.
Enter the hand of fate (mixed with some Christmas magic)…
“Yesterday my husband just so happened to come home from work early,” Simone posted on December 24. “I was painting while the kids were napping and he started to do some projects from work. He left the news on, KTLA, which he never watches, and JUST so happened to look up as they started a story of a little three month old kitten that just had an amputation.”
As it turned out, THE kitten they had been tirelessly searching for was just an hour and a half away, and nothing was going to stop the Tiptons from trying to adopt her. But after a number of phone calls they still could not get the information they needed to see if they could get her right away, so the family decided to hop in the car and drive straight to the San Jacinto Valley Animal Campus on Christmas Eve.
“They told us she wasn’t available because of the amputation. I was so devastated. They spoke to the supervisor (because it claimed she was available on their Facebook page) and we spoke to her as well. They allowed us to fill out an application, but we couldn’t officially adopt her until she was cleared, but they would have other people trying to adopt her as well,” Simone wrote. “I just kept saying to my husband, if it’s meant to be, it will happen. So we went back to visit with her. She’s absolutely adorable and so sweet. Then we went out to the car. My husband points, and the lady was running after us! She told me she explained to the manager what our story was, about our precious Scarlette and how badly we wanted a special companion for her. And they said she was officially ours!!”
But, at that point, Holly still had lot of healing to do. She had staples, a drainage tube, which Simone noted Scarlette also had, and was still on injectable pain meds. So before she could join her new family at her new forever home, she was required to stay at the animal hospital until she was officially healed.
“The moment I knew this was the one, was when Scarlette touched near the surgical site and said ‘owies,’ and I said, ‘Yes baby, just like your owies. But she’s OK – just like you are too.’ She then placed her hand over her left side and nodded, staring at the little kitty the whole time.”
The Tiptons brought Holly home on December 30th and renamed her Doc both after Scarlette’s favorite character – beloved pet vet, Dottie “Doc” McStuffins – and as a nod of gratitude to all the wonderful doctors who have seen Scarlette through her journey.
In a New Year’s Day post, Simone shared of the family’s newest member, “We are so enjoying some snuggle time with our precious new addition! Everyone is taking to her just fine. She is an adventurer! The more I see her personality bloom, the more she reminds me of Scarlette. She doesn’t let her limitation stop her at all!”
For more about Scarlette’s journey of survival, please visit the Facebook page her parent’s started on her behalf – Smiles for Scarlette. Their goal is to not only bring awareness but to help find a cure.