The Cats for the CureTM story began in August 2005 when Sonoma County artist Claudia Sanchez was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her treatment included a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation.
In 2008, Claudia's sister was diagnosed with the same type of breast cancer. Michelle, opted for a bi-lateral mastectomy with implants.
With that in mind, Claudia decided to have a prophylactic bi-lateral mastectomy in 2009 at St. Mary's Medical Center, in San Francisco. She chose the DIEP-FLAP procedure which was fairly new at the time. Unfortunately, it created future physical challenges for Claudia. She endures chronic pain due to a lot of scar tissue, after the procedure.
Over the years, Claudia has had to adjust how she creates her art and conducts her business, based on her physical capabilities at any given time. In spite of the obstacles, Claudia continues on, with passion. She is most disappointed about being less prolific than she would like.
Claudia and her sister Michelle are now both, long-time cancer survivors.
The saga continues...
After the initial eight-month ordeal, Claudia wanted to help others through their cancer experiences. In fall of 2006, she discovered Catwalk for a Cure, an annual fashion show put on by the Breast Care Center of the Sutter Medical Center, Santa Rosa, California. Not only was Claudia a model in the fashion show, but she also donated a live auction item: a commissioned painting of the highest bidder’s cat. The cat wore a pink ribbon around its neck. The following year, Claudia modeled again. She donated an already-completed painting to the silent auction; it was "Purrsie’s Hope".
Shortly thereafter, Claudia decided to become a regular philanthropist. In early 2007, she founded Cats for the Cure. She made the decision to donate a percentage of the proceeds from products in the collection to breast cancer research and treatment.
Claudia’s first cat for the cure was not the winner of the Catwalk auction. Priscilla became the second cat in the collection in the painting "Priscilla’s Promise."
The first cat, painted in 2007, was Purrsie, the Purrfect Platinum Pussycat, who happened to be a perfectly adorable platinum-colored American Shorthair. Purrsie’s heart-shaped markings made her the perfect model for Purrsie’s Hope; since then, the painting has appeared on many Cats for the Cure products. Purrsie belonged to Suzie Geraldi, who was Claudia’s assistant at the time.
Then more tragedy struck. Claudia lost Sabrina, her ten-year-old American Curl, to fibrous sarcoma, a viciously aggressive cancer. It was only after Sabrina passed that Claudia heard about UC Davis Veterinary School of Medicine and CCAH Director Dr. Niels Peterson’s innovative feline disease research. Sabrina might have lived, if only she had been taken to the Small Animal Clinic early in her diagnosis.
With this in mind, Claudia adjusted the mission of Cats for the Cure. Part of the yearly donations received would go to UC Davis for feline disease research, and the rest would continue to benefit human breast cancer research.
Five months after Sabrina passed away, the Sanchez family adopted a new kitten, a little four-month-old Scottish Fold named Lucy. She was sweet and loving—everything Claudia wanted in a cat. Lucy spent two months adjusting to the new household and irritating Simba, Claudia’s other cat. Then, one late October day, she became lethargic. Claudia took her to the local vet, who told her that Lucy had a fever, most likely the flu. Lucy got worse. Within a week, she was gone. She was only six months old. She was diagnosed with feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) at UC Davis. Within two months, three of her litter mates also died of FIP. The kittens’ owners and breeders were devastated.
FIP is a virus that attacks the intestinal tract. It is nearly always fatal and afflicts cats of all ages—though most commonly kittens and the elderly. It has become one of the feline diseases that Claudia is most passionate about curing. She was a founding member of SOCK FIP, a nonprofit organization that supports FIP research at the Center for Companion Animal Health at UC Davis Veterinary School of Medicine. As of 2011, Claudia’s portrait of Lucy, entitled "Here’s Looking at You, Kitten", has become SOCK FIP’s official logo.
The Cats for the Cure collection also includes "Angel Kitty", who, since painted in 1998 and inducted into the collection in 2011, has provided comfort to sick felines and their families in veterinary clinics everywhere.
Claudia has always hoped that her artwork served a purpose—even if that purpose was as simple as making people smile. Now, however, she hopes that her artwork and her work with Cats for the Cure will help save lives, human and feline, in the fight against cancer, FIP, and other diseases such as HCM.
In Memory of Suzie Geraldi
12/21/60 ~ 6/23/11
In early March of 2009 Claudia's assistant, Suzie Geraldi, was diagnosed with Stage-3 Triple-Negative Breast Cancer.
On June 23, 2011 Suzie passed-away after an extended yet courageous 26-month battle against this awful disease.
Suzie worked with Claudia since 2007 and was fortunate enough to know little Lucy during her her battle with FIP. It was through her work with Claudia that Suzie learned just how devastating a disease FIP is, and how important the work is at CCAH.
That work, combined with her cat Purrsie being the first official model for the Cats for the Cure series, resulted in SOCK FIP becoming a cause that was also near and dear to Suzie's heart.
Please visit Suzie's Memorial Page for additional information about her.