One of the other things I’ve been busy with the past few days is helping a dear, old friend who was struck with cancer exactly a year ago. She was given a fifty-fifty chance of surviving a year and a much lower chance of living any longer than that. I’m sure many readers here have been privy to the harsh, roller-coaster ride that is a cancer patient’s life. And while no cancer is good, this one was about as bad as it gets: aggressive glioblastoma, better known as brain cancer. After round after round of chemo and radiation, multiple issues with meds causing horrible side effects, and four separate invasive brain surgeries requiring months in the hospital, she was literally death’s door more than once. But the tumor shrank dramatically, encapsulated and shows no sign of metastasizing. It’s now an inert bag of tissue the size of cherry with no blood flow in or out as best the docs can tell. In short, she may well turn out to be among the lucky five to 10 percent of patients who survive this deadly form of the disease. But it still came at a terrific price.
She is partially paralyzed in a wheel chair, one hand and one foot are barely usable. The best prognosis has her able to walk short distances with a cane and a leg brace after months of intensive rehab. And when I say rehab, I mean the kind of grueling eight hour a day sessions that tax her like a NFL athlete in summer training. Going to rehab, watching the parade of patients wheeling in and out and seeing what they go through will really put any problems you might have in perspective. And this all happened as her only child went away to one of the most prestigious east coast Ivy League schools in the world on an engineering scholarship — both mom and kid are damn smart and damn hard workers! But it means when she did come home from the hospital this last time, she came home to a quiet, empty house that had been full of teenagers, at a time when companionship is about as important as it can get. Neighbors and friends have helped out, keeping her company, making sure she doesn’t get too lonely. She may start a website about her ordeal — not my idea, in fact I tried to talk er out of it! But if she does I’ll certainly link it so you can see her recovery. My guess is, over the next year, it’s going to be fairly dramatic to watch.
Cancer is a monster. It maims and kills without mercy, every age, every class, and often causes horrible intractable pain along the way. And thanks in large part to our fucked up politics and healthcare dysfunction, in a final insult to decency and dignity, it often leaves grieving family members with nothing but a mountain of debt when their loved one loses the battle. Apparently, cancer will be with us for a long time, it’s part of the human condition. But that last part is completely unnecessary, downright barbaric, and perhaps no state celebrates sentencing the innocent to a horrible death like the teaparty in Texas. This lady went to college, worked her ass off all her life in her field, is fully insured on Social Security, and her entire benefit for SSDI, which took the usual delays and hassle to even get, is barely over a thousand dollars a month.
She had changed jobs recently and her new employer managed to find a way to fuck her around on benefits, complicating payment needlessly. Every med, every office visit, every procedure means a terribly sick person has to arm wrestle bean counters at a call center. If not for the new protections against preexisting conditions she could well be dead, the same protections the usual suspects now aided by the Supreme Court are fighting tooth and nail to roll back.
Had Texas accepted the free Medicaid expansion provided under the ACA, it would have greatly alleviated her suffering and anxiety. It just makes me sick to think that in right-wing churches across the nation full of flag waving Christians, where they profess their love for Americans and a savoir who preached caring for the sick as one of his central messages, people like her are portrayed straight from the pulpit as slackers and moochers and takers. In reality she played by the rules, raised a great kid as a single mom, never got in the slightest bit of trouble, never partied, hell never even tried a cigarette. If that’s what being a Christian means to someone, they have lost the moral argument, they deserve nothing but fierce condemnation. And if my friend is a taker, I’ll take her over a self pious maker any day of the week.