Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cancer Man Christmas Future

She had to get a surgical mask before she could leave her apartment. The week before Kathy had taken the bus out, picked up a bug and spent part of the week before Christmas in the hospital. It was nothing personal, but she didn't want to do that again for New Year's --and besides, she'd ridden in my car. It's pretty awful.

Kathy looked good, but was in a bad way. Good people having a bad time will often talk about others who somehow have it worse. That would be a tall order in this case. A few months ago, they lopped off a breast. She's on her second round of Chemo and they want to try her on some experimental drugs.

Dying of Cancer is hard all the way down and that is what she's doing. I can't say how it is with other cancer patient drivers, but all of my patients have died. This makes particularly miserable sense. Almost all the people I've helped have been either isolated or dirt poor and isolated. They don't have much of a support system except the wavering kindness of their church, if they have one. If they had community or family, they wouldn't need to ask for a stranger to get them where they needed to go.

The more alone you are in the world, the harder it is to stay in the world. There's nobody to hold on to and nobody to hold you back.

We talked all the way up and back. It was a short ride. Her son was home for Christmas. He had problems dealing with her diagnosis and acted out, she said. Juvenile authorities had placed him in a facility to help him get his head together. He was 14 or 15 and sleeping on the couch when we left for the doctor's office.

"He's got to go back first of the year," she said. "I'm hoping he'll be back in March, but he's got to make his goals."

She told me a lady she used to work for called her. Kathy used to sit with the woman's father as he slowly disappeared into the murky death that is Alzheimer's. The woman is of some means, owns buildings and has a 30 year-old daughter addicted to Meth.

"They got her doing rehab," Kathy said. "But she's still looking at doing two years in prison."

It doesn't sound like a first time offense.

The woman called Kathy because she said her daughter needed a friend. Kathy thought it sounded like she was trying to get a babysitter.

She shook her head.

"I told her she could call and talk, but I didn't want her coming over to see me. I don't need that, not right now."

There's Meth all over and maybe people who use Meth would also like her pain pills, she thinks. Kathy is terrified of drug dealers and drug users, even though a town cop lives in the same apartment complex. The police cruiser in the parking lot is hard to miss, but Kathy doesn't feel safe. She worries about having to be on the street, about walking to the pharmacy and back to get her pills. Every noise behind her is a guy with a knife, a stick or a gun.

She has to walk now, has to take the bus if she wants to go anywhere beyond the end of the street. Her husband, who is in a training program, served her with divorce papers as an early Christmas present.

"He told me I was half the woman he married," she said. "If he thinks that, I don't need him."

She's right, but she needs somebody.

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