Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Wake up calls

I've had quite a few wake-up calls in my life.
I've been in three car accidents -- before I was 25. A couple since then. In one, we were hit by a semi-truck, bounced off the front tire, and rolled twice. This was before the days of seat belts. Yep, we all walked away.
I think my first really shocking WUC was when I was about 30 years old. I'd just gotten divorced (a long and ugly tale) and I was struggling to make a new life for myself in a strange city. I had a good friend, Janet, who was about 5 years younger than me. Janet was sick. I didn't know how sick at the time, but she had severe endomytriosis, which incapacitated her a lot.
Her insurance was good and it covered most of the procedures available to her. The one procedure that the doctors said she HAD to have was a hysterectomy.
She refused. She was clinging to hope that she'd have a 'normal' life. She wanted children. Forget the fact she wasn't married, wasn't dating. There were other reasons: she was poor, she couldn't take time off of work, she needed to care for her Mom ... but at heart, it was her hope that she'd have kids.
Janet refused every time the doctors pressed her. She was sick the entire time I knew her. She traveled out to Iowa with me to visit my family, which was the longest trip she'd ever taken. She was in pain the whole time and had to go home early.
We lost touch with each other when I met my husband and started dating. A few later a mutual friend called me. Janet was in the hospice, dying of cancer. Yep. The endo had metasticized. What the doctors had thought were benign cysts (all throughout her body) were now malignant.
When I saw her, I was stunned. She was on morphine and was so thin. She wasn't 30 yet, but she was old... the pain had taken everything from her.
A week later she died, and we all thanked God for it.
I think of her a lot, probably once a week or so. There but for the grace of God go I. I have been so fortunate in my life -- good health, good friends, and opportunities available to me that I was able to turn into success with my own hard work. I shy away from saying I"m lucky, because I've made a lot of my own luck, but I have been in the right place at the right time and I've made the right choices, for me.
We aren't always that fortunate. And it behooves us to remember that.

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