Have You Seen Peggy?

I am very concerned about Peggy, the patient in the Cancer Centers of America commercial. Have you seen the latest commercial? I have only seen it. It was on in a public place and I could not hear what she said, but she looked drawn and tired and was seated in a chair that could have been a wheelchair or a hospital waiting room chair.

In contrast, I am doing well, as well as I could hope to be doing eight months after my treatment ended. I have hair, eyebrows, eyelashes, and am no longer down to what my niece Maureen called “the hard wood floors.” All my external burns from radiation are red marks. I can’t even see the scar from my hysterectomy. I ate some nuts this week without feeling I would pass glass fragments. My bladder still hurts to a 7-8 on a scale from 1-10 in which 10 is very bad when I eliminate; and my knees and hips don’t feel the same as they used to after all that radiation. But that’s minor compared with what preceded it.

I only teared up twice this week as I felt frustrated by my inability to do something I would have liked to do if I were completely recovered. I am not projecting fear for my situation onto Peggy’s. Is it just me or does it seem that there have been a significant number of deaths from cancer in the past month or so? I can remember when I used to think deaths came in threes and that seemed horribly sad. Now I’d find three deaths in a relatively short time period an improvement.

I’m going to call my new cancer buddy Joyce on Wednesday to see how her second chemotherapy treatment turns out. I have been praying and practicing my affirmation for her every day. I pray and think positive thoughts about Peggy at the same time. But today I read Yvonne’s post about her recent scan, and I could not help but think that we’re all in this together and I don’t really feel all that good while people who I care about feel scared or sick. http://timetoconsiderthelilies.com/.

I am no scientist and have much to learn about my own brush with cancer, much less how it presents in others, but it seems to me that it is always described as a fast growing cell. And that makes me wonder why it doesn’t seem to get old. Or is its quick aging the reason why it is so dangerous? It seems like every day on the news I get advice on how to stay young. Why haven’t we figured out a way to age this scourge so that it dies before we do?

I gather that my skin ages more quickly if I expose it to sunlight without wearing sun block. I can age by not exercising or by not sleeping. Don’t these darn cells have a life cycle? Why do they keep growing when other cells fail? Do they fail but do they simply get replaced? Do they divide faster so they outnumber the healthy cells in us? Isn’t that a Baby Boom problem? Don’t we have ways of dealing with that phenomenon, too? If we could give (fictionally) the alien  war ship in Independence Day a cold by uploading a virus, why not give cancer one? Is cancer invincible? What is its Kryptonite? Why do so many other diseases “run their course”? I realize cancer is not the only disease that kills. All life ends at some point in time, but it is difficult to think that the best approach remains to poison with chemotherapy drugs or scorch with radiation. The “host,” who dearly wants to show this disease to the door, must hope to survive the same treatment as will kill the unwanted guest. Sort of a Russian Roulette with an unfeeling opponent. All the fear is on our side. We never get to see the cancer sweat what makes us most afraid.

We need to support each other and the search for cures. We need to stop wasting money for “health care” when “health care” means duplication of tests because we still don’t have a way to make a person’s medical records available to doctors at another facility without delay. Honestly, if the credit industry can tell the local gas station I’m good to go when I need gas, why can’t my doctor see more than a single pathology report sent by fax when I have to switch hospitals? We need to eliminate the completion of forms that repeat information already in everyone’s possession. How many times have I watched my local hospital print an entire page of bar code labels when I check in for an appointment even though it will need at most three labels for every report and order generated? The rest of the page ends up in the trash. Can we get that money back for medical research? How about the money spent on magazines in waiting rooms? I’ll bring my own reading material if it means more funds for prevention.  How many people do you know who take aspirin like breath mints or antibiotics like aspirin? What if we used the money to give the HIV cocktail to people when they are HIV positive rather than waiting until they are sick? http://www.medpagetoday.com/MeetingCoverage/IAC/33966. If stem cell research could help us find or effect a cure for Michael J. Fox and others with Parkinson’s disease and there are stem cells in umbilical cords, then why aren’t we using stem cells from umbilical cords to save lives whenever possible? http://www.hindustantimes.com/India-news/Mumbai/Stem-cells-used-to-treat-sibling-s-cerebral-palsy/Article1-903967.aspx. Can’t we save the cords of babies born every day so that we can help more people? I don’t mean to make light of suffering or take away from anyone the care he or she is willing to purchase. I am saying that we have national policies on all kinds of things and manage to make breakthroughs. Why not a groundswell movement for this country to do what it is best suited to doing? We have the resources to send another vehicle to explore Mars. http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2012/07/28/why-do-keep-going-back-to-mars/. We have the resources to track the temperature of the polar ice caps on a day-to-day basis. http://phys.org/news/2012-07-arctic-sea-ice.html. We can do this, too. We can make health care, and not its decentralized and wasteful administration, our priority. What if we actually stopped fighting over whether to have health care for everyone in this country and put the spotlight on our common enemies–disease, contagion, deterioration, and ignorance?

Have you seen Peggy? I’m worried about her. I think all of us should be. She seems like a really nice person. I want her to live a long life and be happy doing it. And I’m willing to do my part. Let’s not pay any more money to kill people in some place far away while we let people die here at home. Let’s save Peggy and everyone else like her.