13 October 2012

It’s not substitute for Borders, but at least once a week I find myself heading to McDonald’s with my laptop in an attempt to get a few pages of work done. Sometimes it’s quiet, sometimes it’s busy as hell, but it’s usually a control kind of chaos that usually works for me.

Once in a while the chaos comes in the form of busloads of kids swarming the place—it’s located conveniently off I-80 and this McD’s has no issue with a couple hundred people coming in to use the restroom and to refill water bottles (this happened last week; I was a little amazed but not really surprised)—and the noise levels are just too high to concentrate, but typically I can sit there and write even when the place is crowded.

Usually I eat before I go over there to avoid the fast food temptations, buy a large Diet Coke, and take a table in the back where I’m out of the way, but today I skipped breakfast (unintentionally…time gets away from you when you have to wait an hour after meds before eating anything) and decided a couple of chicken strips would be all right.

Hey, don’t judge me.

Okay, well fine, judge me. It’s still greasy crap and while it tasted fine, I’m paying for it a couple hours later.

Today was one of those The Place Is Packed days. I didn’t have to wait long in line, but there were few tables to choose from and I was just glad I got anything, much less the booth I scored near the restroom. My only other choice was a bigger table near the front, and I wasn’t taking that much space.

A few minutes after I pulled my laptop out and had Max’s manuscript open, a 30-something young woman asked if she could share my table; in just a few minutes the place went to overflowing and the only other apparent open seat was at a table with an elderly gentleman who was trying to hork something out of his sinuses at regular intervals.

Of course I told her of course. She could sit there and eat her lunch while I poked at the keys on the keyboard and munch on a chicken strip. I made sure I had a few napkins between my food and computer, took my sweatshirt off, and was just taking a bite when she noticed my tattoos.

Specifically, my pink ribbon feet.

The usual small talk ensued: what made you want that, why shape the ribbon like feet? I told her about participating in the 3 Day, how after my third I decided I wanted a tattoo, but not the typical pink ribbon, especially since I was not a survivor, I was nothing more than a walker and crew member.

“I’m a survivor.”

Diagnosed at 26, mastectomy, chemo—she underwent the whole works. She also expressed a keen appreciation for those who have no immediate tie to the disease, but still get out there and pound the asphalt step after step, with not much to show for it other than blisters and sore muscles.

The 33% drop in donations to walkers this year, she was aware of. The entire dust-up with Planned Parenthood and the fallout was very familiar to her. The sneers that Komen is a big business without a clear direction to find a cure bothers her as much as does the vitriol on either side of the controversy.

People throw around statistics, she said, as if they matter. People look to the amounts put towards research to find a cure and spit out vindictives about the seemingly small amount, without stepping back to see the bigger picture.

“I am the bigger picture.”

When she was diagnosed, she had no medical insurance. A lump was found during a routine exam—done at Planned Parenthood, because she knew no of other place to obtain basic care—and the wheels were set in motion. She was directed to a place she could get a Komen-funded mammogram, and everything that followed was a blur of this isn’t happening to me layered in fear, agony, vomiting, hair loss, and a very small glimmer of hope.

Komen was with her every step of the way. Uninsured, she was sure she would wind up dying, but the local Komen office found her the care she needed, from the initial terrifying appointments to surgery and chemotherapy. When she couldn’t pay her rent because she couldn’t work, Komen found the money to keep a roof over her head and food on the table.

“Komen kept me alive. That’s the bigger picture. I’m alive.”

On the whole, she said she thinks Komen made a tremendous blunder when they first withdrew the possibility for further funding to Planned Parenthood, and couldn’t win when they reversed the decision. They can’t win because the statistics of where the money people donate goes isn’t painfully obvious to everyone. They can’t win because too many people refuse to look past Planned Parenthood’s statistics and equate any money at all going to them as being available for abortion services, even though that’s far from the truth. They can’t win because people are tired of pinkwashing and are suffering from compassion apathy.

“I wish they’d get over it, because there are things more important than their offended sensibilities.”

And she’s right.

There are things far more important.

Her name is Heather, and she’s alive.


Cheysuli and gemini said...

Wow. My friend's name is Heather too and she's also alive. Although she was older than 26 when she had to use Komen. But it's true: these women are alive today (two now that between us we can count and give a name to a face) because of Komen.

A very nice reminder.

Derby, Ducky said...

Bless her for sharing her story and bless you for getting it out there.

Yep, we need to see past the statistics to the people that are helped.

Thanks Thumper.

kenju said...

How nice that you met her and were able to have that conversation!

Angel and Kirby said...

That is what it is all about. Both Planned parenthood and Komen did what they were suppose to! Her story should be shouted to the world!

Renee said...

Go you, those tattoos are awesome!