Updates from our alumni
Dear Chris and fellow alums,
While we all have been sheltering in place, I suspect my recent efforts to shelter and, at the same time, to continue the radiation treatments I am receiving because of my recent diagnosis of inoperable pancreatic cancer may have added a dimension others have not had to experience.
January and February was spent receiving chemo treatment. Unfortunately, it brought with it horrible side effects, and, to make bad matters worse, I was told that the chemo was not working and the only treatment left for me was radiation. On 2 March I began a six week course of radiation treatment. It required me to drive the 50+ miles from my home in Vicksburg to the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC), receive the treatment, and then drive back home, Monday through Friday, each week, for six weeks. Unfortunately, Jane, my sweetheart of 50+ years no longer can drive and the doctors would not allow me to drive. Fortunately, a group of friends from Church of the Holy Trinity (Episcopal) in V’burg organized themselves and became my drivers.
It was reasonably simple at first. No Pandemic requirements were in place. I was picked up in the early morning, driven to UMMC, park the car, enter through the Emergency Entrance and walk to the Radiation Oncology waiting room. The worst problem was finding a parking place below the top deck or when it rained on us between the garage and the entrance. The halls were crowded. People everywhere. Fellow radiation patients waited for their turn. It was there where I met my tiny African American friend, TJ, about 3 years old. TJ was receiving radiation therapy just like me. He would arrive and leave in a stroller pushed by his very young African American mother. She would wait in a chair, alone, head buried in a jacket; but when the nurse brought TJ back from treatment, she would spring to life and respond to his outstretched arms. At first, he would not respond when I spoke softly to him, but later he would shyly smile and wave at me as he was pushed into the busy hallway. It was the children that broke my heart.
We were all ages. Most of us were bald, and many of us had already begun the tell-tale weight loss. Some were blessed to have a friend or spouse with them. Others of us were alone. There were muddy boots and loafers, coveralls and khaki slacks, weak smiles and solemn concentration. Except for a TV in the corner quietly showing some game show, there was total quiet. During the six weeks some patients (like TJ) disappeared. New ones took their place. The day I left for the last time I did not recognize any of the few faces I left behind.
Then the Coronavirus began to intrude. Although we were first confronted with frightening headlines and dire predictions none of my friends expressed apprehension about taking me or going into the hospital where Coronavirus victims were being treated. Then the steady increase in restrictions began. First it was excluding visitors, but my drivers were my caregivers and were allowed to join me in the Radiation Oncology waiting room. Next they blocked our entrance and made us use a new one. Masks began to appear, but none of my drivers complained, expressed fear, or declined to drive. Nurses appeared at the entrance to the hospital, masked, to take everyone’s temperature, and ask questions about coughs, etc. Then, suddenly, my drivers were not allowed to enter the hospital. They had to remain outside for the entire time I was being treated. Still, no complaints and everyone continued to pick me up. Then one day we turned onto the UMMC campus to be greeted by a police car, to screen our car’s occupants and to warn them that only patients could enter. My bald head gave them quick evidence of that!
The garage was not even half full. Some of the few vehicles there were either pickup trucks or old, beat-up vans surrounded by folks in folding chairs waiting quietly outside for a lonesome patient inside. By then, even we patients were met at the entrance by nurses wearing masks and, sometime, shields. They took our temperature and asked questions and escorted each patient to the place in the hospital where they said they were to go. In the early days, the nurses did not know the way to Radiation Oncology, so I had to guide them. Masks and gloves all the time, we walked quietly down the once crowded but now empty halls to reach Radiation Oncology. Meanwhile my drivers waited patiently in their vehicles, praying, knitting, reading, using their cell phones or just sitting quietly. None complained. None expressed fear of contracting the virus, and none quit.
After commuting to Butler Snow in Jackson for 32 years, when I retired I never thought the drive would be interesting again, but this experience was uplifting even as it became more dangerous and somber. Our conversations covered a wide range of subjects, each of which strengthened my faith and frequently entertained me – and my driver. My last treatment was on Easter Monday. Even though Easter Services the day before were conducted remotely and my sweetheart and I, like you, had to shelter in place, when I walked out of the hospital and began the trip home I felt a real joy and a better understanding of the meaning of the Resurrection than ever before.
I still do not know whether, unlike the chemo, the radiation worked enough to give me a few extra days or even a month, but I do know that I am stronger for these past six weeks and better prepared for the future than I ever have been before.
Blessings to each of you,
Sara and I are doing fine. We had to postpone our trip to Yellow Stone, but have put in a big garden at our home in the country. No Covid 19 down there. Hope everyone is doing well and really appreciate the “good news “ stories being shared. Everyone stay safe and well. Thanks, Ed.
As many of my Butler Snow friends know, I retired at year-end 2019 and moved to Austin, Texas, to be a full-time grandmother to my five-year-old Triplet grandchildren, Sparrow, Dex and Linc. That transition was completed on January 7, and by March 15, I was self-quarantined, alone, in my new home. Needless to say, retirement isn’t at all what I intended, but I am proud of my son and daughter-in-law who home school the Trips, engineer outside adventures for them, and schedule FaceTime visits with me. My plan is to stay sequestered until I am confident that it is no longer dangerous to be outside. I trust science, not politicians, so it will be a long haul, I know. My son shops for groceries for me, leaves them on my porch, and we wave at a safe distance. My only sojourns outside are to tug trash and recycling bins to the curb, and either walk or drive to the community mailboxes about a quarter mile from my house. As the weather heats up here, there will be more driving than walking.
Today, when the Clorox spray that I ordered from Amazon a month and a half ago arrived on my doorstep, I was elated! It’s amazing how priorities shift and small blessings make our days.
What I miss most (except my family)? My hairdresser.
Happily, I now have time to contact old friends and relatives I have not seen in a while. There are dozens (Ok, hundreds)of unread books that have nothing to do with banks, and I have the most organized bins of Christmas decorations in my new garage that you’ve ever seen. I have a home gym in my new house, and am trying to get into a sustainable routine with treadmill, weights, punching bag, and Pilates bar. It would work better if I didn’t keep stopping to bake. One step at a time.
I keep up with some of my Butler Snow/Nashville colleagues and am not surprised that the firm is successfully serving clients in this unprecedented and challenging environment. I’ve said that I might be well-suited for this shutdown because during the last months of my practice with the firm, I worked remotely quite a lot, thanks to excellent IT support. Unfortunately, I got spoiled and found that when I no longer had access to the HelpDesk, I had trouble adjusting to a new normal of computers without those patient folks who helped this aging electroniphobe when I couldn’t get something to work. I never thought I’d miss that!
I am happy to say that I am keeping up with many of my former clients, via text and email. I was blessed to have a practice that generated many great friends and not just folks who needed legal advice.
Thanks for the opportunity to share — I hope everyone is safe and well. And keep us all posted on Dan Elrod’s recovery. His assistant was kind enough to let me know about his accident. Our prayers are with him.
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