Saturday, January 8, 2011

Privileged to have known her.

This story dates back to December 2007 yet each time I read it the memories return.
Unlike Karen's wonderful post a beautiful tribute for a friend this was a complete stranger yet that moment made me realize I had everything, needed nothing feeling so privileged to have spent some time with this wonderful person. I trust you will enjoy this story.

December 15 my wife and I returned from one week in Las Vegas, a week which we had planned for quite some time in order to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary. Several weeks before leaving I developed a urinary tract infection and had to have a Foley catheter installed. Not a big deal yet carrying a Foley wasn't part of my plan. Things started getting better after a course of antibiotics a week or so before our departure, the Foley catheter was removed I received instructions on how to self catheterize "which later proved to be totally unnecessary." We were set to go! Then a week before leaving my wife developed bronchitis. After a visit to the doctor and a prescription for antibiotics we were back on track and managed to embark on our trip as planned.

We saw several outstanding shows while we were there although something happened at one of them which took me by surprise and totally blew me away. Those of you in a wheelchair will undoubtedly relate to this as I'm certain all of us have been in a position where someone will make an off-the-cuff remark about how wonderful it must be to have a chair or how they wished they could have one, a comment made when you’re usually in a lineup waiting. My standard response “you can have the chair as long as you take everything that comes along with it". They usually look at me for a moment then chuckle realizing they are better off without it as if all of a sudden they realize I'm in it not by choice.

If there is an advantage to being in a wheelchair it is that in most locations they let you enter the foyer before the rest of the crowd this way they can quickly bring you to your assigned seating before the crowd. My wife and I were waiting when a woman approaches me and asks if I could get out of her chair? I thought to myself, here we go replying with my usual answer to which she replied I'll trade! No one had ever said they would trade, frankly she caught me completely off guard, I told her I had progressive MS, she asked me how long I had been in the chair, how long since my diagnosis, the medications I had to take and finally my age. She replied "I have you beat I will still trade" I was dumb found not knowing what to say I asked her what she had? You could tell she was weak and at one point she had to kneel beside my chair because she was feeling faint.
Turns out she was at the Celine Dion show her ticket sponsored by the Dream Wish Foundation due to her affliction with leukemia, at stage four her prognosis was bleak she did not expect to live for more than one year. Prior to the show she had received her last chemotherapy treatment there was basically nothing else that could be done for her.

At that point I wish to God I would've had the strength to get up and give her my chair, to look at her you could never tell she was so ill, she was dressed in a formal dress for an evening out alone. The dream/wish foundation offered her two tickets yet other than her caregivers she had no one so she decided to go alone. Several times while we were waiting for the main doors to open she had bouts of weakness at one point my spouse offered her to sit on my lap while we waited she was too proud to do such a thing and left several times with the security guard only to return a few moments later. I suspect the chemotherapy treatment she had just finished was having its effects. When we entered it took me a while to locate her sitting near the exit with security close by in case she had to make a quick exit. She exited several times finally entering just before the show started, I know in cases like this it is not uncommon for the artist to meet with individuals prior to the performance and I wouldn't be surprised if this was the case..

My wife told me the show was good I cannot say I saw a lot of it mostly I was in tears. I felt so sad for this woman and realized that I had met my match that even I had to wonder whether or not I would trade places with her. After the show she rushed over to give me a big hug and told me that she would pray for me and then hugged my spouse and told her to take good care of this guy.

There were many people in wheelchairs waiting for the doors to open to see this concert, why she picked me I will never know, if I could have gotten up and given her my chair I would have done so in an instant I felt so helpless in my inability to help her that day. Something that I took for granted was someone else's last wish and that affected me greatly. We did not even get to know her name yet I decided to call her Cathy, why? Don't know but everyone deserves a name. I will never forget her, grateful to have met her and to have spent a few moments in her presence sharing in her grief and happiness as she was experiencing one of her final wishes one which I easily took for granted.
To this day it is difficult for me to think of her without shedding a tear, as for the show, I watch bits and pieces on the DVD yet I cannot watch it completely it leaves me heartbroken.

God bless


Karen said...

Hi Mike,

Thank you for sharing this story. As hard as it may be somedays, to battle this chronic disease, there is always someone, somewhere, worse off.

Peace Be With You said...

A part of me wonders whether she went back home and logged on to her computer, brought up her blog, and started writing about this amazing man and his wife whom she had met at the Celine Dion concert. She would have said how gracious and generous they were both with their time and with their bodies to make what could well be one of her last earthly experiences a magical one. It was a blessed encounter on both sides.

Stuff could always be worse said...

I think many with MS do wonder why I have a blog with this name? I feel like this story, look around, some are in worse shape. Love this story, thanks for sharing it.

Matt Allen G said...

Being that I am only 20 years old with MS I think most people would expect me to take certain things for granted but I have always tried my best to be an open minded individual. I do everything I can to make sure I don't "play the MS card" when talking to people, in fact, I try not to complain about ANYTHING in general because I know for a fact that I have more to be grateful for in my life then I have to complain about.

I possess too much knowledge of the misery and squalor in this world and I find myself reading or listening to too many stories that makes me think "God, I wish I could do something". This recently lead to some pretty dark feeling because I had lost my faith in humanity but then I realized, I can't look at it from a numerical point of view.

You impacted ONE person's life at that concert and how could anyone possibly put a value on that? So though I may not be able to change the world, the one thing I have learned is that changing ONE person's life is the same as changing the world for ONE person.

MikeH said...

Thanks to all for sharing your comments.
It was a very humbling experience that put a lot of things in perspective.

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