Monday, September 10, 2007

Monday with Pam

Today I went over to the home office for a "root cause analysis," (blah-blah speak for what-in-the-hell-is-wrong-with-you?), and I decided to stop by the cafe on my way upstairs. I grabbed a turkey sandwich, and on my way into the hallway, I spotted Pam, a woman I've known casually for a number of years at my organization. Most recently, I knew she had been re-diagnosed with stage 4 metastatic colon cancer.

I've always known Pam to be a very positive, uplifting person, but I had no idea. I sat down with her, intending on eating my turkey and excusing myself to my meeting. And it was strange because, I told her I was sorry to have missed her "return to chemo" party last Friday, and she said I was practically the only person who wasn't there. She told me the story - how when she was originally diagnosed a couple of years ago, it was because she had gone in for an appendectomy and they discovered a tumor wrapped around her appendix. Serendipitous. In her relapse, she'd become lethargic and bloated, and had gone to the doctor for iron infusions. In doing a CT scan, they discovered a pocket of fluid in her abdomen. Now, her body is riddled with cancer.

Folks with her prognosis have 30 months to live. On average. She begins chemo on Friday. All of it will be paid for except for a $15 copay for her prescription pills. She believes in the power of prayer. She told me that, a few weeks ago, when she was feeling particularly low, a coworker came into her office, asked her if she had a few minutes, and set his clipboard down on her desk and said, "I want to pray with you." He kneeled by her side and said a beautiful prayer that has held her spirit aloft ever since.

Pam is the first person I've ever known that I knew was dying. Pam is dying. And that idea hurts to no end. There is a very good chance that she will die soon. And what for? This thing that sits in her abdomen, "being disgusting," as Pam put it so succinctly.

I am an atheist, but I am going to pray for Pam. She deserves those seconds out of each day to think of her and hope for her. And she has had the courage to ask that of us. To pray for her. She asks of people she knows don't believe, that they pray for her. And not in sacrilege. Not to prove anything. Not to show us that there's a god or to teach us of the supernatural. Because she knows, that no matter what we do, it probably won't work.

She really wants to be here. And that's why she wants our prayer. And I am going to give her mine.