Monday, June 24, 2013

Dear Friends of Chuck,

Cancer--and the therapies employed to slow its return--not only steals its victims' strength, it typically steals some portion of their independence.  For someone who has rarely been ill, and never seriously ill in all his 62 years until now, Chuck has been understandably irascible lately on matters of home invasion--invasion by nurses, physical therapists, health care aides, and even the volunteer drivers who have been dropping off hot meals.

Wilma, a nurse who works for the Visiting Nurse Service of NY, made her last visit--for now--to Chuck's apartment last week, a huge victory for Chuck, who made his preference clear to her.  He persuaded the physical therapist, who drops by to take him on forced marches along Amsterdam Avenue that for Chuck are akin to P.O.W. treks through Asian jungles, that he had no need of her services, as well.  After nearly ten days of watching the basketball playoffs on television with home health care aid George, Chuck increasingly complained that he would like his apartment back to himself in the evenings; yours truly cancelled that service.  (If the sport had been football, might the outcome have been different?)  I also filled his refrigerator and freezer to the limit with groceries on Friday June 14th, but a week later (last Friday) although the appliance was empty in both compartments, Chuck insisted he wanted no more groceries shipped in that day.  He prefers to do his own shopping--and who doesn't?  And so it goes, for now.  Chuck is fighting for his independence and the control he has always enjoyed until recently, and more power to him.  For the moment, the center seems to be holding. 

For a not-excessive fee of $40 a month, I've acquired for Chuck a very fancy weekly pill dispenser.  It is the size and shape of an old, very large laptop computer.  It must be plugged in.  Until now, I've been arranging Chuck's pills in those plastic drugstore containers with AM and PM compartments. One of the true stalwarts among Chuck's New York friends, a southern gentleman named Larry, comes up from his apartment on the third floor every morning at 10 a.m. to talk politics and/or sports with Chuck and simultaneously ascertain that the previous evening and morning meds have been taken.  On July 1st, however, Chuck will begin his third round of chemotherapy with Temodar, and his drug regimen gets approximately twice as complicated for five days.  In addition, the anti-tumor drug Temodar takes a toll on a person's equanimity and stamina. 

I call this new dispenser the George Orwell model, because it can be programmed on line from afar to monitor not only whether but exactly when pills are taken.  Diabolical, right?  A weekly report comes flying into the programmer's email once a week, if not sooner.  Using a ramped series of flashing amber lights, beeps and ultimately, phone calls, no one can escape it's reach--if you fail to take your meds, THEY WILL HUNT YOU DOWN.   It's all very 21st Century and may serve to annoy Charles, as the medical staff at NY Presbyterian calls him.  But, the manufacturers of the device advertise on the package that it's very purpose is to ensure your loved one's independence, and I know Chuck is all for that.  When with trepidation I presented the dispenser/machine to him last Friday, he looked rather pleased and thanked me; I only hope his thank you was sincere and that he didn't toss it out the window after I walked out his door. 

I will keep you apprised.

A shout out and thank you to those who generously donated to the Charles M. Young fund recently.

Hillary Johnson

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