Friday, May 4, 2007


A friend of mine, a beautiful, vibrant, active and strong woman of 54, was diagnosed with cancer last month. Last week, she had both her uterus and bladder removed. Once she heals from surgery, she'll begin radiation and chemotherapy for the cancerous cells found in her lymph nodes. She now wears an external bag to relieve herself and always will.

Statistics show one in three people will be diagnosed with some form of cancer. So I guess, really, she was just the odd girl out. She worked for years at the Rocky Flats nuclear power plant. She did manual labor on the assembly line. Often times, the parts she lifted and carried were too heavy to hold at a 45 degree angle on her forearms. Instead, she carried them lower, with her arms extended, across her lower abdomen. They told her it was okay.

Yesterday, the Advisory Board on Radiation and Worker Health, a federal panel, delayed action on a petition filed by former employees for compensation and health benefits, " to allow coverage for only a limited number of workers exposed to neutron radiation between 1952 and 1958." (The Denver Post).

My friend didn't make the meeting. She's not walking much yet.

Over coffee this morning, we talked about her situation. As part of a younger generation, I couldn’t fully comprehend why someone would put themselves in harms way for a paycheck for years, if not decades. Any place you’re required to wear a protective suit poses a certain amount of risk.

Sounds like I’m blaming. I’m not. I’m grateful, really. Grateful I got myself an education that resulted in a career where the biggest health concern is (perhaps) carpal tunnel resulting from long hours on the laptop. Grateful that I don’t expect, never did, my employer to take care of me short or long-term. I don’t expect retirement, I plan and budget for it. You don't plan for cancer, though.

I hope my friend responds well to treatment and recovers enough to enjoy her retirement. Big price to pay for a nine-to-five.


Paula said...

That sucks. I hope your friend's treatment is successful.

But I totally support the notion of companies having to pay the medical bills of workers harmed on the job, inadvertently or not. More than that, I think every U.S. citizen should have access to decent health care and not have to fight for it when they're sick, or just give up and die.

Lucyp said...

I also hope that your friend's treatment is successful. When we look back and hear stories of what the older generation had to do to get a pay packet it is shocking.

Joe the Troll said...

You made me think of my mom. She's been absolutely anti-union all her life, with the attitude that if you don't like your job, go and find a better one if you can. Being born during the depression and raised during WWII, that was, I guess, understandable. I tried talking to her about the conditons American workers had to put up with before the unions, but it fell on deaf ears. As far as she's concerned, if someone is willing to give you a job, you must appreciate it or go elsewhere.

I hope the treatement is effective.

Aries327 said...

That's a terribly sad outcome for an employee. I'm with you about the conclusions you've come to.

Cancer sucks and I often feel like it's inevitable for all of us. The question sometime seems which type of cancer will I get? Sometimes I think, well, it doesn't run in my family. But really, my grandma and mother lived in such a different world. Fewer pollutants and pesticides, more garden grown vegetables, fewer preservatives. So, it's no consolation, really.

My cousin, who is like a brother to me, recently battled colon cancer. He's 28! You don't think that will hit a 28-year-old. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best, I guess. And count your blessings.

I hope it goes well for your friend.

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