Thankful, but heartbroken

I was very lucky again this week with my scans. Last night, I celebrated Thanksgiving with my extended family, positively basking in the love.

As Thanksgiving approached, and I had my November scans, I missed Phlebotomist B, my favorite phlebotomist of all at the cancer center. I hadn’t seen him all year, and I especially thought of him because I had remembered a chat we had about Thanksgiving the year I had colitis and then magically recovered in time for the holiday.

With some time to kill after my scan results, I decided to see whether I could find out where he had gone. I remembered his first name, and I knew where he had worked. I didn’t search very long, but I was not prepared for what I found.

A tragedy on all counts. A distinctly American tragedy. The heart breaks.

It may be hard to understand how hard this hit me. This was a person who drew my blood, after all — seemingly a bit player in my medical drama. It doesn’t feel that way to me. 

Bakary (as he introduced himself when we first met) was my first point of contact on every visit to the cancer center, in the tiny curtained cubicle where he spent his work day. He expressed concern when I was ill, and relief when he saw me get better. He worried when I cried in the chair, which was only when I let my brain get the better of me — because Bakary was so good at what he did, his sticks never, ever hurt.

And because he showed so much concern for me, I cared about him as well. I never knew about his family, the six children he left behind. But I did hear about his life here, which was testimony to the classic pattern of the life of an immigrant to the United States — the tireless striving for a better life, for better opportunities, for safety and security. 

The violent end of his life was unscripted, unfair, and unthinkable. It leaves another massive tear in the fabric of the society I want to believe I live in.

And my heart breaks anew when I think about the team in Dr. P’s office bearing this awful news silently amongst themselves, not being able to tell their patients, because their patients are dealing with cancer and could not be expected to handle this kind of news.

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