22 January, 2015

Donna's last days | www.myajc.com

Donna's last days | www.myajc.com:

Black women with breast cancer in the United States
are, on average, 40 percent more likely to die from the disease than
white women, according to a recent study by the Sinai Urban Health
Institute. In some cities, the gap is even greater. On the surface it
may appear the gap is about race, but income is the culprit.

“What we offer is first-class and coach fare, and
coach doesn’t get you to the same place that first-class does,” says Dr.
Otis Brawley, chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society and
an expert on racial and economic gaps in cancer treatment.

The chance of getting cancer is increased by as much
as 80 percent for people with three or more social risk factors, such
as being a minority, being poor and being single, according to another

“Poverty is a carcinogen,” says Harold Freeman,
founding director of the National Cancer Institute Center to Reduce
Health Disparities. [...]

I prepared to look up, knowing the coffin containing Donna — the patient from Winship, the mother of six, the person who became my friend — would be right in front of me. But when I raised my head, I saw there was no coffin.

Instead, there was a brown cardboard box sealed with duct tape.

I felt like throwing up and prayed Ashley would keep her eyes sealed tight.

A chaplain said a prayer and the workers rolled the box away to the yawning red earth a few feet away. Ashley was holding the roses.

“Can I put these with her?” she asked.

“No,” one of the men said. He pointed to a stretch of caution tape, indicating she couldn’t cross it.
Within minutes, the brown box containing Donna’s remains was lying in the rusty Georgia dirt.
I ran across the tape toward the grave. One of the guys stopped me.
“Can you at least put these roses with her?”
He tossed them on top of the box.

We were so stunned and shocked we could not move. Finally someone wearing a baseball cap told us our turn was up and that we needed to move on.