Letter: Don’t let politicians affect quality of life

From: Steve Schoettmer


My girlfriend, Sachiko Callahan, died six months ago. She struggled with colon cancer for over seven years, going through the ups and downs of it all.

They caught it early and they resected the disease. She was told that surely she was fine now. But a year later it showed up again, and was classified as Stage 4. She cried.

She underwent 29 radiation treatments, she had five different chemo regiments, she even received experimental treatments from the National Institutes of Health. And though sometimes, especially in the initial treatments, the cancer disappeared and she would hope that she was cured, she wasn’t; it always came back. She only cried about it the one time, but I could always tell the bad news was always just so disappointing to her. She hoped for so much.

I know this story sounds bleak, and I know that it sounds sad. But it wasn’t.

We started dating on her 43rd birthday. She told me that she had cancer, that she only had three to five years left, and that she wanted to enjoy what little time left that she had. She said she wanted to laugh and have fun.

We did.

We went to Niagara Falls in upstate New York; Orlando, Cape Canaveral and Fort Lauderdale, all in Florida; took a cruise to the Bahamas; and went to Japan (twice). We somehow even fit in at least two trips to Las Vegas.

French Lick in southwestern Indiana became our mystical little hideaway, but more specifically West Baden. She loved that place. We spent New Year’s Eve there once and we fell asleep in the lobby. We woke up two hours later. We laughed so hard.

It meant so much to her to go to church. We had to miss a lot. So many times she was just too sick. But she loved visiting with her friends. She wore me like an ornament — an ugly ornament — but an ornament none the less.

I bring all this up for a reason. Sachi had to quit her job because she became too ill. She had to go on Medicaid and Medicare. Together, those two insurances covered almost all of her costs. She didn’t have to worry about being hassled by doctor bills or chased by collection agencies. She only had to worry about trying to get better.

Please don’t let (lawmakers) touch those programs. They gave her so much comfort. They extended her life.

On our first date, she was 43, and told me she only had three to five years left. She died two weeks short of 50.

Those were wonderful years.