She sat with me for a moment, just a moment, and began to catch up with me. We hadn't seen each other for a very long time. I could tell something was wrong and I asked if everything was OK. She told me that cancer was back. When I had first heard about her diagnosis and that she was going in for treatment, I called her. We talked shortly afterwards and she said that the doctors were pretty positive that they'd got it all. Now I learn, they didn't.
There really aren't any right words for moments like these, so instead, I said the usual words. She looked at me with tears in her eyes and then, after a pause, said that it wasn't fair. It just wasn't fair. She was so young, she had always exercised, watched her diet, took care of herself. Her frustration built up as she spoke these words, then she said, "and yet people like ..." (pause) ... "you ... you know, the wheelchair, the weight. Well, its not fair. Just not fair." I swallowed back my shock and slowly we ended the conversation and she left.
I sat there.
I was surprised to hear about the return of her cancer.
I was surprised to hear that it should have been me. That would have been 'fair.'
I have had versions of this for as long as I can remember. Early on in my career when I began to travel and to lecture. A guy I knew pretty well, we would have, back then, called each other friends. Burst out that it wasn't fair that I was getting these opportunities, he had wanted to be a trainer, and he, well, he was trim and fit and much better looking than me. It wasn't fair. Just wasn't fair.
But this ... this was much worse.
I deserve death.
She deserves life.
That's how it breaks down. My fat, disabled body moves me from the category of one who has the same right to life and to love and to purpose to the category of person who is simply expendable. I can easily imagine a group of students given the exercise of choosing which one of the passengers would be thrown off the boat to save the others. I'm that guy. I had suspected all along that I'd be that guy - but now I know, for certain, that I am.
I have always been terrified by the slow crawl our society is making towards embracing the idea that it's OK to kill someone for their own good and for the good of the tribe. I am terrified even more now.
If my value as a working, contributing person, who has social connections, who lives with love at home, who finds joy in his life, who strives to make the world a better place - is trumped so easily by the thin abled bodied, all is lost.
I imagine myself ill.
I imagine people deciding that I need, not repair but elimination. That I need medicine but not the kind that eradicates disease or illness but the kind that eradicates the 'likes of me.'
It had begun as a conversation of two people catching up and it ended with one person letting another know that in a fair world - my life would be taken, swapped for someone more worthy.
In a fair world.
I'd get what I deserved.
Yet people tell me, those who support the kind killing of disabled people, that I have to trust that it would be done in a fair and compassionate way.
Well, I guess, I wonder 'whose' fair would that be?
And, I guess, I wonder 'whose' compassion would that be?
I love my life. That may may not be fair. But I do.