The Straight and Marrow
Regarding "Courting Disaster," in the November 2 issue:
I read with interest Eric Dexheimer's feature on the biopolitical plight of women with advanced-stage breast cancer struggling to get insurance coverage for bone marrow transplants. Dexheimer explored not just the issues but their history, and he gave both sides a chance to speak. Anyone who has watched or helped a friend or loved one fight the emotional legal and business battles on top of the emotional health and survival battles finds it difficult to sympathize with insurers, providers and anonymous closed-door committees that deny coverage for the treatment.
I was, however, appalled and sickened by Melinda Beck's illustrations. When I considered the morbid imagery within the context of the article, I was brought to tears. The pictures were unnecessary and only further upset those of us who have been touched by the "politics of cancer."
Mary Fran O'Connor
Marvelous work by Eric Dexheimer on the economic and political considerations behind bone marrow transplants. I was impressed by his article and remain convinced that this is a form of treatment our insurance should cover. For companies to deny this coverage is cruel--and wrong.
The Good Doctor
I am writing in response to Steve Jackson's "Buying Time," in the November 9 issue. It completely touched me, and as I read along I found myself in tears. I personally have always taken a hard line regarding the gay lifestyle and at times could be accused of gay bashing through partaking in tacky jokes, etc., but one thing I have never let go of is my compassion for sick human beings, gay or straight. HIV/AIDS is not just a homosexual disease, and as an educated person, I have read and learned about the HIV virus and AIDS. I also recently married into a family that has a gay member (brother-in-law) who is HIV-positive. However, even with my thoughts on the gay lifestyle, I could not understand the way in which his family did not want to understand or even be compassionate about his illness. They feel that his lifestyle is a choice and that AIDS was sent down by God to punish those sinful ways. They do not ostracize him, but they are not accepting and supportive, either; they try to ignore it, as if it will go away. The male members of the family feel that he is less of a man because he is gay. They continually hide behind Christian rhetoric as if to abolish themselves of any wrongdoing through mere association with him. Jesus taught compassion, something they seem to overlook as they sit in judgment.
Your article made me want to go and shake them all into some consciousness as to the kind of "man" he really is. You stated it so eloquently in the last paragraph, that a man should be defined by what is in his heart. My brother-in-law has a heart of gold. My compassion goes to my brother-in-law, for I know enough about the disease to realize what lies ahead for him. He is not sick yet, but it is inevitable. For his sake and the family's, I try to chip away at the resistance to their acceptance of him, if nothing else to put aside their personal judgments and to support him in his times of impending need. Dr. Myers fills that gap for many of his patients, but he should not have to fill it alone.
Isn't there a time for judgment to end and compassion to begin? That level of coldheartedness is so foreign to me! I do not know if I will be successful in bringing some level of acceptance to the family, but if it is any consolation to my brother-in-law, he will not become ill and die without at least one family member 100 percent on his side and rejoicing in the memory of his life.
Name withheld on request
Thank you, Steve Jackson, for the article on Dr. Adam Myers. As a nursing student doing a clinical rotation last summer, I spent Monday and Thursday afternoons in the Infectious Diseases/AIDS Oncology clinic with Georgia Caven, R.N., as my preceptor. Dr. Myers made sure that I had opportunities to be by his side as he examined patients and went over X-rays and other findings, and he always found an extra few minutes to fill me in on things and answer my many questions. Dr. Myers kindly (and bravely, I might add) volunteered to be my first IV start.
Reading the article brought me back to the fifth-floor clinic with Kirk, Woofer, Roger and Brad. I met Kirk my first day and we shared some laughs. He wore slippers on his feet because they were so swollen from the Kaposi's. I had the honor of spending some time with Brad as he cared for his garden, and I spent an afternoon with him in early September, two days before he left for his trip to Atlantic City.
I learned a great deal from Georgia and Dr. Myers this past summer. I also learned so much from the patients. Thanks for introducing these folks to a great many more.
Steve Jackson, I'm a fan. Thank you so much for the in-depth article about Dr. Adam Myers and the HIV/AIDS clinic at DGH. I thought it was a compelling article and very well written. But more important, besides showing the involvement of this one particular physician, it also in an indirect way said some very nice things about DGH which most people overlook--not only about the dedication of the nurses and the paraprofessionals, but also about some of the research that's going on there and the teaching that nobody really knows about. The people who work down there a lot of times go unnoticed, and most of them work for less money than they'd be earning at other places.
Name withheld on request
I just transferred here with my husband from San Diego, and I left a very dear friend back there who's dying of AIDS. I picked up Westword and just finished reading "Buying Time." Steve Jackson did an absolutely magnificent job of giving people a feeling and an understanding of what many, many wonderful people go through.The article touched me deeply, and I look forward to the next part about the change in Dr. Myers.
Name withheld on request
Editor's note: The final installment of Adam Myers's story begins on page 22 of this issue.
Let's Be Frankenstein
Regarding Bill Gallo's "Monster Mishmash," in the November 9 issue:
I remember in the days of my tender youth so long ago sneaking off to a run-down, out-of-the-way theater downtown to experience the forbidden pleasures of Frankenstein. Little did any of us realize at the time the lengths and depths to which filmmakers would go to scare us out of our wits. For many years I eagerly followed their progress, an adrenaline junkie. The Exorcist was a turning point--at least it was for me. Director William Friedkin's vivid descriptions, not just of the movie itself but of the puking and stark terror that continued to come in flashback, made me wonder. Why? Why would I want to put myself through this? Horror wasn't fun anymore. Call me a party poop. I wanted something more out of movies than feeling good or bad.
After seeing one Frankenstein after another, I read the original, Mary Shelley's, and remember wishing, "Why couldn't someone make this a movie?" Branagh asked the same question and did. Children often think the monster is Frankenstein, but as we know, the monster has no name. Victor Frankenstein, his creator, never gave him a name. Mary Shelley (and Branagh) tell a truly frightening story about a monster posing questions about the human spirit that have no easy answers but leave the reader with one clear message: The monster--the deformed creature with amazing powers and weaknesses--is us.
And, as Mr. Gallo points out, in the movie he even sounds like us. Maybe that's not scary enough. It sounded like Mr. Gallo was still looking for his adrenaline fix.
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Regarding "X Marks the Stupid," by Brad Jones, in the September 28 issue:
The wayward children of our lost generation. How lost are we? Is Generation X really as apathetic as our parents say we are, or are we following in their footsteps only to find out that the winds of change have blown away the tracks left by our predecessors in the sands of time? Foundations that once housed values held sacred by our society, such as family, church, community and education, have eroded. But these are the same "values" that brought us racism, sexism, oppression, environmental destruction, war and the general decline of the American dream for the majority of Americans. Some change is merited, but where do we draw the line, and where is our society headed? Obviously, the same dead asses who led us into this mess are not going to lead us out.
If they had such a monopoly on enlightenment, why are they so afraid to address the problems we face today, and why are there so many issues left over from their time?