Jimmy Carter and Me

Warning: The author does not actually intend any harm to former President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Jimmy Carter, who is actually—by all appearances—a wonderful person. The author actually feels pretty bad about what followed.

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For a while, Jimmy Carter was the best thing to happen to me. Newly diagnosed with cancer and horrified by the poison that was being injected into my body to treat it, I was sad about all the superficial things. The criss-crossing scars on my stomach. The threat of losing my hair. The lingering feeling that I was an alien who crashlanded on a planet of the carefree and healthy.

So when it was announced that I would be wearing a giant sack filled with chemotherapy fluid in a bag around my waist, attached to a giant needle that went into the port beside my heart, I was thrilled. Just *thrilled* to be bringing fanny-packs back into style. And since I always needed to wear my backpack to carry my medical equipment, I was essentially wearing bags on bags on bags. It was glorious.

“Some women bedazzle it,” said an older nurse, helpfully.

“Yes, this certainly needs a heck of a lot more rhinestones,” I said, looking it over. “Something that says ‘BLESSED!’…or something.”

“Or something,” said the nurse, and we silently agreed that it was hideous in all its forms.

So my best friends nicknamed the chemobag “Jimmy” because Jimmy Carter had made my day. As it turned out, Jimmy Carter, the former peanut farmer from Georgia, had recently been diagnosed with Stage IV melanoma and he had started treatment at the cancer center at around the same time. And—just my luck—we had the same treatment schedule.

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Every week I would request the hallway chemo chair so I could see the Secret Service invade at top speed and whisk the 94-year old Carter to a private treatment room. And every week I would either completely miss seeing him because I fell asleep for two seconds or see an elbow or an ankle as he sprinted by to chemo as I got mine. In short, we were basically best friends. One time I even propped up a book about him in case I fell asleep and when I awoke I imagined I would find it signed. Except that never happened.

I told everyone about Jimmy and me. His appearances, my special chemo bag, our undying connection…everyone knew that Kate had cancer and that it was basically a special pass to understand the life and times of Jimmy Carter. Honestly, it humanized my cancer. People had something to ask about and to point to that was sweet and funny. No one had to lead with: “Soooo….you have cancer.” Instead, it was always: “So, how’s Jimmy?”

But then, one day, it was over. It was all over the news that the 94-year old (may I repeat NINETY-FOUR YEAR OLD) Jimmy Carter had been tested and there were no traces of his Stage IV cancer. His treatment worked and all subsequent photos showed him building stupid houses for stupid Habitat for Humanity. Not that I was bitter.

For the following weeks all I heard in the hallways was:

“Jimmy Carter was healed! I guess that means it works.”

“Congratulations Kate!”

“So it’s going to be okay for you!”

Unfortunately, no. I am always in the exhausting state of almost-dying. Despite how spry the 39th president happens to be. I have to keep struggling along, hoping for my own miracle.

I was attached to my little Jimmy Carter one day and I couldn’t take it anymore. I ran into a colleague’s office, closed the door, and burst into tears.

“MOTHER TRUCKING JIMMY CARTER!” I yelled, half-laughing, half-crying.

And my colleague, who I love, slowly turned in his chair toward me and looked at me solemnly.

“Where are these death panels Obama keeps promising us?” he asked gravely.

And I laughed so hard I had to re-tie my ponytail.

Last week, with my changed chemotherapy plan, I switched out my chemotherapy bag for pills that do the same thing. And so I say goodbye. Goodbye, sweet Jimmy, you were there when I needed you. Now build me a house or something awesome.

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