Chapter 14: Take the Money and Run
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So here I was, back at the same place I had once left to simply go to that follow-up doctor’s appointment that fateful day. My friends were with me now, and I was as bald as a newborn.
Caught up from the last chapter? Good.
So Shawn never ran out of the bathroom buck naked (thank GOD); no, instead he took one of his notoriously long showers, and then eventually came out. We hugged and then we all chatted for a while.
Shawn had an intuition that was mostly true. “I KNEW you were coming back today! It was weird that you asked me what I was doing today.” Damn, knew it. Couldn’t play cool if my life depended on it.
One of them mentioned how much they’ve been getting from the collection jars. “Oh my God! I almost forgot about those!”
We had three collection jars in town. We had one at Paradis’ Shop N Save, one at Al’s Tastee Freeze (both in Fort Kent), and one at Lake Road Grocery in Soldier Pond. I had never imagined what my family would think of them, as I had my friends set them up for me. I had no problem with that because I knew they’d never skimmed off the top; they were in it to help me with my disease, not become a hindrance.
The guys went into the closet and took out all of the change they had collected over the past month or so: three large Ziploc bags and two cans full of change. The amassed coinage was so unbelievable I had the urge to jump into the resulting mini-mound of monetary goodness and swim around like Scrooge McDuck did in the DuckTales cartoon show. Of course, the pile was still too small for that, and I would undoubtedly injure myself irreparably with such an action.
I sat on the bedroom floor, meticulously counting the entire amount. There was a surprising amount of paper donations. I must have had a hundred dollars easy from singles alone. Then I had a lot of fives, a good amount of tens, and a few rare twenties. I sorted those out by denomination and pushed them aside.
As a kid, I had thoroughly enjoyed counting change. I used to count all of my parents’ change for them. Then when I was able to begin my own collection, I’d sit down at the coffee table, throw on a TV show and just zone out in filling each and every paper roll. If I were short on my own coins, especially by a couple pennies or so, I’d go into my Dad’s top drawer and take what he had there to make an even roll. I know, Dad, I was terrible.
Then I’d go to the Fort Kent Federal Credit Union and cash in only six dollars and fifty cents worth of change but I felt like the richest man in the world. They didn’t care if you would have some Canadian pennies or nickels mixed in with the group back then (and in particular up north), we had so many in circulation up there so it was all fair game.
So you could have imagined how ecstatic I was when I filled roll after roll of what seemed like an endless supply. When I ran out of rolls, I just separated the coins into dollar piles, then eventually five, ten-dollar piles. Within a half an hour, the total revealed itself (of which I’m having a difficult time remembering).
Over $600 of donations… Oh my God! That was the most change that I had ever seen in my life (and still is), that I couldn’t comprehend it, let alone contain myself with shrill joy. I’m going to buy so much stuff with this!
I suppose what happened next was inevitability… When word of the jars got around, my family naturally started talking amongst each other. Who was the person behind the jars? Well, when one at Paradis was full, my Memére went to collect the contents for the sake of my surmounting medical bills. I’d heard she had some problems getting it at first because people knew who brought the cans initially.
What was worse is that when Shawn and Tony informed me of my grandmother’s gathering of the currency, I got mad. “Why the hell would she go and do such a thing? And that’s nice to know that they would just hand over the change to anyone claiming to be my Memére like that!” Everyone knew everyone up there, so that shouldn’t have shocked me so much.
Whose right is it to take from me like that? Tony and Shawn said she had taken the money for the aforementioned bills, but I had assumed the fund was for continuously paying my recurring typical bills like my cell phone, and for things in which to keep me preoccupied.
I know now that I was wrong (and incredibly selfish), but the moody side of Jamie reared its ugly head, and I was soon going to talk to my Dad about the matter.
I decided to wait until the next day when I was calmer (a thing I rarely did) and instead blew off the steam by catching up with the guys. We eventually took Mitch’s camera out and began to take the worst selfies imaginable.
I crashed on the couch that night, feeling like a stranger in my own apartment. As I stared at the ceiling, I found that my perception of things, mostly life in general, had already begun to shift. But, I was home, and now, I just wanted to enjoy everyone’s company.
The next day, as I drove back to Dad’s house, I thought of the recent spaghetti feed they threw to help with medical bills at the nearby snowmobile club, the Sly Brook Sno Riders. They always did great work there for people in need.
I had wished I were able to make an appearance. It would have been a nice way to boost the earnings for that event. But why would he need this money too? I mean, I’m eighteen; can’t I make decisions regarding my own life? Plus, they made around $1,200 that night, so that’s good enough, right?
When I had arrived at his house, I was ready to yell, to scream at him for the theft of my income. I came back home and asked him why Memére took the jar. God bless him, he got upset, but he reserved himself in that moment. Honestly, I think he was in awe that I would ask such a question.
“The money was for your medical bills. My insurance only pays for eighty percent you know!” I suddenly fell silent. How much was all of this costing, anyway? Before I could ask, he fetched a bill from his usual kitchen table of strewn bills. He used to sit in front of those bills, head in hands struggling to figure them all out for the month. He never showed his frustration and always made us comfortable.
He unfolded the trifold and revealed the amount paid by the insurance. At that time, only a mere forty-two days into treatment, and with only two courses of chemo (albeit the stronger rounds) under my belt; buttloads of saline, meds, meals, etc. the insurance had paid it’s 80%:
$600k plus. And I thought Six hundred was a lot of money.
That was EIGHTY PERCENT of the overall cost…. FORTY-TWO DAYS IN! Just think how much my Dad had to shell out? At that point, it was around 750k total. That means he was looking at $150 large for his 20%. That’s insane, and I felt myself droop into a puddle of worthless matter.
To my Dad’s credit, he never asked for the money I had already collected. But I let him take the rest from that point on.
“You’re right, Dad. The rest of the money is on you and Memere. I’m sorry for taking what I did, I just needed to cover my bills, and buy stuff for me to do. It’s boring in the hospital, and I desperately need something.”
As I spoke, the guilt inside of me grew like a cancerous tumor. I pictured what people would have thought of me at that moment– if they knew how I was using the money. To me, I still had believed that was a valid use of it, but it may not be construed that way to others.
At least I understood my Dad’s point of view now.
This is an ongoing story of my personal battle with Cancer. My hope is that it helps others who are currently experiencing their own battles (whether it be for themselves or a loved one) or to help with early detection.
The way I’m doing it is terrifying for a writer. I’m writing a publically available first-draft outline for an eventual book, chapter by chapter in weekly form. The only reason I’m doing it this way is to get the story out as soon as possible for someone out there who needs a survivor to visit them during their own treatment. If you’re reading this and need someone to talk to, tweet at me and I’ll give you a call. No questions asked. This story is for you and I’ll help any way that I can.
Stay tuned, as I will be posting a new chapter every Monday until the story is complete.
And remember if you experience any Anemic symptoms– get checked for Leukemia as well.