Days of Hurricane Ivan

Our talk became a catharsis of our souls. Being in a safe place after surviving a cataclysmic storm was a microcosm of both our recent lives. That night was a time and place for sharing deeply personal stories.

Brenda told me the details of her cancer and breakup with her ex-husband. She had married shortly after high-school and had a son now in his late teens. Her ex-husband was a heavy drinker and occasionally abusive, but he did have a decent job with good family medical insurance coverage.

Just over one year earlier she and her husband separated and they both wanted a divorce. Her son was staying with her husband by that time and neither wanted anything to do with her. She had moved into a mobile home and found a job, but her job didn’t offer health insurance. Then she found out she had cancer and everything changed.

The doctors told her that her cancer was far-advanced and she would need to have one breast removed at a minimum, along with radiation and extensive chemotherapy. Even with all that, their prognosis for her recovery was grim.

The only way she could cover her medical bills was by staying married so her husband’s medical insurance would cover her. She knew that no health insurance company would take her as a new policyholder while she had active cancer. Without the insurance she couldn’t receive the urgent extensive medical care to have even a chance at surviving her cancer.

When her husband found out she had cancer he pushed for an immediate divorce, even knowing that she needed his medical coverage to survive. Brenda had to fight the divorce while fighting her cancer.

During the nearly year-long therapy she was mostly alone in her mobile home. She had her one breast removed, received radiation therapy and then extensive chemotherapy. Neither her husband nor son would help get her to medical appointments so she relied upon friends. She had to quit work due to the amount of time her therapy and post-chemo sickness was taking up. She survived on public assistance and needed more help from friends to manage the government bureaucracy.

Her doctors finally declared her cancer in remission and Brenda became well enough to start getting on with her life. She finalized her divorce and just a week prior had landed a good job with an Orange Beach accounting office. The job offered health insurance which was a very big deal.

She had thought that she was getting back on her feet again, but now was wondering if the belongings packed in her late-model van sitting in my driveway represented everything she still owned.

She hadn’t been with a man since before her cancer was discovered and was looking forward to getting back out into the singles scene again. She shared her worries about finding a man who would still consider her attractive now that she was so “disfigured” with a missing breast.

I talked about my first marriage and my ex-wife, and about my divorce. I talked a lot about my courtship with Winnie, worries over our new marriage with hopes for our future, and frustrations over obtaining her visa.

We shared some very intimate stories and we talked a long time. Finally, we realized it was late and we were out of wine. We picked up the supper dishes, moved back inside the house, and Brenda helped me clean up the kitchen.

I knew we could go a lot further that night than just talk, but I wouldn’t. I thought of Winnie earlier that day on video chat, telling me that I should make Brenda some food. My wife was half a planet away and yet the first thing she did was offer hospitality to an attractive woman sharing her husband’s house. It might sound quaint, but I cherished Winnie’s trust and knew I would be facing her on-line in just a few hours.

So I said “good night” to Brenda, went to my room, and slept.

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