Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Saturday, January 18, 2014

No Man An Island

"I'm flabbergasted. To think so many people would offer to help someone who is not their kin, not their blood..."
"Duct tape and Tylenol. That's my medical care. I hate the doctors."
"Each day I'd jot something down that I thought was humorous. It was the only way I could keep my spirits up."
"I know my body. I know the cancer is spreading."
"Some people I just know that I can't accept their help. I said to one woman that just that thought that you're responding to someone you've never even met shows how beautiful you are. I said, 'Think about that the next time you look in the mirror.' Then I told her God bless -- I'm not really religious myself, but I could tell she was and I thought that's what I should say."
Scott Murray, Ottawa
Reluctant panhandler Scott Murray ‘flabbergasted’ by strangers’ kindness  Scott Murray spent most of Friday at his computer answering emails from people who want to help him.   Photograph by: Cole Burston , Ottawa Citizen

He appears to be alone in this world. Reliant on his own devices to get along. Once he was self-reliant as a mid-level bureaucrat with a stable, well-remunerated job. He worked for ten years as an import-export inspector. And that's when, in 2004, the cancer that now consumes his body was diagnosed for the first time. He underwent all the trials that people struggling to cope with that dread disease are exposed to, and when the cancer had gone into remission, he returned to his work.

Not originally from Ottawa, he has lived there for the last few decades, and at age 52 is now unable to do much of anything but persevere, endure, and look after himself as best he can. Himself and his cat Smokey. The non-Hodgkins lymphoma that had surfaced in 2004 returned a few years later, and he underwent treatment once again. And took up his life where it had temporarily been left, during the treatment to rid him of that miserable ailment.

But when it proved so stubborn that it returned for a third time, he decided that treatment at the hospital nearby his apartment was no longer worth the effort. After two and a half months of treatment, interacting with medical personnel and taking anti-cancer drugs, he called it finis. The deciding factor, he explained, was that he could no longer afford the medication. This, despite that he has a drug plan through his former government employment that pays the lion's share of the cost.

He lives on a disability pension of $1000 a month, which he says is precisely what he pays for his apartment rental. He also receives other benefits to the tune of $500 monthly, and that sum is required for all other expenses, inclusive of medication. He has found himself in arrears of his drug payments from time to time, and an understanding local pharmacist has given him leeway to run up his bills, in the knowledge that he always, somehow or other, makes good.

One day, looking in his refrigerator he found its yawning maw resembling the Arctic: white, cold, and nothing sustainable within in. He was hungry, and his cat was hungry. His cancer is no longer in remission and this time it means business. He's bald, his teeth are rotten with what he calls "meth mouth", a side effect of the cancer drugs. He is pencil thin,  and has "just about zero" energy, getting about as well as he can with the aid of a walker.

He decided he would do something completely unorthodox to his personality and his way of thinking about himself. He composed a message on a small poster that read: "Cancer patient just need some food and milk please and thank you", and stood with it at the entrance of a nearby shopping mall, stationed there with his walker, holding a cup. He gathered together in the two hours he stood there, the sum of $60.

Each time someone deposited a contribution in his cup he raised his head, looked at them, and softly thanked them as they moved on. "I had a list of what I needed and as soon as I saw I had enough I went and bought food." He bought some staples and some cat food. After a few days had passed he repeated the exercise in personal abasement. And the second time his appeal raised $40.

He felt very grateful to the fact that complete strangers felt compassion for his plight. Which led to his writing a note to the local newspaper, expressing his gratitude. The letter elicited interest from the newspaper who dispatched a reporter to speak with him and gather details for a public interest story. That story was published, and it elicited a storm of compassionate response from the reading public.

The reporter acted as a go-between, but an email address was published for those wishing to contact Mr. Murray directly. And he has since been kept busy responding to the emails. He has also received indirect messages through the medium of the reporter who had experienced his own rush of responses with members of the public telephoning him to convey their interest in helping Mr. Murray.

With the offers of assistance to aid him to be able to purchase enough food to maintain his precarious state of health, he has been given the gift of hope and gratitude, both of which he is eager to forward on to his benefactors and to society at large, to inform the society in which he lives that he is charmed beyond mere words at the care of strangers.

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