Flori won the hearts of all who knew her. In her memory, we search for answers to preventable deaths from cervical cancer.
Now into the second week of chemo and radiation. The first 7 days were hard to watch. Despite attempts at every medication we could think of, Flori vomited continuously. The nurses at Flower Hospital would give her extra IV fluids before her treatments and we'd keep the IV going over the weekend at our house. She could barely stand and would ask me if we could do another "test" to see if the cancer was gone so that she could stop these treatments. As I watched all this, I'd pray to God to bring her complete healing so that her suffering was not in vain. Finally, with input from all her wonderful nurses and docotrs, we came up with a new medication that has now worked! As it is extremely expensive, Dr. Phibb's physician assistant, Cheryl, was kind enough to find this for us for at least the next two weeks and I have faith that we'll be able to keep her on it .
While she struggles with great loneliness for her family and fear of the unknown, there is now an occasional smile. She has a tremendous sense of humor which is nice to see again! Best of all, she looks forward to eating and since my mom loves to feed people, this is a win-win for all!! I can't say enough about my mom's great compassion and selflessness in caring for Flori. Without any understanding of Spanish, she seems to always know what Flori needs and she cares for her as if she was her own daughter. Although countless people have helped in so many ways, it is comforting to have at least one consistent person there for her each day.
Flori is just one little person in a world of great suffering. How she came to actually be here with at least a chance of survival is a miracle. I believe that God is using her to open our eyes to the realities of great injustice. Her story is the same one heard in the cries of the poor every day. We live in a time of the greatest wealth this world has ever known, yet the gap between those of us who "get it all" and those who get nothing widens every day. While her individual situation is unique, it reflects so many issues surrounding the 2 great great co-morbidities; poverty and disease. Why does a 27 year old woman even get cervical cancer at this advanced stage? We know that her lack of adequate nutrition, her impoverished lifestyle and a lack of a functioning health system in her country are the root causes. Flori told me that she received a "normal pap smear" 2 years ago. As a gynecologist, I know that's not even possible. But in her country, there is one pathologist for more than a million people. So who's to blame? Surely not the person who "performed" the pap. The blame lies in a world that allows this situation to exist. Yes, the issues are endlessly complex but if each one of us would do SOMETHING each day to address this great wrongdoing, I believe it could be different. Sr. Pam, one of our board members, often reflects that God puts the person that He wants you to care for in your path. You don't have to work hard to "find" out how you can help. If you open your eyes, there is poverty of all kinds all around us. In "Mountains Beyond Mountains", Dr. Paul Farmer tries to answer the question of why God "permits" great suffering. God gives but doesn't share. He gives our world everything we all need to flourish but he charges all of us to "divvy up the loot". Dr. Farmer reminds us of the words of Jesus in Matthew 25. "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I was sick and you looked afer me, I was in prison and you came to visit me...whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."
Unfortunately, our world ruins this message anby debating about which church, which religion, which "truth" is right. For me, it seems pretty simple. Flori has been here for 18 days. In that time, I really am experiencing heaven on earth. I watch people of all different ages, talents, income levels and religions come together for a cause of just helping one person; of just doing exactly what God asks of us in Matthew. There is no money to be made on this effort and Flori is not in any of our "families". She's just a poor person in the family of God who is in great need right now. Every day, I am witnessing so much joy, happiness and peace in everyone involved in her life at this moment. While the ultimate outcome of her life will be decided by a much Higher Power that I cannot even begin to understand, I believe that the goodness of all who are involved will have far reaching effects to bring healing to many more than just Flori.