Pinky Pie

The Civil War, Chemo & Me

Posted on: October 8, 2009

General Sue reporting for duty

General Sue reporting for duty

Here’s a question for you: With all those Civil War re-enactors out there, isn’t there someone I might hire to take my place in my own personal civil war battle today? This person wouldn’t have to come on a mighty stead in full uniform, although that might shake up the cancer center and be a lot of fun.

Yes, chemotherapy is a bit like having a battle between the good cells inside and the insidious invading army right inside your body. Depending upon whether you grew up north or south of the Mason-Dixon line, how you define the invaders and the valiant defenders might be different. I, of course, want to preserve the Union, both inside my body and the country as a whole.

In the American Civil War, you really could pay someone to take your place if you were drafted or pay a $300 “commutation” fee to get out of it, which was a more legal way of evading the draft.

In fact, such payments were so prevalent that it was estimated that only 6 percent of men whose names were drawn in drafts in New York actually served.  In Wisconsin, one 1863 draft netted only 628 soldiers out of the 14,955 men called to service. Instead, 252 hired substitutes and 5,081 paid a $300 commutation fee, a legal way to evade the draft. Others simply didn’t show up or got out of it in other ways – including just not showing up.

In my own civil war, some, like doctors, might argue that chemotherapy would not be nearly as effective in a substitute than the person in whom the battle is actually occurring. To them, I say, picky. picky.

Also, I’m not sure if our health insurance company would pay the $300 commutation fee. That fee might be higher than “prevailing health cost data” or whatever standard they use for paying less on my medical care.

So I’ll be General Sue, get on the stead myself and go to chemo today. After, all it takes a real woman to take chemo AND radiation. I am that woman.

Why the Civil War? Beats me.

But I was absolutely nuts about the Civil War as a kid. It didn’t hurt that I was barely 9 years old in 1961 when the war’s centennial celebration occurred. Much of the country was reliving that period in our history, although not with the same level of appreciation for the events in the South as in the North.

We lived in Missouri – a border state that voted to stay with the union. And our sentiments as a family were decidedly Northern. I also was one self-righteous little girl, one who believed in civil rights.

Although our family is Jewish, we were very excited about the first Catholic president, John F. Kennedy. Maybe he offered hope that there one day there could even be a Jewish president.

We were very Kennedy-minded, even having “The First Family” comedy albums that were very popular until his assassination. Suddenly, the albums were very unfunny.

I have another memory of the Kennedy administration – a time when our family switched to margarine, believing it was better for the heart. However, when I asked my mom to pass the margarine one night at dinner, she corrected me. “If President Kennedy came to dinner, we wouldn’t want him to think we served margarine. Just ask to pass the butter.”

We had big discussions about world events at dinner, including the Civil War. Our family even traveled through the South on vacation one summer visiting battlefields. On that family trip, we saw segregated restrooms in Mississippi, something that I saw as very wrong. As I said, I was a self righteous little girl.

That little girl has grown up to be battle ready. Pass the butter, I’ll report for chemo duty today as ordered.


2 Responses to "The Civil War, Chemo & Me"

Battle on, mama!

Dear Sue,

I am with you. My daughter, Laurie, went through this chemo stuff three years ago (and after she had lost her husband!). It was toooough, but she’s doing well now. My other daughter, Mary, had the worst of chemo, but I held her tight and she, too, got through it.
I have a hunch lots of people are “holding you tight.”


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