The Government Knows Much

Last month I received a fat business-sized envelope from the state of Illinois. The address was 100 W. Randolph and for a second I thought that it was from the Illinois Arts Council, containing a complaint about my writing the year I had an arts council fellowship. I know, I'm self-centered and paranoid.

It was from the Department of Public Health, and included a gift bag! (Congratulations, you have cancer. Here's a free gift!) It's an 8-1/2-inch square beige bag with a big pink ribbon printed in the center. On the top it says, SHOW YOU CARE. Underneath the ribbon it says, BE AWARE. All I can say is How and How? And what do you put in such a small bag?

Forgot to mention that the handles are pink.

There was a letter enclosed from the state director of public health that described a University of Illinois at Chicago study on breast cancer. "(e)ach woman has a unique story to tell about her diagnosis and treatment," he said. Would I participate in the study? The group is trying to get a handle on why African-American and Latina women have a lower incidence of breast cancer but are more likely to die of it. (I can tell you--minorities generally earn less, and thus have poor access to health insurance and good medical care.) The study also looks at the patient's social environment, delay in seeking treatment and type of treatment.

Today a girl came to my house and interviewed me. I was diappointed that all the questions were fill-in-the-blank, multiple choice or true/false. What about my unique story? Oh, I guess that's what this blog is for. The questions centered on my diagnosis, medical treatment, confidence in my doctors, my emotional support, the safety and resources of my neighborhood, my civic involvement. It took about an hour and a half and I got $100 in cash.

Why do I think this study won't do anything? I suppose it can bolster someone's lobbying efforts for more money for underserved communities. And that's good.

One of the questions was, If there was a fight outside, would my neighbors try to stop it? I said no, because we would call the police. Is calling the police stopping it? I assumed the question meant physically stepping in. There were questions about gang violence, graffiti, drinking in public. This is a relatively safe neighborhood, but because of the nearby bars and oh, that baseball stadium a block away, there is public intoxication. And loudness. Another question.

Today I received a post card from the district police office. It said that on March 30, my car was observed "with personal property clearly visible. In an effort to reduce theft...,we are asking that in the future, please secure personal property out of sight...." That must have been the night I left my cell phone on the front seat. I think this message is odd, and sweet.

The post card mentioned nothing about my breast cancer.