RobbDogg's Rips

Serving the online community to bring awareness to political and social issues affecting Liberals and Progressives. Podcasts are posted every Monday morning and original commentaries are posted throughout the week.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Latest Commentary For Radio News America

This is my latest commentary that will appear on the Radio News America web site later today. Instead of doing a hatchet job on those who conspired to hurt Andy Stephenson, I elected to write something a little more tasteful in his honor.

The hatchet job I really wanted to do will be posted on my blog in the very near future, and I won't pull any punches or edit out the vulgar language. I promise!

Andy Stephenson – A Real American Hero

Original commentary by Robbie Michaels
Radio News America - July 11th, 2005

When I heard the news Friday afternoon that Andy Stephenson lost his battle with pancreatic cancer, I cried my eyes out. Although I never met him personally, I lost someone I looked up to as a hero. It was painful for me to read about the circumstances of his death because it made me relive my mother’s battle with pancreatic cancer.

I probably took the news just as hard as his family and friends, because the wounds from this disease cut very deep into your soul. But those wounds are nothing compared to the stories I heard about the circumstances of Andy’s illness, treatment, and resulting death.

At about the same time I got word of his passing Friday afternoon, I heard whispers of sabotage, deceit, and of unadulterated hatred of this wonderful man. I found this very disturbing, and I needed to know everything that happened to him and why.

When I sat down Saturday night to begin writing this commentary, my mind was full of questions. Was the medical treatment Andy received adequate? Who delayed his surgery, and why? Who had the callousness to accuse him of faking a life-threatening illness? I had to search for the truth, regardless how much it would hurt to learn those answers.

So where do we begin our quest? Before we get to that, I feel it’s necessary for all of you to learn a little more about pancreatic cancer. I want you to understand how formidable a foe Andy fought during the past seven months, and you will see why I’m so angry at those wingnuts.

Pancreatic Cancer & Andy’s Battle Against It

Although it is the fourth leading cause of cancer death in the United States, the mortality rate of pancreatic cancer is among the highest. Even with today's technology, there is still no test to diagnose this disease in its earliest stages. In most cases, patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer suffer symptoms only after it has metastasized, or spread throughout your body to other vital organs. If this happens, your survival rate after five years is less than 3 percent.

However, in some cases the disease is locoregional, or localized in the pancreas. Those who have this diagnosis have over a 20% chance of survival thanks to a surgery called the Whipple procedure. This surgery removes the gallbladder, common bile duct, part of the duodenum, and the head of the pancreas. Once the patient recovers, he or she will undergo approximately eight weeks of chemotherapy and radiation treatment to increase the chances of the cancer going into remission.

I am not familiar with Andy’s medical records, but it is safe to say that based on the information on his web site, his cancer was locoregional and he had a good chance for a complete recovery. But because an individual or an organization contacted PayPal and had his personal account suspended, Andy missed the deadline to pay for his surgery on May 12 and waited an additional two weeks for the operation.

Did Accusers Play A Role In Andy’s Death?

The events that took place leading up to May 12th leave one question unanswered: Did Andy Stephenson’s accusers play a role in his death?

It’s possible we may never know for sure. Pancreatic cancer is a very aggressive form of cancer that could easily spread throughout the body through the lymph nodes, aorta, stomach, and liver. If there is any delay in medical treatment, it could easily mean the difference between a fair chance of survival and a death sentence.

For instance, when my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, it was too late for her to have the Whipple procedure done. By the time it was discovered, it had already spread to various internal organs, including her aorta and lymph nodes.

With surgery no longer an option, and too weak for chemotherapy and radiation treatments, my mother transformed in a matter of weeks from walking upright without assistance to an invalid confined to a bed. Watching her rapidly waste away, lying in bed and waiting to die is something I would never wish on anyone.

What my mother endured easily could have been the same fate that awaited Andy Stephenson if he didn’t get his surgery done. But it doesn’t matter anymore if the two-week delay in Andy’s surgery would’ve made a difference in increasing his chances of survival. That’s a moot point now.

In fact, we should be concentrating our energy on finding out who contacted PayPal, told them Andy’s illness was a hoax, and forced the company, under their terms and conditions, to put a stop payment on the checks Andy received for his surgery.

I believe whoever did this destroyed Andy’s chances of a complete recovery. They not only delayed his surgery, but also unnecessarily tested his will to fight this deadly disease.

What these wingnuts did to Andy was below callousness. What they did was criminal, and I’m calling on the FBI to conduct an investigation and press charges against whoever committed this malicious act.

What You Can Do To Honor Andy Stephenson

There will come a time when we will know the names of the wingnuts responsible for this disgusting display of human compassion, and then we can take appropriate action to make sure this never happens again. When that time arrives, then we can write the final chapter in Andy’s story and let him enjoy the legacy he built with his hard work to protect our voting rights.

For now, it’s a time of mourning for Andy’s friends, loved ones, and the online community. Andy’s memorial service will be this coming Saturday, but this week we have a chance to show those closest to him the real meaning of human compassion.

Here are two things we can do in the coming days to honor Andy Stephenson:

  • Sign the petition to end the price gouging of uninsured hospital patients. I’m certain if Andy had hospital insurance, the cost of the Whipple procedure he underwent would’ve been cheaper if he didn’t have to pay cash.
  • Make a donation to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PANCAN) in Andy’s name. This organization is working with Congress and the scientific community to bring awareness to this disease, provide funding for research, and ultimately their efforts will lead to a cure. On their donation page, you also have the option of making the donation to honor Andy, and you can also have PANCAN send an acknowledgement letter to his loved ones.

If you choose that option, here’s the address Andy used, assuming it’s still available:

Andy Stephenson
P.O. Box 25624
Seattle WA 98165-1124

His Legacy Will Live On

Andy Stephenson touched our lives for a brief moment in time, but he will live forever in our hearts. The next time we sign a petition to protect our voting rights, to save Roe vs. Wade, or to ask employers to provide health insurance for same-sex couples, Andy will be there in spirit. The next time we protest in public against the government to protect the rights of the poor, Andy will be there alongside us. When we celebrate our future victories, Andy will be there, flashing that cherubic smile of his.

As you can see, Andy Stephenson's story does not begin with his candidacy for Washington Secretary of State, nor does it end with his death. We cannot tell Andy’s complete story because we have yet to help him finish writing the final chapter.

In the coming weeks, each and every one of us will get an opportunity to restore Andy’s reputation, and to assist in bringing judgment against those who, out of their hatred for all that is right in the world, conspired to hurt him. Only then will this story have a happy ending, and Andy’s soul can rest in peace.

Wherever you are, God bless you Andy Stephenson. You and your contributions to the Progressive movement will never be forgotten, and we will continue the fight in your name and honor.

"To you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high..." -- from the World War I poem “In Flanders Fields" & the motto of the Montreal Canadiens hockey team.


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