Wednesday, August 26, 2009


I went to sleep with the news of Ted Kennedy's death. And I found out this morning that one of my high school classmates has died of melanoma.

Another classmate/friend mentioned his death on her Facebook page. I left a question mark; she messaged me about him.

Later she messaged me again, because she thought I’d want to know more. He died of metastasis into his brain.

This is one of my most paralyzing fears. I’m trembling as I write this. I don’t remember him, except for his name. I don’t know if our paths ever crossed when we were fifteen, sixteen, seventeen. I looked him up on Google, and discovered he was an artist. Here’s his homepage.

I remember his name, but nothing about him specifically. I couldn’t tell you what he looked like, what his interests were then. Nothing. And we would have been very different people, then and now.

Different, except for disease. Mine was caught before it could spread. I live with the fear of recurrence, at such a time when I don’t have health insurance. (I am still covered now. I don’t know how long I’ll be able to be.) But in the moment, I am healthy.

The artists I know are self-employed. They’re covered through state assistance, if they’re covered at all. I don’t know what his situation was.

People kept telling me I was young to get it. Pat was my age. He fought longer, and he died.

My doctor told me, melanoma breaks the rules. I had a growth for more than two years before it was diagnosed as cancerous. I had access to a dermatologist; I was worried about it, I went. I’d been playing with it in class, and having it bleed, for the previous year and a half. (I’d been told by a dermatology resident that it was some innocuous something, in January 2006. I was diagnosed with melanoma in April 2008.) And I still will never know how lucky I was to have listened to my own intuition, and to have this caught when we did. I don’t know what Pat’s first sign was, or how he dealt with it. I don’t know why he died, and I live. I certainly wasn’t vigilant, until I knew I had to be. And I had access to care all along.

It’s quite easy to have a skin lesion in a place you don’t see. How often do you look at your back? Would you even know what to look for? Mine was on the back of my ear. I couldn’t actually see it. If you don’t think you need a doctor, or you can’t afford it, you don’t go.

I was listening to an NPR interview with T.R. Reid this morning, from a few days ago. He said that we have parts of three major health care systems in the US already: the UK, Canadian, and Japanese. And he said that if you don’t have insurance, don’t qualify for assistance or can’t pay out of pocket, “you live in Malawi. You stay sick, or you die.”

This is the greatest fear I have. Not being sick, and not dying for its own sake. Knowing the care I could have had if I had access to it, and dying because I couldn’t get treatment, or I waited too long.

Pray for the soul of Patrick Federmeyer. And work for universal health care in this country.


Anonymous said...

Patrick was my friend. Though I only knew him a few years, In that time I discovered he was a good person and a fun person to be around. He certainly did not deserve to die and will be greatly missed.

Kirstin said...

Hi Anonymous,

Thank you. Feel free to tell about him, if you'd like.

it's margaret said...

Kirstin. I love you.

Wormwood's Doxy said...


I can only imagine how this rocked your world. I'll pray for Patrick and for you.

I am reminded of that quote from Mother Jones: "Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living." That's what I intend to do--in the name of Patrick, and Terri-Lynn, and all of those who were struck down too early.


Kirstin said...

Margaret, I love you too.

(((Doxy))) Keep fighting.

Anonymous said...

Hi there - I knew Patrick, my husband was a good friend though they had fallen somewhat out of touch as so many of us do. Pat was diagnosed 3-4 years (?) ago, went through treatment, and then 4-6 months ago it came back. He was going through treatment, but it had metastasized to his brain, among other areas from what I heard.

He did NOT have healthcare, and getting treatment was put off while he worked his way around the public assistance crazines, again from what I heard. Another good friend of mine has lung cancer and spoke to him more often than myself to check in and see where she could help. I don't know if getting in sooner would have helped him or if this still would have happened.

Thanks for your plea for universal healthcare. It shouldn't have even been something he had to deal with at this point in his journey, but he did. Maybe if he had had healthcare he would have had more checkups/scans, would have known sooner what was happening in his body.

Good luck and good health to you.

Rani said...

Hi Kirsten, we went to high school together, but graduated different years. I knew Pat and was so saddened by his death. I was relieved to read in your blog that you also shared the same concerns that I had/have... about Pat's health care coverage, him being an artist. For more than a dozen years, I lived abroad in Japan and France where there is socialized health care and I can't tell you how much of a relief it was just to have that. Now that I'm in the U.S., it's a constant concern. And as much as people might express fears about that type of health care system, I think they can't be doing so badly when the average Japanese woman has the longest life expectancy in the world and the French woman has the longest in Europe. Health care isn't everything, but I think it doesn't hurt. Thanks for your posting! I hope you remain healthy!

Kirstin said...

Anonymous and Rani, thank you both. I finished interferon in June, and am getting my energy back in fits and starts. There is nothing I care about more, than securing universal coverage. No one should die because they're not deemed worthy of care.

Rani, if you come back to this, e-mail me. (I'd just like to figure out if I know you.)

Anonymous said...

I am Patricks father.
My name is Bernie and Patricks Mom is Erika.
I found your blog while looking for anything that was on the net about out beloved son.
Everything that all have posted about Pat are what Pat stood for.
His mother and I were always proud of what Pat had accomplished in his short life and we miss him more than can be expressed in words.
Pat did live his life to the fullest and we are greatful for that, even though we on many accasions were in fear of his decisions he managed to pull them off with grandure.
I understand that you are also fighting the battle and Erika and I will keep you in our thoughts and prayers.
Thank you and all of the others that have remembered Patrick.

Bernie and Erika Federmeyer

sharecropper said...

Kirstin, the health care bill passed the Senate this morning, but I'm not sure that it will help those without insurance or even those with insurance. I was waiting for the doctor yesterday when his nurse told him he had to write a letter to the insurance company detailing this man's history and why he needed this particular medicine before they would pay. And, he had to do this every month. Coverage may expand, but how are we to allow our doctors to do their work? I pray for you and all those like you and Patrick.