A friend of mine from Philadelphia visited me in the Finger Lakes during over Memorial Day weekend. He is a survivor of bladder and prostate cancer.
At our age, any discussion we have about our mortality is pretty casual. He asked me a question: “Spencer, if you had a choice to know how you will die or when, which would you choose?” My answer was when.
Unfortunately, due to a miserable hand she was dealt in life, Christine Cirre, 38, of Seneca Falls is in the unusual position of knowing the answer to both how and when.
She was diagnosed last October with a rare form of cervical cancer that has metastasized to other parts of her body, including the liver. She was given six months to live, and though it is now eight months later, it is hardly a new lease on life.
A recent examination revealed she has less than one month. When I talked to her a few days ago, her temperature was consistently over 100 degrees, she felt a bit delirious at times, and she feared her organs were beginning to shut down. She had to be taken by ambulance to a facility in Greece. Her symptoms have stabilized, and she expects to be back home soon.
Fortunately, she has a pump surgically placed to provide pain relief by the drug Dilaudid, which is approximately five times more potent than morphine. It can effect breathing so she also has an oxygen tank nearby. After one early round of chemo it was stopped as it appeared there was no benefit from it.
Christine has lived a difficult life from the get go. It involved being sexually and physically abused in her youth, resulting in her placement in a group home. She has been treated for mental illness issues. In high school she was a very good student but gave birth to her first of four children at age 16, forcing her to drop out. She went on to earn her GED. All the kids have been adopted except the oldest at age 22 who lives on her own and is expecting Christine’s first grandchild in September.
Why write this story about Christine and put all this personal stuff out there? Her family reached out to the Finger Lakes Times to see if we could assist in finding funds to help pay for Christine’s cremation.
Now living with her mom, who is providing hospice care, both only have income from Social Security totaling $800 each a month. Her husband of nine years is unemployed after stopping work to initially care for his wife. He is a restaurant worker.
In what may be an extension of a column from two weeks ago, one’s life journey may be impacted by the situation one’s parents are in at birth. Many like Christine who are born into a low income situations face immense challenges trying to rise above poverty issues and go on to thrive.
When employed Christine worked in the restaurant business as a waitress and cook. She also makes jewelry that she sells online and at farmers’ markets.
She went to school in Palmyra and spent considerable time in Wayne County in the town of Ontario but for quite a few years now has lived in Seneca Falls.
It was a year before being diagnosed that she began experiencing pain. Doctors kept thinking it might be a urinary tract infection. She complained often but felt ignored. It wasn’t until a CAT scan was finally done that a large mass was discovered. Those wondering about her insurance status can know that it is good. She has Medicaid and an additional supplemental Blue Choice option. They do not cover funeral costs, however.
Christine often wonders “Why me?” but for the most part tries to be upbeat.
I will admit that interviewing someone on the precipice of death is nothing short of strange. I apologized for asking anything that might be uncomfortable, but she assured me it was okay.
It has been a tough year considering she also was dealing with the coronavirus pandemic going on around her. If she had contracted the virus it likely would have meant certain death.
Christine was raised a Baptist and does pray to God. It provides her peace and helps her deal with the situation. At certain times when alone she has a good cry.
On May 29 Christine turned 38. A party was held for her where a basket raffle was organized to help raise funds for her cremation. Some of them are pictured prior to the raffle.
Her life was been far from perfect and she does have some regrets. But regardless, I hope others will join me in helping and supporting Christine so she can leave this Earth with some dignity.
I read the following line a few years ago: Being born is a death sentence. Few things are more true. But for most, their lives will extend longer than Christine’s, long enough to be far more fulfilling.
Feel free to drop off or send a donation to:
Finger Lakes Times
218 Genesee St., Geneva, NY 14456.
(Checks should be made out to Christine Cirre)