Life’s small problems pale in comparison to others’

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I got food poisoning from a local restaurant last week.

The next day, my new Orlando Sentinel laptop quit while I was working at home and recuperating. I watched it falter and stagger for an afternoon and then go black. This meant that I got to drive to Orlando — still fighting the remnants of the chicken salad that nailed me — to explain the sudden death and to get another computer.

In the evening, I was wrestling with new garage-door clickers in a frustrating attempt to make them actually open the door when my daughter pointed out a flat tire on the rear of my car. Turns out I needed two new tires.

Just shoot me.

I took a deep breath and sat down to the (new) computer.

Zing! Randi Pelton's e-mail dropped into my lap, and I felt an immediate pang of guilt. My troubles listed above? Mere annoyances, all.

Randi is the lady who had to wait nearly four months to have breast cancer removed because she had no insurance and couldn't find a surgeon who would take payments from her. Randi has a small licensed day-care in her home, and that's how she pays her bills. The money isn't good enough to have insurance.

Finally, WeCare of Lake County, which helps people who don't have insurance and can't afford surgery, arranged for a volunteer doctor to treat her. God bless those physicians who contribute their time and skill to helping folks who otherwise would go without treatment.

The surgery was at the beginning of February, and Randi is recovering and steeling herself for chemotherapy treatments.

Her e-mail to me was a plea for work.

Randi can't do anything physical right now, so she can't go back to watching small kids, who always seem to need picked up and snuggled. And she would have to work around the exhaustion or illness her treatments are expected to cause after they start on March 18.

But she desperately needs work to buy groceries, pay the mortgage and meet the bills. Her children held a benefit flea market for her during the weekend to raise cash for her living expenses. They came up with $3,300, thanks to the kindness of many readers who dropped off items to sell.

Randi is behind on the mortgage and is hoping to use a chunk of that money to get caught up on it and on the bills. She needs some for medicines, too. She'll get through the month. The kids help her some, but they have families and bills of their own.

Years ago, Randi, 59, was a secretary in the personnel department of a data company in Minnesota. She is trained to do clerical work and can do basic bookkeeping and billing. She has a computer and a small home office.

"I would do anything clerical — anything that doesn't take lifting," she said. "I have this thing — I don't settle for imperfection. I tend to review and make sure things are perfect."

Her computer has become both Randi's best friend and her worst enemy.

She hopes to earn a living using her computer, but during these days of recovery from her surgery, she can't resist researching her type of cancer and the medicines she'll be taking. The horror stories are driving her batty and the kids are urging her to stay away from the Internet.

"I'm terrified of everything but once I get there and it's done, it's not as bad as I thought," she said.

Still, Randi is worrying about the imminent chemotherapy. Doctors have told her it will take four months, and the first two — the time she'll be taking the strongest drugs — will be the worst. She'll lose her hair and likely be exhausted.

"I don't care about my hair — I just want to be alive for my granddaughters. Hair is just hair," she said. "It's a very small price to pay."

She's looking forward to finding work to keep her busy and make her "feel normal" during her treatments.

Anybody out there have a company that needs some work done on a flexible schedule? Randi would be grateful. She can be reached at gangan45@comcast.net or at 352-728-3680.

Lauren Ritchie can be reached at Lritchie@orlandosentinel.com You may leave her a message at 352-742-5918. Her blog is online at http://www.orlandosentinel.com/laurenonlake

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