When people hear the term stepmother they often add the word evil before it. Ever since the days of Snow White and Cinderella do we associate stepmothers with being wicked. My second stepmother was far from any of those stereotypes. She was the most caring and generous person you could want to know. Paula was part of my life for more 16 of my nearly 30 years and passed away this morning at the age of 66. She always trusted me and treated me as an equal and was totally accepting of my coming out and I think helped others along the path towards my acceptance. She understood that being gay is not a choice but a true personality trait.
Paula was a respiratory therapist at the local community hospital for decades. In total, she worked at Warren General Hospital (Warren, PA) for 34 and 1/2 years until her hereditary back pain condition got the better of her. She spent her life helping others in an altruistic manner, giving her patients quality care and helping them to preserve their dignity in times of peril. She was never one to shirk duty or responsibility.
Paula was not one to complain openly about the pain she experienced daily. She lived through it and provided for me a role model to follow when I developed my debilitating facial pain condition. Whether I knew it or not at the time, her sheer determination to not let the pain keep her down had an impact on me. Being fixated on a chronic pain condition will get you nowhere. Yes, you have to live with it, but also through it. It may just be a trait of those in her generation, I do not know.
There are several things I will remember most about Paula: her obsession with cleaning; her constant washing of laundry; her complaining about my dad not putting things away like his keys after work; her love of her cat and dogs; her constant worrying; and her calling my dad an asshole. There were happy and sad times but we always seemed to get through them. She doted on her cat, Honey, and their two dogs, Chi-Chi and Cloie. I will always be reminded by her insistence that Chi-Chi was her dog. Yes, they had his and hers dogs.
2 and 1/2 years ago, Paula contracted an rare form of kidney disease. It was basically an autoimmune disorder in which the kidneys are attacked by the white blood cells of the body. The body’s defense mechanisms killed her kidneys. Since this could not be stopped by the traditional means of immune system suppression, it led to her requiring dialysis. She survived those few precious years on paretoneal dialysis four times daily at home. I never heard her complain about the repetition of this vital task. That is part of who she was.
Paula Darleen Phillips Rodgers Cable is survived by a daughter, granddaughter, aunt, husband (my father), and step-child (me). She was preceded in death by her first husband, George of 30 years, her mother, a son-in-law, and a half-brother. Our sincere thoughts and prayers go out to her family and friends. We are comforted, though, by the fact that she is no longer suffering and that she is now reunited with those in Heaven whom have passed before her.
I know that people like to send flowers, gift baskets, and such at the time of someone’s death. Please, save your money. If you want to do anything, I would suggest a small donation to the National Kidney Foundation [site] [CharityNavigator rating] or the American Kidney Fund [site] [CharityNavigator rating]. You can also leave your condolences via my contact form or via the toll-free number (if in the US or Canada) at 877-272-5848 ext. 1. I will share your responses with my family.
We can only hope that better forms of early diagnosis and treatment may be found for kidney disease. Dialysis and transplantation are, frankly, both grim realities. For my stepmom’s condition the only treatment was to give her massive doses of prednisone to shut down the immune system so that her it would stop attacking her kidneys. If there had only been a better treatment option and testing for her type of kidney disease…
We must put research money into finding cures for autoimmune conditions. Yes, better treatments are available for the money making diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, but not these lesser known types of illnesses such as chronic kidney disease and my trigeminal neuralgia. Stem cell therapy needs to be researched along with possibility of treating these problems with some of the newer drugs. The main problem with testing the “biologics” or any other types of drugs is that if they do not work, the patient ends up with zero kidney function.
Paula was a loving and caring individual. She constantly worried about the safety of others. She supported me in many ways while I was growing up. Paula is now at peace. She is with her maker in a place without back pain and without kidney disease and all its complications.