Fort Payne, AL

I met William while he was walking in the projects where he lives in Fort Payne, Alabama.

William: I was put on hospice and given six months to live. I outlived that and now they've given me two years to live. I have COPD, degenerative bone disease and a few other things. My doctor has me on 120 Percocets a month because of my pain. I asked her to cut them down by 30. 

BW: Have you ever tried anything else for pain like pot?

William: Yeah. I've tried it and it does help my pain. But they test me so I can't smoke pot. 

BW: Isn't that stupid? That's the least harmful thing you could take for pain...

Anyway... how did your health go downhill?

William: Breathing in all the cotton fibers in sock mills, is what they pinpointed it to. I fixed machines. They said because I breathed in fibers that contained rat urine and feces it affected my lungs.

BW: Has anybody helped you?

William: Not really.

BW: That doesn't seem quite fair.

William: No it doesn't. I got on disability, but they don't give much. I can't afford groceries because they say I make too much for food stamps ($700 per month). I'm wasting away to nothing.  Every now and then I feel good, and I can take a walk, but it's only a short distance.

I was raised in a foster home so I have no mom or dad. I was abandoned as a child in the projects in Buffalo, NY. By the time they found me they had to hospitalize me because they found parasites. I spent six months in the hospital. It was front page news in the Buffalo Courier Express.

BW: How old were you when they found you?

William: I was six. Back then they put milk and cheese and eggs on people's porches and that's how we would survive. We stole... I hate to say that, but I was only six. 

BW: You did what you had to do to survive. 

William: We ate a lot of garbage. We'd peel the green parts off the bologna and we'd eat it. That's what gave us the parasites. We were in very bad shape according to everybody.

When I got old enough I came down here to find my mother. When I finally found her she pulled a gun on me and said, "Look, If I wanted to see you again I would have never left." She asked me to borrow $1000. That's all I had. She took it and left... again.

BW: I'm sorry, man.

You've been diagnosed and you've been told you only have a certain amount of time to live. Have you thought about death?

William: Yeah, I hate to say it, but I've thought about suicide to stop the pain. I know it's a terrible thing to say, but when you're in as much pain as I'm in, suicide doesn't sound like all that bad an idea. 

BW: What do you think death is like?

William: I think death is just a passing into a greater place.

BW: Are you a religious person?

William: I believe in God. I believe he has a better place for me, I hope... My faith isn't that strong, but I do hope that there is a better place for me, because nothing could be worse than what I've been through here.