Philip Sharp is battling a case of the sniffles, but, beyond that, he says he’s feeling good.
He’s got his cat of 13 years, Sweetheart. He’s talked to his daughter, Jessica, recently, and the PBS signal is still coming in strong.
You’d never know that days earlier the soft-spoken Sharp had finished his most recent round of chemotherapy treatment.
Sharp is not prone to self-pity or asking for much help. On the day in question, as he stands in his modest apartment talking to me via a Zoom connection facilitated by his case manager with Family Eldercare, Sharp expresses gratitude for the assistance he’s received and the minimal side effects of the treatments for a cancerous lesion recently removed from his bladder. He also is slated to undergo gallbladder removal surgery in the spring.
While his polite demeanor and tender nature serve as no sign for concern, the truth is that recently the 65-year-old, who lives alone with Sweetheart, was dangerously close to having to make this choice: paying for medicine or paying for food.
On lean days like those, Sharp turned to a simple diet of canned beans. You’d be hard-pressed to get him to complain about it. He will talk about food, however. The things he loves. Like a pizza loaded with meat. Tacos. And the Hungry Man meals that Jessica delivered to him recently.
Sharp has lived in Austin since 1998, and while he’s had a long tenure in town, his social circle remains limited. He turns to online chat rooms to make friends with folks his age and talk about their lifestyles, and finds joy in watching PBS shows about American history and science.
“I’m not a real socialite,” Sharp says.
Sharp, who successfully manages schizoaffective disorder through a medication regimen, studied chemistry in college. The jazz flutist also studied music, forestry and computer science but eventually cut short a college education that included stints at Stephen F. Austin University and what is now Texas State University.
“It was all so boring; I couldn’t take it anymore,” Sharp says dryly.
After a period of homelessness following a divorce and car accident, Sharp received assistance from Family Eldercare, the organization that nominated him for Season for Caring, which helped stabilize his living situation.
The nonprofit has assisted Sharp, who lives off of disability benefits, with the stress of managing his finances and staying on top of his medical appointments and mounting bills. For that, Sharp is very grateful.
“It makes me feel very comforted to know somebody is going to be there,” Sharp says.
More Season for Caring.