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ALEX COHEN, host:

Recently, we've been bringing you tales of the real economy. These stories come directly from you, our listeners. You've been calling and writing in to tell us how you are making it through these tough financial times.

We recently got an email from Dr. Cathy Walker in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. She joins us now. And Cathy, what station do you listen to Day to Day on there in Ardmore?

Dr. CATHY WALKER: WHYY.

COHEN: Excellent. And tell us a little bit about your situation. You wrote that you are a member of the sandwich generation. What does that mean?

Dr. WALKER: Well, it means that I'm taking care of children, and I'm also taking care of an elderly mother.

COHEN: So, you've got a lot of expenses. How are you coping with those expenses right now?

Dr. WALKER: Well, the thing is, I'm, you know, it's almost paycheck to paycheck. I don't have much savings. In fact, I have very little savings. We eat in. We don't go out anymore. And as far as buying clothing, forget about that. I haven't bought a decent pair of shoes in months.

COHEN: Your daughter is getting ready to go to college in a few years. Has she thought about where she wants to go, and have you thought about how you're going to pay for it?

Dr. WALKER: Well, we talk about it every day now. And she just, you know, I don't know how we're going to pay for it, but we are trying to find ways. In fact, I told her that she will have to probably do something, to do work-study, because I will not be able to afford sending her on my type of income in my lifestyle, OK? And I won't ever be able to retire.

COHEN: And Cathy, I understand, in addition to all of these circumstances, you also have some health issues.

Dr. WALKER: Yes, yes I do.

COHEN: You're a survivor of breast cancer.

Dr. WALKER: I am.

COHEN: How are you feeling physically?

Dr. WALKER: Well, I'm actually doing well. I'm very worried about that because getting health care is extremely - it's not just difficult for people who are not in the medical field, but it's a problem for everyone.

COHEN: Cathy, you mentioned that the way things are looking now, you don't think that you'll be able to retire, and I think a lot of Americans are looking at that prospect now. Are there certain plans that you're making for the next chapter of your life, so that at least you can feel like you can have some sense of relaxation or rest?

Dr. WALKER: Well, I have to tell you, since September 11th, 2001, I haven't had a vacation. And I don't know about rest and relaxation, you know? My rest and relaxation is prayer, just trying to keep afloat, so that things don't get any worse. So, you know, I'm doing everything I can to not be stressed out about the economic situation.

COHEN: Cathy Walker is a doctor living in Ardmore, Pennsylvania. Thank you, Cathy.

Dr. WALKER: Thank you.

COHEN: If you'd like to be a part of our real economy project, let us know. You can find us at npr.org/daydreaming.

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