The Scent of Flowers

pink tulips

“Doc, I just want him to send me flowers. But if I have to say it, it cheapens the whole thing. So when he comes in for his physical exam this afternoon do you think you could work that suggestion into the conversation somehow?” 

“Um, sure…”

Family practice is truly awesome. 🙂

Identifier

 Chinese dragon statue closeup 

“Doc, I think it is time for you to call it quits.”

“What?” He was almost shouting.

“It’s time you called it quits,” I raised my voice louder.

“You mean stop practicing?” He leaned forward, turning his good ear toward me.

“Yes.”

“Look, I’m fine…” He leaned back against the chair.

“No, you’re not. Your neuropsych testing shows moderate cognitive impairment and you are nearing stone deaf.”

“I haven’t hurt anyone.”

“Yet. That you know of.”

The color left his face.

He stared at me, arms crossed over his chest, holding tight as if to prevent his insides from spilling out onto the floor between us. 

He was considering.

He took a long, deliberate breath then nodded his head slowly, acquiescing. I was relieved. I did not want to have to involve the state medical board. Nasty business. My hands were shaking.

“I have spent my whole life pouring myself into this profession. All of the sacrifices I have made… It becomes your singular identity, you know. There is nothing left of me without the practice of medicine. It’s very hard to let it go.” 

I murmured an understanding mumble that I was certain he could not hear and shook his hand.

He shrugged sadly, then shuffled out of my office. 

Three months later he was dead.

Timeless

Golden, ornate museum clock.

It was noon on Christmas Eve. 

He had asked me to call him as soon as I had the results.

Still.

It was Merry frickin’ Christmas Eve.

I didn’t want to do this. Not to him. Not to his family. Not to anyone. Not on Christmas Eve.

But it was cancer. No doubt about it. The five centimeter tumor in his bladder had caused him to pee blood. 

I picked up the phone, hesitated, then put it back down. 

No. 

Not today.

I packed the laptop into my bright red leather bag and turned off the lights in the office as I walked out, the last one left in the clinic. My footsteps echoed down the hallway to the alarm code panel. I could feel the cold sneaking in around the glass door and I shivered involuntarily.

I stopped.

Sometimes you have to trust that there is a higher power at work, something beyond you. There was a reason he was supposed to learn about this diagnosis before the holiday. Maybe to help him reconcile with someone? Maybe so he could make this the best Christmas of his life, in case it was his last one?

I don’t get to decide. It is not my place.

He wanted to know.

I walked back to my office, picked up the phone again, and this time I actually dialed his number. 

He answered. 

I told him the news.

“Thank you, Doc.”

“Merry Christmas,” I said.

Staying Home

IMG_2638

It was supposed to be a day off.

I got up at 6am (sleeping in a bit) so I could get the kids ready for their father to take them to school and to get a head start on getting my clinic work done remotely so I could enjoy the rest of the day.

Except I could not log in.

My password expired over the weekend.

GAH!!!!!!

I tried and tried and tried to log on, praying for a miracle that never came.

After an hour of futile attempts, I had to bundle everything off and drive the thirty minutes to the office to get connected to the system network. I sat in the parking lot in my car and snuck onto the wifi from there because I knew that if I went inside I would be sucked into who knows what. 

I always get sucked into crap…

Once the password was fixed I spent an hour in the parking lot on the computer addressing the most urgent things, then drove 30 minutes back home to spend another two and a half hours addressing the remaining lab work, portal messages, and refill requests that had accumulated over the weekend. 

So much for working on charts in the nude.*

Now, it is almost noon. Half a day off wasted.

Should you feel sorry for me? Nah. I ask not for pity. I simply write about this to let you know what your doctor is likely doing on their day off instead of playing golf….  

This is why taking time off often stresses me out more than being at work does.

*Not seriously. 

Bared

  

“Doc, I need the name of a good plastic surgeon.” 

She was dressed primly in a matching daffodil yellow sweater set and white pants. Her make-up was done fastidiously and as always she was properly accessorized with matching shoes and purse. Her jewelry was large enough to notice but not at all garish. Tasteful and classic. 

Always. 

Even when she had fallen and broken her arm on the patio when trying to clean the leaves from her pool because the pool boy had been late.

“Why?”

“My breast. Look…”

She flashed me. Sure enough, her left breast was gone. 

Well. 

Not really gone per se. Deflated.

“Oh dear.”

“I’ll tell you what. This getting old is just terrible. One thing after another. Take my advice, Doc, don’t you ever get old…”

She shook her perfectly coifed head.

“So, you are wanting to have another implant?”

“YES!”

“You are ninety-three,” I said gently, “Surgery might not be the best option. Perhaps we could get you a prosthesis instead?” 

The reality was that she probably would not survive surgery and if she did, she would not likely live long enough to make the investment worthwhile but saying that in so many words stuck in my throat.

She understood anyway. 

And it made her angry. Maybe not so angry at me as angry at life. And death.

She was NOT interested in a prosthesis, she informed me on no uncertain terms. She wanted her breast back. I completed the referral, worried she might actually find a plastic surgeon who would agree to operate on her.

But…

Maybe life with only one breast was not really worth living for her. I don’t get to decide that, do I? She will be paying for it all herself, it is not like insurance or Medicare or anyone else would cover a single cent of it.

Then, I realized that the referral was about much more than mere vanity. It was her way of saying, “My life is not over yet…”

I wonder what I would be like at ninety-three? Probably not nearly as graceful or beautiful and I bet my clothes won’t match a bit. But chances are I will still care what my breasts look like even if I don’t actually care what they look like.

Aw, Muck

  

I am stubborn.

Sometimes I do things just to be obstinate. 

I admit it. It’s a thing I do. Sometimes I have to stop and weigh if what I am doing is because I was told I shouldn’t or because I really ought to do it that way. 

Why?

Because I can.

I need to feel like I have control. 

My daughter behaves similarly. When I ask her to do something she does not like, all rational thought leaves her body and she burns with a white hot over the top anger that will not be controlled. She very purposefully and very deliberately does the exact opposite of what she was instructed.

Because she, too, craves control.

Case in point: The other day she refused to move or speak for over an hour and a half when her teacher told her how she was supposed to color her Valentine’s packet. She still ignored the instructions and when she was called out on it, she lost it. The principal had to forcibly remove her from the classroom. A parent was required to leave work to intervene.

“But mommy! I wanted to color it rainbow!” Sob. “It was supposed to be RAINBOW!!! It would have been much prettier that way…” More sobbing.

Genes? 

Environment? 

Hell if I know. 

But I will tell you this: It is terribly frightening to watch your own children struggle with your own issues and realize that maybe you don’t even have it figured out for yourself enough to help them.

*shuffles off to worry about whether or not she made the right decision to forgo computers on extendable arms in her clinic exam rooms…* (At least I didn’t scream about it.)

Jesteś całym moim światem…

  

She last visited him at the Vatican the day before he died.

What did she say to him after all of those years? 

What else could she say?

Jesteś całym moim światem.

Thirty years of friendship, longing, love, bittersweet joy, and sadness. 

With a pope. 

Now a saint.

It doesn’t matter if there was a physical component to their relationship. Sometimes love transcends the physical. It transcends time and distance.

Love.

Love is immortality. 

Love is sainthood.

GOD is love.

Doctor Love

Chicago 115

The phone rang. I was off duty as of five minutes ago. Suck it, people! I looked at the caller ID. It was NOT the ER this time. 

I answered it.

“Hey! I got you something special….”

“Really?” I tried to hide the surprise in my voice.

“Yep! You’re gonna love it,” he promised.

I hopped into the car, heart swelling, and fantasized about that gift all of the way over from the hospital. What could it be? Jewelry? An antique of some sort? A rare book? 

He never got me real presents. But it was Valentine’s Day after all and he had been out of town at a specialty conference all week. 

Please let it be something nice!

When I arrived he proudly handed over the gift bag. It was navy blue and it felt heavy.

Not jewelry, then.

I tossed the white tissue paper aside and looked eagerly inside. A breath caught in my chest.

There were dozens of drug rep pens. A viagra tie. One of those squeezy heart shaped stress ball thingies emblazoned with the name of a heart medication. An out of state hospital system sports bottle. AND a flimsy looking vegetable peeler with a tag that made it clear it was some sort of lame marketing gimmick: “Peel back the fog, try our Alzheimer’s medication…”

I looked up to examine his face, searching for a clue as to whether or not this was a joke.

“Do you like it?” he asked, his eyes sparkling hopefully.

Not a joke. Dang.

“Um. How many girlfriends have you had before?”

“Why do you ask?”

“No reason…”

I grabbed the sports bottle and filled it with ice water, took a sip, then told him that I loved it all. 

He beamed. It was then that I understood. Sometimes the smartest men are the most clueless.

But that’s OK. You just have to love them anyway.

“Do you have some carrots? We can try out that veggie peeler…”