The Big Name, Respected doctor was elated;
Excellent news! he said - this new cancer was primary, not secondary.
Happy Times! Late Stage Two!
We must know that this had been a baffling case for him. Never before had he collected, scrutinized & biopsied so much questionable tissue. His Most Impressive Pathology Report took TWO WEEKs to compile.
Unable to suppress his confident triumph, he addressed our party under the
austere fluorescent bulbs. His delight was confusing because it wasn't necessarily good news to ME.
To me it would make more sense if it was secondary or recurrent; the specter of
a new primary cancer was just as terrifying.
But the presentation was over. The back of his neck bulged over the white collar as he stacked papers on the counter. Edges neat.
I risked a silent glance at my husband and my mother, squeezed into chairs against the wall, eyes wet and aching towards me.
I had to risk THE question. This organism that I so carefully maintain was not at high risk for cancers.
"But Doctor, how did I get it a second time?"
Silence. No answer. He did not turn around to make eye contact. Maybe he didn't
hear me as he folded my file and prepared his departure.
"Doc, How is it a separate primary - Again? A New one? What's going on?"
He reached for the door, twisted the knob and backed out of the doorway, protected by the narrowing exit.
Avoiding eye contact, he tossed into the room; "You'll just have to talk to the man upstairs" with a knowing smile as the door clicked politely closed.
Did he mean -
Do I go see -
another specialist on a higher floor?
A second opinion?
Oh no, he didn't mean the ALMIGHTY!
Did he just refer me to GOD?
Did he just say that to me??
Could I let that shit slide?
I jumped off the table, the paper shred flapping along my white ass, and yanked
the door back open.
Out in the breezy hall, I looked right and left for the retreating coward; a magma of anger ramming for a vent. The polished floor reflected one white lab coat rounding a corner.
"Hey, KEVIN! What the hell was THAT about?" I shouted.
"I come to you for SCIENCE and you refer me to GOD? You're an
Oncologist! You are supposed to be practicing scientific medicine!"
My mocking yell bounced down the hall.
I needed everyone to hear me; I wanted the entire medical floor to know about this charlatan. No one else should ever come to him for medical advice.
A scurry of rubber-soled footsteps advanced as office staff mobilized to corral
me. I mustn't disturb the other customers. O My -- this might be the worst thing
to happen in their tidy hallway.
Those shiny lucky bastards.
Someone took hold of my elbow but no one yet had control of my mouth.
As their white shoes squeaked against the floor I bellowed over my shoulder; "You want me to sign up for your chemotherapy and then 'talk to the man upstairs?'
What insurance code is THAT, MutherFucker?"
That would have felt so wonderful.
But I looked again at the tense faces of my husband and my mother.
And I let that shit slide.
Instead I remained perched on the exam table - clutching the cold paper around
my waist -- trying to grasp all that he had thrown at me. Planning to gather the
shattered hearts of my family and resolve to begin another ordeal without
As if I had no choice.
Lethargically I dressed to join the procession into the infusion room.
To wait in line.
To schedule further remedy from the oncology surgeon whose recent work had left my belly a puckered, lumpy jumble of jagged scar and oversewn navel. His numerous carvings into my chest and thorax looked like ragged stab wounds. He hadn't even bothered to line up the obvious epidermal landmarks. The unusual post-op pain and copious drainage had not been expected and he had been unconcerned.
Had he been looking down into my open abdomen as he sliced into dozens of organs; sorting out the healthy and diseased guts & gonads thinking "First, Do No Harm?"
Or were his eyes cast heavenward as he gave it all up to his divinity? "O Heavenly Father, Guide My Hallowed Hand and Forgive Me for The Mess I've Made."
I lowered my eyes to avoid the patients in the packed infusion room and
I stepped out of line.
Yes; I planned to talk to my own 'Man Upstairs,' but not at the order of this prick almighty.
Melissa has had sufficient experience on the receiving end of cancers, and creative writing has been one of the many tools she uses to digest and eliminate the dreadfulness, including the experience that resulted in the above piece. With a life-long pursuit of many creative endeavors, Melissa also has several commissioned bronze sculptures around St. Louis, and she gratefully offers her photography skills to diverse non-profit organizations.