At 3:15, I am finally called from the waiting room to see the doctor. I sat in the chair opposite his desk, putting my hands in my lap to avoid fidgeting.
Dr. Maddox flipped through a file folder. On the top was the paperwork I had filled out.
Dr. Maddox removed his glasses and began cleaning them with a monogrammed handkerchief. He held his glasses up to the light.
“I just can’t keep these things clean!” He complained, wiping the lenses again.
He wasn’t really speaking to me, but I was the only other person in the office. I looked around. A degree from the University of… wherever, hung on the wall, along with other awards and accolades. Pictures of his kids were on the ornate wooden bookshelves, along with a picture of his Porsche and a picture from a deep sea fishing trip. And there were books; lots of books and medical journals.
“So anyway,” Dr. Maddox returned his glasses to his face and continued, “I’m sorry to inform you that I agree 100% with the findings of the four previous neurosurgeons. There’s no way to know exactly how much longer you have. There have been some attempts to remove the malignancy in similar cases, but none have had successful results.”
“I don’t understand.” I looked away from the doctor and down at his hands. I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. “I feel fine, just headaches. I spend a lot of time in front of a computer. Causes eye strain… headaches. You’re saying there’s more to this than that?” This has been my routine comment when doctors hit me with the bad news.
“Yes, quite a bit more.”
Dr. Maddox resented this part of the job; having to speak in terms that his patients could understand. He would have to go into what he liked to call talk-down mode. Telling me I was dying was easy. Telling me in layman’s terms was annoying. On top of that, I was expecting him to do something to stave off inevitable death; to cure my illness and save me. This is déjà vu for me.
Dr. Maddox said, “Your brain will be systematically shutting down as the tumor spreads. Considering the location of the tumor, and considering your otherwise good health, you’ll probably be fully functional right up until you are very close to your death.”
I gaped at the doctor. He was going through his routine. I was going through mine.
“Is there nothing you can do? My Father died of a tumor almost 20 years ago. There’s been research… new treatments… there must be something you can do now.”
Dr. Maddox sighed heavily. “A tumor is an unnecessary growth of normal or abnormal cells. Some tumors are treatable and some are not. Tumors are graded on a scale. One, for benign and treatable tumors, to four, for rapidly growing and malignant tumors. The tumor you are afflicted with is a grade four tumor.”
Dr. Maddox took out a prescription pad and scribbled something on it.
“I’m going to give you this for the headaches. As they get worse, you can take this for the pain. I allowed for one refill, in case you need it.”
He tore off the top sheet of the pad and handed it to me. I just stared back at the doctor, blankly, hoping for something. For some sign of hope, some chance that this could all just be a terrible mistake. Like I said, I’ve been through this before and I had my routine.
“You understand Mr. Bokes, there really is no way to tell in these cases. It could be a week, it could be a year. It’s not treatable and it is always terminal.”
Life in Sixty-Four Square Feet
©Copyright 2015, Mitch Lavender
Rubik’s Cube® used by permission of Rubiks Brand Ltd. www.rubiks.com
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are solely the product of the author’s imagination and/or are used fictitiously, though reference may be made to actual historical events or existing locations. Any resemblance to actual persons, living, dead or undead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.