Bruce was in high spirits as he walked into the medical centre. He was a very methodical person, sometimes to the irritation of his spouse Gwen. He was careful to meet his regular scheduled medical check-up appointments. One can’t be too careful he intoned to those who had an interest in listening.
Because that was his strong conviction he was careful with good health check lists. He had a constant tick of approval on diet and exercise and tried best he could to avoid stress and get as much rest as possible. He did fall on that point at times he admitted ruefully as society is not geared to allow one the privilege of constancy in getting recommended sleep.
On the other hand, Gwen took life in a more relaxed fashion. She was into exercise as a woman likes to keep as trim as possible for her own self-satisfaction. Children, weight and hair were on her top priority list and she supervised them all with equal intensity but that did not detract from her love of chocolate, a yummy dessert and the enjoyment of her home.
Despite that Bruce and Gwen had the ideal marriage filled with love and selfless service to each other’s needs. The only time they came close to a heated exchange was when Bruce preached his orthodoxy to Gwen, particularly at the time of their grown children’s holiday visits with the grandkids.
Bruce would pointedly excuse himself at his appointed bed hour as an example of good living and Gwen would roll her eyes and stay up chatting with her brood through the night. What’s wrong with this man? He needs to loosen up a bit as we are on vacation, she’d think to herself. The kids would smile as they saw her irritation and deflect the conversation to report on their exploits at work and in their homes since they last visited their parents. They loved their Dad and were tolerant of his ways. But with each new day the whole family would be in sync as they planned pleasant activities for the holiday.
Judy the receptionist recognized him as he finally worked his way up to the counter and smiled. “Good morning Gym!”
Bruce laughed. “I shouldn’t have been so enthusiastic recommending my gym the first time I came in, should I? Are you going to continue your gentle reminder I should keep my enthusiasm within bounds? I’m trying hard, but Gwen doesn’t think I’m making much progress.”
Judy smiled as she retrieved his medical record on computer. “Nope, Gwen tells me you’re a lost cause!”
Both laughed as Judy motioned him to take a seat in the waiting room. Judy and Gwen had been classmates since high school and had maintained close contact over the years.
“Dr Cunningham is running a bit late with an urgent case, so I hope you don’t mind waiting a bit.” Judy motioned for the next person in line and resumed her professional manner.
Bruce sat and eyed the magazines as he thought of how he’d fill in time waiting. Then he remembered the caution one of his medical friends had given him about picking up unpleasant health problems handling things in a hospital or medical centre where all those people with dread ailments and diseases frequented. While there could be some truth in this the person who shared that little gem with him had been having a little fun at his expense knowing Bruce’s tendency to take good health practices to the extreme. So, while Bruce was careful to have regular check-ups he was equally careful to wash when he got home.
Bruce was lost in thought when Dr Jim Cunningham suddenly appeared in front of him.
“Sorry for the delay Bruce I had an urgent case to attend to that’s thrown out our appointments for the day. Come on in.” Dr Cunningham walked briskly back to his consulting room with Bruce in close pursuit.
Dr Cunningham went through the routines quickly and printed out various forms for this annual check. Then he turned to study Bruce.
“Bruce I’ve noticed on some of the jogs and walks we share you seem to have unusual locomotion problems lately I hadn’t observed it before. Have you noticed anything different in your general health and movement you think I should know about?”
Bruce shrugged and looked surprised, “You examine me when I’m out exercising with you? I can’t think of anything, what kind of things?”
“Headaches, balance, dizziness?” Dr Cunningham took an instrument and peered into Bruce’s eyes.
Bruce felt the stress levels rise. He had noticed some problems with his balance lately but the guys at the office said it was something going around. Some weird virus that lasted a few weeks and it was gone. There were other unusual manifestations now he thought about it, but it was only a virus and not worth mentioning. He shrugged.
Dr Cunningham placed the instrument on his table and sat thinking. Then on impulse printed out another form.
“I’d like you to see a specialist friend of mine, Dr Fred Delaney. It takes months to get an appointment with some of these guys, but he owes me a favour so I’m going to phone him right now if you are clear about getting his opinion.”
He handed Bruce request forms for usual samples for an annual check-up. “Get these tests done and see me next week as Judy can find an appointment for you. Are you clear on my phoning Dr Delaney?”
Bruce was sitting up straight in alarm. “Why should I see this Dr Delaney, you’ve always patched me up on my rare sick occasions?” He laughed nervously.
“I always make sure my patients have any possible issues investigated so I can rule them out Bruce. I wouldn’t recommend it unless I thought it was worth doing, after all specialists are not inexpensive.”
Bruce put on his best macho look. “Sure, let’s do it!” But inside his stress levels were rising as he took the referral form.
“Did you come fasting for your tests today?” Dr Cunningham diverted the conversation while he thought of what he’d say to his friend Dr Delaney.
Go see Susan our resident vampire and have your blood taken, the rest of the tests you can bring back tomorrow for lab work. I’ll come and see you in the waiting room after you’ve done that to tell you if Dr Delaney can see you.
Bruce headed for the pathology lab technician room feeling apprehensive. He’d thought about cancelling his annual appointment and waiting until the kids had gone back to their work in their home cities after vacation, but it was usually only an hour involved and he could complete tests after they’d gone, but they’d urged him to keep the appointment as it was hard to reschedule. This was turning out to be complicated, he didn’t want to spoil their vacation.
He was reviewing his interview with Jim Cunningham when the doctor appeared in the pathology waiting room. “He will see you this evening at 5pm. I think you should take the appointment as getting a specialist appointment is very difficult these days.”
Bruce took the handwritten note giving details of time and place and the doctor went searching for his next patient.
That afternoon a receptionist led Bruce to Dr Delaney’s consulting room. The specialist was courteous but businesslike. He put Bruce through different exercises as he watched carefully and made notes on his tablet. Then phoned diagnostics. There was a heated argument as the one on the other end pointed out he’d been on the job since sunup. Bruce listened with increasing alarm. The conversation ended, and Dr Delaney motioned to follow him.
“Jim Cunningham owes me big time for this,” he said pleasantly.
The technician glowered at Dr Delaney who thanked him for his consideration. Then he turned to Bruce and explained the procedures to be followed. The machine hummed and clanked as Bruce followed instructions from the technician shielded in his special operations room. Eventually it was over and Bruce limped home to a now concerned family.
Next day Judy the receptionist phoned and talked with Gwen who was anxious to know what was happening. Judy had no information, only an appointment in the late morning for Bruce.
As Bruce was motioned to take a seat in the waiting room his stomach was in a turmoil. What did all this activity mean and why the rush and seeming secrecy?
Dr Cunningham appeared and motioned for Bruce to follow him.
In the office the doctor turned to face him. “I know you are probably stressed out over my getting you to see a specialist so urgently. I did not want to worry you or your family by telling you what my suspicions were. I realize not knowing the purpose of this rushed consultation with a specialist was stressful but telling you what I was suspecting when it may not be the case would have put you under even more stress. I’m sorry to tell you Bruce you have a developing brain tumour and we need to get you into surgery to determine whether it is benign or more serious. I’m already in debt to Dr Delaney and the overworked technician in diagnostics there but I’m going to pull some more strings to get you on a priority list for surgery. We need to get you into hospital as soon as I’ve arranged that so I’m going to be very busy on your behalf this morning. I’ve already made some potential arrangements in consultation with Dr Delaney who will take over your case.
For the first time in his life Bruce felt he’d lost control and the enormity of this situation caused his body to shake involuntarily. Dr Jim Cunningham put his hand on his friend’s shoulder and spoke.
“I’m so sorry Bruce, I wish it had turned out differently but I’m doing my best for you.”
“But I live a healthy lifestyle,” Bruce said weakly.
“I know old friend, but even people who live a healthy lifestyle can succumb to health crisis. I notice from your health records there’s a family history there. Sometimes genetic factors trump a healthy lifestyle and that’s where we have to turn to medicine to try and repair damage caused.”
As Dr Cunningham assisted Bruce to the waiting room he saw Gwen and his two sons waiting. “I asked Judy to phone Gwen, I thought you may need to have them present after our interview.
The next few weeks were a blur. His family had arranged to extend their vacation period to be with their father in his crisis. Pathology reported the tumour was benign after surgery, so it was just the long slog through rehab to contend with for which they were all grateful. The family encouraged him with their visits until they were confident he was on the mend and only then did they return to their respective work and lives.
Then came the happy day after his release from rehab when Jim Cunningham arrived at their home to tell Bruce it was time for them to resume their walks together. Jogging would have to wait but the doctor wanted to take a personal interest in his full rehabilitation. Slowly Bruce’s strength and coordination returned as brain healed and compensated for the surgical damage done in removing the tumour.
One day several months later Bruce sat at the dining table and watched as his wife Gwen finished off her lunch by bringing out her favourite after lunch snack. She cut off a small piece of fruit cake with a thin layer of icing on top and nodded approvingly as she relished this treat.
Bruce shook his head as he recalled the good health practices he’d followed all his life. There was sugar in that icing. One must watch the amount of sugar and salt in modern diet as it’s killing this generation. Then he paused. Wait a minute, he’d lived his convictions all his life and could have been totally incapacitated or died if his friend Dr Jim Cunningham hadn’t used his skill to diagnose that brain tumour. He smiled and tapped his wife on the hand.
“Would you cut me a piece of that cake Gwen?”
Gwen looked at Bruce incredulously then burst into laughter. She cut Bruce a thin sliver of cake and presented it to him. Then she reached for her IPad and began messaging her daughters in law. She peered as the dots indicated replies were on the way. Then she burst out laughing again.
“I’ve just reported to the kids you actually asked me for a piece of cake!”
Bruce nodded as he relished the taste of the cake. “And what did they say?”
“They said the surgery was even more successful that we could have imagined!”
Both went into fits of laughter that recurred for the remainder of the day as they relived that response.
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