What The Doctor Said

He said it doesn’t look good
he said it looks bad in fact real bad
he said I counted thirty-two of them on one lung before
I quit counting them
I said I’m glad I wouldn’t want to know
about any more being there than that
he said are you a religious man do you kneel down
in forest groves and let yourself ask for help
when you come to a waterfall
mist blowing against your face and arms
do you stop and ask for understanding at those moments
I said not yet but I intend to start today
he said I’m real sorry he said
I wish I had some other kind of news to give you
I said Amen and he said something else
I didn’t catch and not knowing what else to do
and not wanting him to have to repeat it
and me to have to fully digest it
I just looked at him
for a minute and he looked back it was then
I jumped up and shook hands with this man who’d just given me
something no one else on earth had ever given me
I may have even thanked him habit being so strong

— “What The Doctor Said”, By Ray Carver.

I posted this when Warren Zevon died. I thought of it last week, just before Cathy died, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I hope posting it pushes it aside…

2 thoughts on “What The Doctor Said”

  1. The microscope returned the answer
    That I had certainly got cancer.
    So I was wheeled into the theatre
    Where holes were made to make me better.
    One set is in my perineum
    Where I can feel, but can’t yet see ‘em.
    Another made me like a kipper
    Or female prey of Jack the Ripper.
    Through this incision, I don’t doubt,
    The neoplasm was taken out,
    Along with colon, and lymph nodes
    Where cancer cells might find abodes.
    A third much smaller hole is meant
    To function as a ventral vent:
    So now I am like two-faced Janus
    The only* god who sees his anus.

    * (In India there are several more
    With extra faces, up to four,
    But both in Brahma and in Shiva
    I own myself an unbeliever.)

    My final word, before I’m done,
    Is ‘Cancer can be rather fun.’
    Thanks to the nurses and Nye Bevan
    The NHS is quite like heaven
    Provided one confronts the tumour
    With a sufficient sense of humour.
    I know that cancer often kills,
    But so do cars and sleeping pills;
    And it can hurt one till one sweats,
    So can bad teeth and unpaid debts.
    A spot of laughter, I am sure,
    Often accelerates one’s cure;
    So let us patients do our bit
    To help the surgeons make us fit.

    J.B.S. Haldane, “Cancer is a Funny Thing”

  2. I only knew Cathy through her blog, but I’ve really been touched by her life. As soon as I started reading your post, Marc, I knew what was on your mind. Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>