Thirteen Ways of Looking at Bad News -The Toast

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The harsh sterile lights of the hospital are so bright after our mad dash through the summer night.
The nurse comes out and takes us to a room and says that the Doctor will be in shortly.
I didn’t know then that that is a very bad sign.
“Your grandmother has died of a heart attack,” the doctor says.

We wait in the waiting room. The surgeon comes out. There is no request for a private room.
“Your mother’s surgery went well. We think we got it all,” he says.

I take my mother to the Doctor. She needs some antibiotics for a sore throat.
The nurse comes out and asks me to call my father to come over.
The Doctor wants to talk to him.
I call him, he races over. I go home.
He calls later. The cancer has come back.

The tech is talking during the ultrasound, all chatty and friendly. Then she stops chatting, excuses herself, and another doctor comes in. They start using Latin terms. There are no more smiles. Then they say, “the results will be sent to your Doctor.”

The tech is finished with the MRI. I ask for the CD. He comments that I have some interesting results. “Your Doctor will explain.” he says.

I see my fourth Doctor. She takes me back to her office and starts showing me the MRI results and the bright white lesions next on the Halloween picture of my spine and brain. They are not even remotely “interesting.” They are terrifying.

I get an iPod for Christmas so I can listen to music while I lie absolutely still while the medicine that both helps me and kills me slowly runs down the tube into my arm. Don’t move your arm, they say. Sign this release saying we told you about the chance of lethal brain infection, they say.

The chance of seizures is small. The main side effects are stomach pain, nausea, dizziness, internal bleeding, and strange dreams. I look forward to the dreams. I wonder if people have the dreams because they have been told about the likelihood of strange dreams.

My cane has a leaping jaguar handle. The TSA agents are intrigued,

Disabled people get special treatment at airports. We also get spoken to as if we are small children. A reasonable exchange?

A neighbor explains to me that everything is caused by my diet. I have to change everything. “You must eat more kale, “ he says. “Kale saves lives.”
I think about putting that on a tee shirt.

My husband cooks my every meal. He does all the housework. He does everything to make my life easier. It’s like being a very spoiled child, but never having to do chores again.
I miss doing chores.

There is no cure, but we’re getting closer. It’s like being on a long car trip, asking if we’re there yet.
Right now, having multiple sclerosis is like an endless road trip, but with no stops for Cinnabons.

Kathleen Cooper is a writer from Virginia. Her work has appeared in The Toast, The Airship, The Washington Post, and Medium. When she isn't rooting for the California Golden Bears, she designs textile art, reads cookbooks in bed, and wrangles two cats, a golden retriever, and her husband.

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