The Day Everything Changed
by Richard Humphries
It wasn’t good news, that’s for sure, when my big jolly Irish nurse came back to the hospital room. With an unwanted Intern. A dour and intense, dark-eyed Intern who sat on the foot of my bed while the now un-jolly nurse turned down the volume on the television. She had tears in her eyes. Shit.
“Well, it doesn’t look like good news,” I tried.
His words in reply were fast and breathy.
“It isn’t good news, Mister Humphries. It isn’t good at all.” He said it as if he was angry but we three knew it was pretense. “The tests came back and the pathology report says the growth on your pancreas is a carcinoma.”
“That means cancer, doesn’t it?”
“I have pancreatic cancer?”
“Yes, you do.”
“You have pancreatic cancer.” He needed the practice of saying these things to patients.
“Sorry, Nurse, about the swearing.”
“That’s okay. Really. Really.”
My vision narrowed to a tight tunnel while my mind insisted I was watching a movie, or in some horrible joke, or the victim of a mistake in the lab. The wrong slide with some other guy’s name that sounded like mine. It couldn’t be. It just could not be. Not me. I had things to do. Plans.
“Isn’t that the kind of cancer that kills you in, like, three months?”
“At the stage you’re at, we generally say three to six months until . . .”
“Until I die? What ‘stage’ am I at?”
“Stage Four. “
“How many stages are there?” I was hoping there were a great many.
“It’s advanced.” The Intern stood from my bed, straightening his white coat, making his escape.
“Would you like us to send the Chaplain?” She was Irish to the core.
“Yes. Please. Send the Chaplain. I won’t swear at him. Promise.”
“I’m sure it would be fine if you did. We’ll have him come up.”
“Thank you,” I said. I can’t imagine what for.
They both took it as an excuse to vamoose, however, and I was suddenly very and completely alone. Alone. Alone and scared.
This happened twenty-one months ago.
I still get scared about disappearing from this world soon—dying and being put in a box in the ground or burnt to ash—but have found that writing of this life somehow prolongs it. And reminds me of the beauty of it all.
I never did see the goddamn Chaplain.
Causes richard humphries Supports
The Marine Mammal Center, California Prison Focus.