The Reluctant Patient

by V. Evelyn

Moving is very tedious and at the least a big ass headache. However, the move was well worth the trouble, and I did resume the imposition of rearranging my living room furniture. I was not completely happy with how the movers had left things. There wasnít that much work to be done, really; a hip there, a knee here. But if I had to be honest, the placement of the furniture wasnít what was bothering me. Maybe I thought being productive would give me a broader view on a heavy decision that must be made.

You did not have to be a psychic to get how this distraction might benefit in that decision. It helps to focus your mind on doing some physical task when making difficult choices. More time is what I need to think over any lingering thoughts about becoming a test subject, or if you will, be the essential guinea pig. Cancer is no joke but the worst of it is all behind me. Still I want to be absolutely sure that all my proverbial ducks are lining up properly.

After all I donít mind doing my share if it is for the good of helping others with similar cases like mine; but Iíve already completed a series of tests with nothing to show for it. But a third set of tests within six months is asking a bit much in the scheme of what seems to be an endless cause. All the same I hope to have my answer by the time I place the call to the Doctor this evening. My answer should not be met with a hasty response.

~~~~~

Moments later I stretched out on the newly aligned sofa like Iím on display, and stare out of the window into the backyard looking at the leaves gusting around on a light breeze. The weather is a perfect, yet slightly cool forty-seven degrees with a misty, gloomy overcast. The silence is overwhelming but this is a platform set for a well-earned afternoon nap that I find myself embracing. The only accompaniment I require is the feel of my cashmere blanket I received two Christmases ago that is covering the lower half of my body. More tired than I realize, I instantly begin to feel a floating sensation of warmth cradling me and soon drift off to sleep.

Two hours later I awake hungry and a fiery pit of thirst in my stomach. I find what I need in the fridge. Even on a day like today an ice cold beer is a great relief. Not the usual refreshment for me when there is a little nip in the air. But the beer feels good going down after my nap. All thatís missing now is a piping hot pizza to go along with it. While waiting for my pizza to arrive, I go over in my mind what Iím going to say. Suffice it to say that the afternoon nap did wonders for my recall. It was like walking down the street of familiarity just window shopping. Instead of looking at dresses, shoes, or handbags, it was more like looking at lab screens, needles, and pill-bottles; a succession of nurses, doctors, tests, tests and then more tests. No I am not hesitating about making the call; far from it. Everything is clearer than before. My mind seems to be made up.

This body has gone through it in the past three years. Now I need time to reflect on healing away from all the doctors and nurses, early morning appointments, needles and machines. This would allow me and especially my family to have a period of adjustment. Iím not speaking badly about any of it all since from the moment I found out until receiving the good news that Iím cancer free, I had nothing but the best care given under the circumstance. Not to let it be forgotten, even the hospital is a Premier Level-1 Trauma Center, also well-known for its leaps and bounds in the entire medical arena. Meaning it is also a teaching facility that allows its students to be present during most routine examinations. I suppose I could try this one last time but it is all so exhausting.

In fact, anything remotely related to the hospital these days often gives me the chills. And that is understandable given my routine the last few years. But Iíve already completed multiple sets of tests, now they want me to sign up to do experimental ones. Truth be told, I am done.

Surprisingly that decision makes me feel at ease. Just like that. Even though I have not forgotten about the phone call, I now know that what Iím going to say is the right choice for me.

While waiting for the pizza to arrive I take notice of the house directly behind mine. Itís been on the market for a month and I can see from the dining room window my former neighbor walking up to the back door. Being nosy I just wondered what he was doing over there. Our on-line network keeps our neighborhood up to date on home sales and foreclosures, and lately a few break-ins has been mentioned as well. Not that it is anyoneís business, of course, more like keeping our little niche safe and informed of any suspicious activity in the area Ė looking out for one another Ė that sort of thing.

With my phone in hand I dialed up Dr. Stigmanís number. His answering machine picks up with, Ďleave a message at the tone,í in his thick Boston accent. Just as well I thought; I should probably wait until business hours to talk with him. For just an instant I felt a pang of regret for not continuing with my participation. But for nothing else, I weighed the pros and cons and decided what was best is to look forward beyond the scope of my salvation.

Sitting at the kitchen counter I finish off the bottle of beer. I remember a friend of mine telling me something unpleasant about Dr. Stigman as being arrogant and a little factitious. The nurses and even a few of the other doctors all seemed quite jumpy whenever they were around him. He is very articulate; a taskmaster with a whip about his work; always making triple-sure of the details. The test results are well documented but then for his eyes only.

Some patients began to complain about his abrupt manner of attention once the testing program got underway. A few of them dropped out after they couldnít take any more of his nastiness; and who could blame them. He was someone different. And depending on which testing group they were participating in, some of the monies received had to be returned.

Dr. Stigman seemed totally oblivious to it all. Only the final results mattered in the end. The woman I met about a year and a half ago was so nice and informative about the different programs she was involved in. There had been quite a few of them. Abigail, not Abby, had been diagnosed and dealing with several different forms of cancer throughout her body. She was fighting hard right up to the end.

When I met her it was at the beginning of my process for the group I would be associated with. She filled me in on what to expect and how I might feel afterwards. Abigail was dead-on with her descriptions and the possible danger of the different medications. The effects of the drugs on my body were both extreme and strenuous.

There was something else, too. I recall our conversation was also about the good Doctor himself. Something happened for Abigail to stop trusting him. She didnít have faith in him or the treatments anymore in the end. She never said what exactly had change so drastically, but before she could tell me anything more, complications from an experimental drug forced her into a coma. Then a day later from complications, she passed away.

That happened about two months ago when we got together to have lunch at the hospital cafeteria. That was one of her better days to be out catching a few rays. Around that time I was debating with myself over whether I should sign up again for the next round of tests. She was big help in the decision process. I wasnít sure back then but today I feel that I made the only choice right for me.

Coming into the living room I flipped the switch for the fireplace when I heard the doorbell. Even that is a reminder of the lullaby chimes heard in the hospital whenever there was a birth. There had been plenty of both, births and deaths. No chimes were ever made for the latter.

Remembering that I didnít have the cash in hand for the pizza, I quickly reverse my steps to grab a few bills out of the kitchen drawer. My stomach is growling and I feel silly keeping the pizza man waiting since I was expecting him. Heíll be surprised by the nice tip Iíll give him for his wait.

ďDr. Stigman. What a surpriseĒ.

Smiling broadly, he says, ďMs. Maxwell. I hope Iím not intrudingĒ.

From the moment I opened the door and see that the man standing there is Dr. Stigman, I am far past being shocked. I am dumbfounded to say the least, to see any Doctor making a house call. But what purpose would he have for being here? Those cold, red dancing eyes stared back at me; like they were looking through me. His behavior seems very agitated. Iíve never seen him act this way. His mouth now set in a pithy line that can either smile or sneer. There is uncertainty of his emotions right now because I feel they could go either way without warning. Not to mention I didnít think that Doctors made house calls anymore; and certainly never him. Clearly he didnít need to make the unexpected trip to my home for any reason. I can only imagine that a phone call would have been more suitable.

The look of confusion must have fallen heavy upon my face for yes Dr. Stigman, you are very much intruding. I could tell that he noticed the change as well. No sooner had the thought popped into my head to inquire as to why he was here; he jerked suddenly before lunging out at me, grabbing me sharply behind my neck. His grip so incredibly strong, he nearly lifts me off my feet. He draws me in closer to him. So close that the pungent smell of his after shave fills my nostrils. Struggling is useless against his massive strength. At this point he plunges a needle into my neck. I felt a small bite at the site of insertion then a trickle of fire slowly began to mark its path. The sensation suddenly diminishes any means for me to do anything. Adrenaline took over, started pumping through my veins like a cyclist, carrying whatever poisonous hot shot to all the recesses of my body.

After my ungraceful swan dive into his arms, Stigman lifted, and then carried me over the threshold of my home. During this I begin to feel just like a marionette doll without her strings. Arms and legs flopping about as my dead weight give cause for him to lay me out onto the floor instead of making it to the sofa. The drug is now coursing in my veins like a road-map is both potent and fast-acting. Almost immediately the warm feeling rushes through-out my body as my body betrays me with paralysis.

My screaming does not cause Dr. Stigman to waver from his intent. The idea was to make as much noise as possible but, he isnít at all affected by it. I donít understand it. For all of his brazenness it seems unlikely to want to attract any attention. Tried calling out to him but there is no response. Itís almost like he doesnít hear me with him pacing back and forth, back and forth. He is mumbling something about keeping mouths closed. While he is somewhat distracted I take a chance and try to stand up only to discover that I cannot move. I am locked within my own struggle to fight to regain some control. And then I start to realize the most conspicuous thought for the first time; if I canít move then I canít speak, and if I cannot speak...

There it is the thought that drives it home for me. No one can hear me but me because Iím screaming inside my head. Is this reality or a dream? I am aware of everything going on around me, but helpless in my defense. One thing I know for sure is that I am in extreme danger and frightened to the core that my muscles wonít obey my command. Yet for all my efforts I can do nothing but watch the good doctor flit around in frenzy. What chance do I have now from preventing abduction? Powerless to save myself I wonder if this might be the end of me. He came set to do me in, whereas I had been caught off-guard.

A sort of oddity took shape in my drug-induced dilemma. Dr. Stigmanís face is all that I see hovering above me like a suspended bobble-head. My mind feels overwhelmed with so many jumbled images of his rotating face. He wasnít in clown makeup, but it was how his cheeks looked red Ė too redólike the way blood is on a cotton ball. Apart from that I feel all hope is far away for me. Sweet surrender is all that is left when it was not mine to freely give. The choice was taken away by a Dr. I entrusted my life with.

As he grunts when lifting me off the floor, hurtful is a fading memory I have of Abigail telling me not to trust him to do any more tests. No more words are left to utter. Thereís just the painful task of being taken away. The opening of the door proved to be my miracle. Waiting on the stoop was none other than the pizza man himself. He is a beautiful sight from what I can tell, for I can only see him through what must have been watery eyes.

THATíS MY PIZZA! was the last thing I screamed out in my head before the darkness took me.


The Reluctant Patient by V. Evelyn

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