Gilberto Rides Again – Chapter 3
by Stephen Halpert
Gilberto hated hospitals. He remembered the small shack smelling of disinfectant that served as a makeshift hospital near where he had lived in Puerto Rico. It was said people went there to die. Fortunately, his parents moved to Florida then he was six and could avoid such circumstances. They would drive to Miami for medical consultations, but the fear of hospitals had dominated his youth.
The austerity and hushed milieu of giant medical centers did little to boost his confidence in modern healthcare. The brisk nurses reminded him of the nuns he remembered from his boyhood. Deep down he believed that many physicians were swindlers, out to get as much money as they could. He railed about this as he and Maria drove to the hospital and parked.
Once they were in the waiting room she said, “Please be optimistic, and don’t let your childhood prejudices get in your way.” She kissed him. “I know you’ll come through this unscathed. He kissed her back and followed a dour-looking nurse to his examining room. He removed his trousers. Dr. Fletcher greeted him briskly and went right to work. Gilberto didn’t care for the doctor, who was short with a ruddy complexion, and eyes that looked to Gilberto as though they had seen too much and now no longer cared.
The smell of antiseptic cloyed at his nose. He had never experienced anything like the instrument that invaded his genitals. There must be another way, he thought. This is barbaric. Didn’t the Nazis do torture like this?
Invasive and cold, the cystoscope probed deep inside his groin, sending images in real time to a computer. The doctor worked silently, his eyes focused on the screen. It seemed to Gilberto he took no interest in him as a person, only in that part of his body. Gilberto almost said something, but he was far too uncomfortable to speak.
After what seemed an eternity, the doctor finished the procedure and withdrew the scope.
Finally, Gilberto found his tongue. “What did you find?”
The urologist’s expressionless face was upsetting. “You have a cancerous tumor growing on your bladder.”
Gilberto gulped. Fear froze his mind. “Cancer! Will I die?”
“Not from this,” Dr. Fletcher sounded indifferent. “It can be removed during a day surgery. Then six sessions of immunotherapy are administered to make sure it doesn’t come back.”
“Just like that?” Gilberto wanted a longer, more comprehensive, explanation. He felt confused and fearful. “How’d I get cancer? I take good care of myself.”
Doctor Fletcher shrugged. “Environmental. Happens a lot. More common these days than you might think.”
“That’s all you can tell me?” The doctor seemed so unfeeling.
“We’ll keep checking you afterward. You could be lucky. It could stay in remission.”
Lucky was not how Gilberto was feeling. “Not fair,” he said. He hoped for a shred of empathy from this man, who seemed impatient to send Gilberto on his way. Maybe he had a golf date later that morning.
“No. It isn’t,” the doctor said. “Cancer’s out for its own survival.”
The thought that something was eating at the wall of his bladder horrified Gilberto.
The doctor turned to leave the examining room. “Set up your surgery sooner than later.”
“Just like that? That’s it?”
He nodded and left. Gilberto dressed. He took some deep breaths; he wanted to be brave when he told Maria.
He went to the desk and made an appointment. He was fortunate he could be operated on within two weeks. They left the waiting room, and as they waited for the elevator, he filled her in. She listened. When he said that ominous word, cancer, she gulped and nodded. “Aren’t you glad you let me bring you this morning?”
He sighed. “Probably; glad it was discovered. Personally, I’d feel safer with a tribal witch doctor, someone who uses herbs as medicine.”
She frowned. “Gilberto, be glad modern medicine is here to save you.”
He shook his head. “That doctor was so indifferent, like this was nothing more than a loose filling or an ingrown toenail.”
“To him that’s probably what it was. You’ll be fine, I’m sure.”
He continued to rail. She didn’t respond. She knew to give him his space, regardless of how irrational he seemed. Why quibble? Over the years he had complained of her quibbling. And even though she knew he’d ultimately agree with her, she also knew her exacting nature could annoy him.
He sighed. “After the surgery I have to go back for six treatments. I hate that instrument. Six treatments!”
“That’s a lot better than painful chemo or radiation. Personally, I think you’re getting off easy.”
He ignored his wife’s positivity. “It’s invasive, barbaric. I hate it!”
She nodded. “You’d have to be crazy not to, but it’s only a momentary discomfort; besides we don’t remember pain, regardless how invasive.” She smiled at him. “You must be hungry. Let me take you out to lunch.”
He disliked this talk. The whole experience was like losing a big game, a championship. Obviously, his ego took a big hit, confirming he was human, not a living god, immortal. He felt oddly vulnerable. “I’m starved, but don’t feel hungry. He called it ‘environmental,’ whatever that’s supposed to mean.”
“You need to eat.”
He nodded. “I’m not hungry, maybe a beer to cool me out. I feel like going to work, throwing myself into what’s at hand. I don’t want to wait. Couldn’t they remove it now, today?”
“Sure. That makes sense, but you have to wait. Fortunately, they caught it early. It could have been a lot worse. You need to eat. Let’s get a burger and I’ll drop you off at Atlas.”
“Maria, I don’t want to eat dead cow, not now, not anymore. I couldn’t hold it down.”
“You might eventually change your mind.” She gave him a sly smile. “How about a gooey ice cream sundae, loaded with hot chocolate, marshmallow, strawberries and nuts?”
That made him smile. “Yes, the perfect comfort food after being told I have cancer.”
“Please Gilberto stop being so dramatic. You’re lucky! You’ll survive this regardless of how you feel about that poor doctor. He’s just doing his job. Be charitable Gilberto. It could be a lot worse.”
(To be continued.)
About authors Stephen and Tasha Halpert…
ABRACADABRA MOONSHINE & OTHER STORIES by Stephen Halpert
This collection of original, unusually intriguing short stories is an exuberant tour de force of wit, humor, and insight into the human condition. The collection of magical tales will entrance, entertain, and prompt readers to ponder the true nature of reality. They will definitely entertain you and make you wonder a bit about the twists and turns that life can take. You may even fall in love with some of his characters and wish they were real and present in your life.
Heartwings: Love Notes for a Joyous Life by Tasha Halpert
This heartwarming book brings a breath of sunshine against the cold of any day and kindly and gently reveals a deeper level of understanding for all. It provides a helpful path for anyone concerned with personal self-development to follow. Sharing a lifetime of comforting knowledge gleaned from living and loving life, the emotionally intelligent author leads readers on an introspective journey to a greater sense of realization, joy, and inner peace. Her poetry is moving, and a poem follows each thought-provoking essay.
Up to My Neck in Lemons by Tasha Halpert is a collection of practical as well as metaphorical uses for life’s lemons. This collection of essays and poems provides insights gained from daily life experiences, both happy and sad. The stories illustrate how to appreciate what might at first have seemed unfortunate.
The recipes are author favorites, and are both sweet and sour, cleansing and therapeutic. This book will bring comfort and insight on turning life’s lemons into lemonade. The poems that follow each essay form an enjoyable adjunct to the wisdom and insight this book brings the reader.
Each book is $15.00 postpaid autographed by the author. Write to Tasha Halpert at P.O. Box 171, North Grafton, MA, 01536 and include a check to receive a copy of any of these entertaining and even perhaps helpful books.
Visit Stephen and Tasha’s website here.
Shop for Stephen and Tasha’s books online here.
(To be continued.)