Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Old Friends

By way of a paradigm shift meet Henry and Minnie*, and old couple married in the dawn of prehistory, survivors of recession, war, famine, pestillence..... you get the idea. And throughout it all they have fought like cat and dog, Tom and Jerry, maybe even Itchy and Scratchy!

Their relationship apparently thrives of their ability to contradict one another, or more properly Minnie to contradict Henry. It's easier for her to do now, because in the past five years Old Father Time has accounted for what little hearing war and mining had left Henry. He has aids. You know the sort. Big clunky things that whistle and squeal with alarming regularity. In many ways it's just as well he's deaf enough not to have to hear it!

Minnie has her own agenda. She is desperate to make sure he stays well. The thing is, she was diagnosed with "inoperable" and therefore "terminal" colon cancer some four years ago.

Yes, really, four years.

The diagnosis is quite correct. The prognosis has been appallingly wrong. You might think happily, given she is still around, and really not a lot worse, four years in. But to her that's four years spent on Death Row, waiting for the men with the keys to come for her, to march her off to the chamber, and she doesn't even get to know which day to have her "hearty breakfast". And so she is scared. Not so much for herself, except when she gets a new pain she can't explain**. No, she worries for him.

It doesn't help that like all men of a certain age he is prone to concerns over the working of his bowels.*** In brief he suffers with constipation, despite laxative doses that would bring an elephant to it's knees.**** Of course Minnie's carcinoma began with episodic constipation-- followed by diarrhoea in her case, but still she sees constipation as a "red flag" symptom. So much so that we even investigated poor Henry last year just to reassure her.

It hasn't.

Which brings us back to today. Henry comes in and sits centre stage. After all it is his appointment. Minnie comes in behind him, and takes station, for all the world like a smaller, older, more female Kevin Costner, just behind his left shoulder.

One false move here and I'll feel my hair***** being parted by the bodyguard's katana, I think to myself.

Henry starts to detail in graphic terms his latest struggles with his affliction. All the while Minnie is behind him shaking her head violently whenever she disagrees. Which is most of the time. When he has finished, and before I can shout a response into his least whistly ear, Minnie has her say, and completely revises his presentation. What had been a tale of manly triumph over adversity is instantly transformed into an official history of the first day of the Somme.

They have a stand up row, conducted at 90+ decibels, which she wins. We end up agreeing to give him the treatment she was after for him in the first place. And they leave, hand in hand, smiling sweetly at one another and full of thanks for my kind attention-- or for doing what Minnie asks, which amounts to the same.

Their relationship is founded on the solid bedrock of decades of conflict and a sound appreciation of who wears the trousers.

Even when she's in a skirt.

* usual bogus prize offer for the first respondent to grok the reference.
** which have been mercifully few.
*** what follows has been heavily censored on grounds of good taste and proximity to Dr J's teatime.
**** Aren't you glad this is the edited version?
***** such as is left


The Boy said...

Oh please, any goon should know that one...

Potentilla said...

Damn, the boy got in first. Crun to you.

wendz said...

I love the way you Brits have 'tea' when the rest of the universe is noshing on dinner...

..and so many **** today....I am quite goggle-eyed Dr J...all that scrolling back and forth to double check the reference...

Doctor Jest said...

Boy-- What what what what! [/seagoon] take this leather five pound note with my compliments....

Potentilla-- accept this drawing of ten bob in lieu.

Wendz-- It's in keeping with the new Greasie-esque nature of the blog. I give it till Friday personally, always been more of a bracket man. And dinner is what posh people do. Those of us from humbler origins go home to mam for us tea.

Z said...

If we posh people have to eat early, we call it high tea, because tea is afternoon tea (with cucumber sandwiches)
Then, if hungry again a bit later, we have supper.
*rings for butler*
*butler says thank you for rings*

Doctor Jest said...

z-- I suppose given the shift at the top of this post I shouldn't be surprised at the surreal twist the comments have taken. Still I must confess to being a little bemused that we have got from cancer-phobia and constipation to the dining habit of the upper crust.

Oh, and for anyone who was wondering the word I was groping towards in an earlier reply should have read Greavsie-esque. Apologies to all concerned :-(

Z said...

Okay, sympathetic comment then.
It used to be that incurably ill patients were 'spared' knowledge that they were going to die. This was patronising and is now generally agreed to be wrong. But now they are told everything, fairly specifically, and some people can't handle that. Poor Minnie. Mind you, if Henry dies, she'll be gone too in no time - and vice versa probably.
Unfortunately, when told you have an incurable illness, the first and natural question is "how long have I got?"

Doctor Jest said...

z-- And quite right. It's just that "inoperable" or even "incurable" and "rapidly fatal" are not one and the same... and indeed you are right I fear for either of them when the other succumbs. Happily, right now I look forward to being caught up in a few more of their contretemps before that happens. I just find it sad that insensitive handling some time ago throws such a long shadow.

wendz said...

That's a tough call for any doctor to have to make actually...when my dad first got cancer 2 years ago he was told he had ages - it was prostate cancer and his diabetes would likely get him first...then a few months later he was told it was a rare and aggressive form and he had a few months....he lived past that though... then he developed adreno-cortico cancer and was told he had a few weeks left...he lived 8 more months...and then right at then end, he was told (just 10 days ago) that he was still not immediately terminal...he died 2 days who can ever say, eh!

But the hospice worker did say that patients usually know before anyone else when the end is near.

I must say I'd hate to be the one to tell someone they have reached the end of the road...nasty job that.

Doctor Jest said...

Wendz-- you're right it's a baffling part of the game alright. Even where you have two patients with seemingly identical disease their experiences and outcomes can be vastly different. FWIW I'm with the hospice worker. Patients tend to have far better instincts for this than we do, so long as we don't go giving them confused messages :-(