Cancer #2 by Natasha Deonarain

“There’s a certain callous humor we need to practice medicine. It keeps us doing what we need to do.”
—from an anonymous Medical Resident’s online comment
I knew you were there alone, sitting in the darkness of your house,
sitting next to your enormous patio window shaded with the
excuse that it costs too much to run the AC. Sitting. Withering
inside before it showed on your flaking skin. You vomited
blood that night on the saltillo tile, careful not to
smear any on your expensive camel hair couch.
I knew you crawled to the toilet bowl alone. You told me
your hair fell in thick clumps but you didn’t have to tell me.
I saw the autumn colored wig you wore soon after, an awful
comparison to the glory of angelic blond curls that haloed
your head. I used to believe you were an angel fallen from
heaven just to be with me when I needed you most. You
didn’t have to tell me and I didn’t want to know
and I was careful not to tell you how my insides tore
apart more painful than yours trying to get rid of all those
chemicals they’d drain inside your veins.
Month after month.
My brain was stopped by my cracked tongue when
we spoke. Your shriveled ears blocked my cries in
that wilderness of gloves and gowns, stainless steel
poles and silastic tubes. Is it too late to tell
you I was always there when I wasn’t
always there?
Close to the end, years of watching you suffer, you
sat alone in a wheelchair, straight spine bowed. Your
cement blue eyes turned to me oh, so dull they
were now. “What would you recommend I do?” I could
feel my heart congeal.
“If I tell you, will you do it?”
Inside this silence pours a lifetime of laughter and pain.
Our hooks of love hemorrhaged at the slightest tug.
“Probably not.”
“Then what should I say?”
Oh. My dear, dear heart. I never wanted to be
your doctor. Only your friend and yet I still wonder, was
that ever—

Natasha Deonarain is a practicing medical doctor and the author of The 7 Principles of Health. Her work focuses on spirituality in health and healing and the destructive elements of modern for-profit medicine. Her recent work can be found in Dime Show Review, Prometheus Dreaming and Canyon Voices Literary Magazine.