11:50:39 am on
Monday 30 Nov 2020

Unwelcome News First?
AJ Robinson

How many times have we heard the old line: “Which do you want to hear first, the welcome news or the unwelcome news?” It’s a staple of countless stories. Oh, then there are the variations: “the unwelcome news or the really unwelcome news?” “the unwelcome news or the great news?” and so on.

When a physician gives unwelcome news.

Just the other day, I had that line delivered to me That it came from my doctor was cause for concern. My choice, welcome or unwelcome news first.

I have pains, numbness and loss of strength in my left arm and for several months. I thought it had to do with sitting at my desk and repetitive motion issues associated with my work and writing. That was the good news, it caused some pain I was responding well to the physical therapy.

Ah, but there’s that word: “some.” The doctor ordered x-rays and an MRI; now he had the results of both. The fact he pulled up a chair and sat next to me to deliver the details did not bode well, in my opinion.

I was right. It was time for the unwelcome news. Here goes.

He ran down a long laundry list of issues with my spine. A growth on C2, the Second Cervical Vertebra, which could be cancerous; bulges and compressions, lack of alignment and so on. Oh, as the MRI only examined the C vertebra and the problems extended below that, I needed another MRI to go down to the T vertebra, and, we hoped, no further.

He gave me a printout of the report and lined up the new tests and appointments: contrast MRI and a visit with the neurosurgeon to discuss options. Such a nice sterile word, isn’t that options? Translation: surgery, spinal surgery.

We were already talking of opening my spinal cord from C2 down to where I am not sure, yet delightful, right. Then he asked if I had any questions. Another classic routine.

I was too numb to think. The fact that he said he was amazed I wasn’t in pain was yet another downer. So, my spine looked so terrible on the x-ray and MRI images that I should be writhing about in agony? Oy!

I took the report and went home.

Here was where the pendulum of my mood swung back to the welcome news, at least a little bit. My wife reviewed the report and read it over the phone to our friend who is a medical transcriptionist. She was familiar with a lot of the terms in the report and was able to ease some of our concerns.

That spot on C2 many times it would turn out to be nothing. That I wasn’t in pain was excellent sign, as it could mean surgery wasn’t necessary now or anytime soon. That was some relief.

So, now I sit and wait. I try to focus on work and my family. Tomorrow I get the new MRI and a week after the election I sit down with the neurosurgeon to talk about where my life might be going.

As I contemplate my options, I’m struck by a couple things. First, is that all-important event: the election. We choose our president and decide who gets to control Congress. I can’t help but think about where I’d be if I didn’t have health coverage through my work. I remember in that movie The Money Pit, where Tom Hanks and Shelley Long would ask the contractor how long it’ll be before their house was done, the answer was always the same: “Two weeks.”

That’s how long the Trump healthcare plan has would take to reveal. You remember that one, the great replacement for the ACA? We’re still waiting!

Then there’s Barrett, now seated on the Court, and one of the first cases she’s going to hear is an attack on that law. Will she help to strike it down, my money’s on yes. What a delightful outlook for the future, millions without insurance during a pandemic, and no replacement in sight, if Trump stays in office.

Some problems by comparison.

Suddenly my problems seem so very small. I wonder how both will turn out: my health and the health of our nation. Best for me and the country, I hope.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Working, again, as an engineeer, after years out of the field due to 2009 recession and slow recovery, Robinson finds time to write. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true. His teen vampire adventure novel, "Vampire Vendetta," will publish in 2020. Robinson continues to write books, screenplays and teleplays and keeps hoping for that big break.

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