Nelson has been complaining of pain in his back and shoulder. It started in his back, and he was convinced that it was sciatica. When it moved into his shoulder he became convinced that the physical therapist was overworking him. We got her to go easy on him for a few days, but the pain did not abate. Anne made him an appointment and took him to the doctor on Thursday last week. The doctor sent him for x-rays. As usual, Nelson undertook to make the rest of us suffer for this unexpected additional medical procedure. Anne bore the brunt of it because she was stuck in the car and in the waiting room with him.
The results turned out to be bad news, although just how bad is yet to be determined. Among his other ailments, Nelson has prostate cancer. At his age this has not been particularly worrisome as prostate cancer is a slow moving disease and fairly easily contained with medication. The likelihood is that, at 89 years of age, Nelson is going to die from one of his other health problems before the cancer ever gets him.
Unfortunately, this has turned out to be a contrary case. Apparently Nelson’s prostate cancer has metastasized into his spine, neck, and shoulder. The doctors want to do some additional tests, of course, to confirm, but this looks to be the issue underlying Nelson’s pain.
There has been a lot of discussion back and forth between his daughters. Nelson’s daughters like to plan things in minute detail and well in advance—even things over which, realistically, they have no control. They just like to know what is going to happen and when. As a group they are responsible, caring, and sensitive to a fault, but they are not ideally suited to dealing with surprises. This new development has thrown them, and is requiring a lot of discussion in order for them to get their plans readjusted in their heads.
I am reminded, perversely, of the time when my wife and her sisters discovered e-mail. E-mail represented a tremendous boon to their collectivity. It expanded their ability to keep up with one another by quantum bounds and was therefore cause for a lot of excitement among them. I was excited myself because I saw in e-mail a way for the ladies to increase their connections to one another and at the same time actually save money on long-distance telephone charges. Boy was I wrong.
Here’s what happened. One of the lovely sisters would decide she needed to communicate something of relative importance to her sisters. She would carefully craft an e-mail and send it, often to all three of her sisters. Once she’d hit the send button she would commence to worry that somehow the missive had gotten lost in the labyrinth of wires, cables, and junctions that comprised the internet. She would fear that the message would not be received, or not be received timely, or, even worse, accidentally sent to a Donkey Kong screen in some remote Chuck E. Cheese pizza house where a raucous t-ball team was celebrating their first victory of the season.
Once the sister was sufficiently convinced that her message had indeed gone astray—a process that usually took about 20 minutes—she would begin making long distance calls to her sisters to see if they had received the e-mail. A lengthy discussion would then take place about the contents, the spelling, the things they might have forgotten to mention, and ending with heartfelt wonderment about the marvels of modern technology that allowed them to stay so connected. Indeed.
Anyway that’s what they’re all doing now, my wife and her sisters, calling and e-mailing one another, trying to work these new developments into their plans for the rest of Nelson’s life. Nelson just wants to be left alone. He’s not really interested in having cancer or not. I think he suspects the whole thing is just another elaborate trick being played on him by the growing number of doctors he’s offended in some way. He doesn’t feel any worse than he did yesterday, and that was plenty bad enough, thank you very much.