Friday, June 7, 2013


The old fellow has troubles in the bathroom, and that's why he goes to a trusted physician.  One exam later, the bad news is delivered:  The prostate is enlarged, and according to hard data and the intimate touch of wise fingers, the gland is very likely cancerous.  A great deal can't be known about any single cancer.  Why there and why now, and what does the future hold?  But the total removal of the offending tissue is probably the safest course, and sooner would be be better than too late.

The patient is stunned and angry and of course doubtful...but where most every other American male has to settle for one or maybe two medical opinions, our man has the means to seek multiple experts.

Over the course of the next month, George visits thirty-three doctors.

Persistence pays.  The thirty-third expert stares at the same basic data, but he sees a very different picture:  This is a unique cancer, and though it looks bad to most professional eyes, his gaze is superior.  The tumor is old and slow-growing and it will probably lead to more embarrassment, but it won't ever reach the bones, and every other nightmare scenario is unlikely.

Doing nothing is the best course, one voice says.

Encouraged, George does his usual Sunday work.  He sits and he talks, giving opinions about many current subjects, including the April heat wave that leads the pundits to the topic of Climate Change.

The climate is always changing, says the man dying of cancer.  There is no reason for worry, much less panic, and with a smug grin, he promises the world that it will cold again, come winter.

Monday morning, there's blood in his urine.

That next week is heroic--the stuff of legend.  Thirty-four physicians are visited by one man.  He enters their offices wearing a tuxedo.  (This is his normal, around-the-house tuxedo, with cargo pants pockets and comfortable sneakers.)  Thirty-four times, he disrobes and undergoes frank exams that yield volumes of data, engaging the interest of specialists and experts as well as one doctor who has a significant drug habit.  The druggy is the only encouraging voice.  But like any committed addict, he hides his afflictions well, sounding rational and confident when he claims that George will live to be one hundred and ten.

Bolstered by that single opinion, George writes a long essay about how the world warmed until 1998, and since then, temperatures have remained flat, flat, flat.

Then on Sunday, the pundits sit before cameras, chatting amiably about the big story in Washington.  A young phenom for the Nationals is hitting .433 for April.  Several colleagues claim that the young man will surely break .400 for the year, but George knows baseball.  Hell, he's written books on the subject.  April is just one month, and he suspects that more at-bats and major league pitching will bring that average down, down, down.

That night, our hero can't urinate to save his life.

Last week's diagnostic parade was amazing, but that doesn't compare to the next forty-eight hours.  A hospital suite is given to George.  Another thirty-three doctors are ushered through the doors, and for a long while, the prognosis is grim.  But the last man-in-white is a blessing.  With a wide smile, he tells the patient that nothing is wrong.  Nothing at all.  Every other professional is mistaken, but not him.  George is healthy.  George has a little infection, or maybe a large infection.  But it will pass.

Naked and a little cold, George asks, "Are you certain?"

The last doctor scoffs and shoves several fingers back up into the patient's rectum.  Which is the fifth or sixth time this has happened during the exam, by the way.

"You feel fine to me," he says.

"I wish I could believe you," George admits.

Which is when the doctor calmly shoves his other hand up his own ass, and with a cackle and wild hoot, he says, "Mine is as swollen as yours, and I feel great, great, great!"

Three experts disagree with ninety-seven of their peers.

One of them is brilliant and creative and just possibly right.

Another is impaired in some fundamental way and quite useless.

And very likely, one man among one hundred is always going to be clinically, magnificently insane.