The doctor walked out into the hall. He looked tired. He was tired.
The offices and treatment rooms were laid out in a way that he could escape. Escape from those he treated.
He didn’t just treat the sick. He treated the well. The well that were sometimes more terrified than his actual patients. The well who were worried that their beloved sicks would be neglected.
The doctor didn’t neglect anyone. He just couldn’t save them all. When they met him, they were already diagnosed. He was an oncologist. So their illness was cancer.
Cancer isn’t a death sentence. He explained that to those who were referred to him. That said, sometimes people with cancer die. People look to him for their stage. Staging is important. If you’re Stage 1, you feel okay. If you’re Stage 4, you think you’re dead. You might be. Or maybe not.
But the Doctor sees you no matter your stage. And does their best to keep you in the “not dead” category. But it’s their best. And as good as they may be, some will move to the dead category.
But not today. The Doctor was very tired. There was a ten-day medical education thingie that he was still feeling. He’s not a resident anymore!
But, today he saw you, with your biggest, winning smile cemented by yesterday’s tooth polishing at the dentist. Your hair was growing beyond it’s style, sticking out at the back and around your ears like a 70’s Keith Partridge.
You were bronzed from a week at the beach and the last MRI was clean. He told the fourth-year medical student how you helped develop a new treatment protocol. They talked coded doctor talk a bit. Not to be rude, but because they were excited.
But the oncologist still looked tired. You saw him before he was excited. When he left via the back entrance. The secret staff exit from the chemo bar. You were late. You sheepishly signed in and then met up with the money taker. Next: your blood work. Then you surreptitiously snuck to the restroom–the one behind the elevators–before you got your blood pressure (117/70), temp (98.4°) and weight (none of your fcuking business) took.
When you got to the bathroom, it was occupied. So you stood, legs crossed, and waited.
You looked up when you heard a rustle at the far end of the hallway. You thought someone had found the stairwell that was invisible to you. Oncology was only a single floor up, but the corridor to the steps was like the room of requirements, only there if you knew it.
When you looked up, you saw a rumpled man with a stethoscope snaked around his neck. He was leaving from the secret staff exit. He looked up to see you doing the pee-pee dance. You gave a broad, silent wave. He gave a half wave from around his belt just before he opened the door across from the stairwell and disappeared. Into his retreat. Where he could collect himself. Away from the hope(lessness) of the chemo bar.
He’s a good doc. He needs a break. You don’t want him to break. He’s doing god’s work.