Bob was a bit anxious about going to a shrink but promised Sandy he'd try a session in hopes it would help him cope with his diagnosis. His mind swirled and stomach churned as he waited for Dr. Bono.
A nurse opened the door to the lobby. “Mr. Devine?"
“Yes, I’m Bob.”
"Dr. Bono asked that I take you to the exam room."
Exam? I thought this was going to be a conversation. "Great, thanks."
"Can I get you something to drink while you wait?"
"How about a scotch?"
The nurse smiled and left the room. Bob sat and looked around trying to decipher how Dr. Bono might operate his practice. Lots of art. Lots of books. A telescope but no windows. A tambourine hung on the wall.
A tall man in a white coat entered the room. "Mr. Devine? I hope you weren't waiting long."
"No," Bob replied.
"I'm Dr. Bono." The men shook hands and then sat in comfortable armchairs across from each other. "What brings you to see me?"
"My wife suggested it. I was recently diagnosed with lung cancer and I'm struggling with it. I don't know how to think about the future. I worry if there is a future. I don't know how much to share with people and I don't want people's pity. It's overwhelming."
"I'm sorry you have to deal with this," the doctor said. "May I ask what your oncologist has told you is your prognosis?"
"They're not sure. I've more tests and maybe surgery. So far, the indications aren't good."
"Okay." The doctor paused and was quiet. "Hmmm...I feel the vibe of the cancer in the room. Did you know that disease has a vibe?"
"No." Bob looked around as if vibes were visible.
"They do. Cancer, heart problems, diabetes. Each disease emits an aura and a smell." The doctor stood and pulled from the air and smelled his invisible catch. "I'm getting a good sense of it. Are you in pain?"
Bob felt strange about the doctor smelling his cancer. "A little. I've been told the pain will increase as things progress."
The doctor stood still for several moments with his eyes closed. He took big loud breaths in and out. "I can smell your cancer and feel its presence. You want to know how to cope with this, right?"
Bob eked out a slight nod. "The next several months are going to be tough."
"Based on the smell, I'd say the cancer is laughing at you."
"Disease has a personality. Would you like me to talk to your cancer and ask it to behave?'
Bob leaned to the side and put his elbow on the armrest. He cocked his head to the left. "Talk to it?"
"In the right language, of course." Dr. Bono turned his hands in a circular motion and looked at the ceiling.
"Language?" Bob placed the side of his head in his hand.
The doctor walked around the room in a circle, flapping his arms. "Yaaa, yaaa, baa, na, ony, nana."
"Doctor...uh...I think there might be a mistake."
"Mani, na, ba, yaaa. Havi ah wani ka"
Bob stood up. "Doctor...I don't think this is what I need."
The doctor stopped, walked toward Bob and glared. "Mistake? Need? Are you questioning my expertise? You came to me remember? You asked for my help, remember? This is a very complicated situation that requires a high level of focus and concentration. If you don't respect it or me, I won't be able to convince your cancer to behave. So what will it be?"
Bob's mouth hung open. "I don't know what to say."
"That's why I am talking to the cancer, not you. So sit down, be quiet, and let me do my job."
Bob sat and waited while the doctor flapped and chanted for over thirty minutes. He wondered how he'd describe his therapy session to Sandy and caught himself smiling; something he'd not done in weeks.
Lisa's note: This little ditty came to me after I contemplated whether to seek therapy to make sense of my cancer diagnosis. I'm not making fun of therapists or the diagnosed but am highlighting the importance of smiles, from wherever you can get them.