ON THAT NOTE
Suresh Menon is a writer based in India. In his youth he set out to change the world but later decided to leave it as it is
An important relationship in our columnist Suresh Menon’s life, built one virus at a time, has suddenly collapsed.
My doctor broke up with me the other day, and I don’t know how to react. No, we didn’t have one of those, “It isn’t you, it’s me” type of conversations over a cup of coffee. The setting was different – it was in his office with his diplomas hanging on the wall (and doubtless notches on his table to mark the number of patients he had broken up with). And he didn’t say “We must stop seeing each other.” In fact I can’t put my finger on precisely what it was he said that sent out the message. But I received it loud and clear.
Perhaps it was, “You are free to see other doctors” or “go ahead, get a second opinion.” We always had an open relationship. He was free to see other patients, and if he wanted a second opinion he could always talk to himself. But now it was over.
Thus did a bond built up over the years, virus by virus, bacterium by bacterium, collapse. We can handle our pets dying, our spouses leaving us, even our former girlfriends getting married to richer and better-looking men, but a doctor quitting? That hurts.
For one, it was partly my money that had funded his education through the taxes I paid which helped subsidise it. For another, once a man has seen your pancreas close up, you do tend to assume a level of intimacy you wouldn’t from, say, a gardener (who might have only seen your begonias), or window cleaner. Doctors know what make us tick or talk, or when the tictoc is running down, information you might not care to share with your best friend.
Why do I feel as if I had to apologise to my doctor? The first time we met, I noticed something in his office and told him about one of my rules (it wasn’t, I was joking): “Never go to a doctor whose plants are dying.” It was a line I had read on a poster somewhere, but he wasn’t amused. That was my first and last joke in his office, and so much for laughter being the best medicine.
Perhaps I was never the ideal patient he had wished for and tolerated me only for my medically interesting body parts from the ingrown toenail to the bunched up liver. Perhaps once he had fixed my various problems, I was no longer interesting. Doctors have no interest in the healthy and well-adjusted. Give them a collapsing lung or a rare disease, and they will never leave your side.
I have a choice to make now. Do I move on, or contract something that will make me interesting again to my doctor?