"Damn it. It's a tumor," I sighed, staring at my patient's brain scans. "An aggressive one."
"So it's not early dementia. That's a good thing," Elia said. "This tumor can be removed after her ortho procedure. You caught it early, Dr. Larsen."
"Early?" I furrowed my eyebrows, looking at my intern. "She's been here three times. I've seen her outside the hospital on many occasions. This has been growing inside her head for a lot longer than six months; I didn't catch it early at all. I should've known something wasn't right."
"If I may... please don't blame yourself. She could've had her procedure and left this hospital without anyone raising questions, but you didn't let that happen. You caught this, you'll fix it, and she'll have a lot more time to fight this."
"Cancer is a god who lords over anyone it wants." I shook my head. "How do you fight a god and win?"
Breaking the news of cancer to a patient was always a difficult task, especially when it was a brain tumor. It hit home for me, like a hammer on a nail, every time I encountered it. And I knew it was selfish but the one thought in the back of my head that never went away was... This could happen to my husband.
Seeing Lysa in tears in front of me broke my heart. I could see her trying to piece the puzzles together in confusion, desperately grasping for some form of control.
"I-It can't be. I was... I went for a run this morning, didn't I?" She queried with wide eyes. I shook my head.
"You went biking. That's how you were found. This tumor is affecting your memory, and it's making it difficult for you to create new ones."
She blinked through her tears, letting out a short gasp.
"Lysa, listen to me. We'll prep you for your procedure today. It should go as smoothly as your recovery will. Once you're better, we're going to remove that tumor as soon as possible."
"Then I'll be fine?"
"It's an invasive tumor. But I do know that removing it will give you a lot more time, and your memory will improve."
She nodded quickly. "Okay. I'd like that."
I smiled reassuringly. "Would you like me to call anyone for you?"
"Oh, the nurse already contacted my husband."
"Okay. Respectfully, if you plan to inform him about your tumor, I can help you tell him and answer any questions. Whatever your wish is."
"I'll keep that in mind." She wiped her tears and smiled back at me sadly. "He'll be here before my procedure today."
"Alright. Let's get you prepped. I don't want you to worry about anything else; you're going to do just fine."
Lysa eventually decided to tell her husband about her cancer on her own, and I respected her wishes. I wasn't scrubbing in for her procedure so I checked on my other patients and tried to find one of my friends to talk to. And by talk, I meant vent. David was my diary at home, but I wasn't at home. Lyanna was my diary at work, but she was unfortunately pulled into an emergency surgery.
So I found myself approaching Avery Weppler's room just as a nurse left it.
"Dr. Larsen," he acknowledged. "Back so soon?"
I stood at the door to his hospital room. "I see you've got your meal. Enjoy it; it's your last until your surgery."
He lifted his cup of chocolate pudding. "And I finally got this. Took a hot minute, but I'm sure it'll be worth it."
I pushed off the door frame, moving further inside to sit on the chair near is bed. "You have me to thank. I made it a point to tell them to give that to you or else you'd get fussy."
The corners of his lips lifted into an amused grin as he propped himself up to eat. "You're not busy?"
"Nope. My patients are either stable, sleeping or both. Or with family."
"Are you here because I don't have family with me?" He hiked up one of his eyebrows.
"I'm your support system, remember? One day I'll convince you to let your brother know you're here."
He laughed then shook his head. "You look a little down. What is it?"
I bit my lip, wondering how he could see right through my humor. Admittedly, my attempt at making jokes was poor right now. "I can't break patient confidentiality. But let's just say... okay, in my world, I diagnose cancer quite a lot. It's scary, and it haunts me everyday. I mean, every day. I could meet someone on the sidewalk and find myself wondering if they have it. If they even know it. My baby loses her balance once and suddenly, I wonder if she has a chordoma."
I watched him furrow his dark eyebrows. "What even is that?"
"Exactly. She's healthy, thank god, but my fear is constant. I encountered that fear yet again today." I heaved a long sigh, feeling my eyes water helplessly. "I'm sorry. I bet this is the last thing you wanna hear. I should go; I'm sorry." I was about to stand up.
"Casper, it's okay. Truly, I don't mind. In fact, it's pretty nice to have someone to talk to. Better that you're a surgeon. You know you can cry right? Leave the stoic doctor mask at the door; you're a human being before anything else."
I met his gaze, and his words stopped me from wiping my eyes or trying to compose myself. There was no chance in hell that I could put on a brave face right now, and he was giving me the comfort I needed not to care. "You can be a human being in here if you need to," he reassured me.
I slowly nodded. "Thank you," I whispered, clearing my throat.
Avery picked up his cup of pudding and handed it to me with a spoon. "Here, I'm sure this will cheer you up."
I couldn't help but laugh. "You battled so hard for it. Sure you wanna give it all away?"
"Yeah. You need it a lot more than I do."
I humored him and gently accepted the cup and spoon. "I prefer vanilla, but if you insist."
"I insist," he affirmed.