The cancer saga began the night I tripped over Major in the dark.

The cancer itself had apparently begun years earlier, but I had no idea of that.

Major and I were watching a movie on the computer, in the dark. I paused the movie to head for the bathroom, unaware that Major had shifted from his usual spot on his 60-inch round cushion to a conveniently nearby place on the thin but fine carpet or our living room. Looking back, I can guess why: it was a little cooler there, and even in the winter, he sometimes felt hot and bothered by heart palpitations.

One hundred forty pounds of black dog in a dark room, straddling the path to the bathroom and being very quiet about it, is a recipe for disaster. Major never lay in that spot again, for he learned his lesson when his Pack Leader tripped on him and couldn’t recover her balance.

Halfway down, I met the elephant-headed coffee table coming up. There was a split-second contest of solids, shoulder to solid wood. The coffee table won. Major and I lay on the floor and moaned for a while, I more than he, until the pain in various parts of our anatomies subsided. Then he moved back to the cushion and I carried on to the bathroom.

The right shoulder and arm, injured in a fall twenty years ago, would not shut up. For months it bitched and complained about how tough life was: why me, why me again, why do I have to do everything with this pain? It tried to devlop frozen shoulder but couldn’t quite achieve that spectacular level of dysfunction; but it significantly cut down on typing and opening jars and lugging things around–not to mention the times I woke in agony because the damned thing had slipped off the pillows used to elevate it at night.

In three months, no improvement happened. Slelep patterns were now seriously impaired. Then an email arrived from my GP: "Haven’t seen you in a year; get in here for a check-up, Old Thing."

At last, I thought, some usefulness to these blasted check-ups! I can get some attention for this arm.

I don’t dislike or fear the medical establishment, mind you. I just don’t use it much. I take no medicine, have no chronic complaints, and try to handle life in a primate body for the most part by treating it right with nutrition, rest and motion. A little self-examination, research, and reflection helps, too. And I’d much rather use the complementary medical system than the allopathic, where possible. But my right arm was not responding to any of that airy-fairy stuff.

Off I went, looking forward to some help with the damned arm. Major wished me luck from the back seat of the car, which I was down to driving with my left arm only.

Fifteen minutes later I was back. Nothing for the arm and a poop test in my hand. What the…?

My dear doc wouldn’t discuss the arm. That’s because, I suppose, if a patient comes in for a check-up, the doc gets paid for only a check-up. If anything specific is bothering the patient, he or she can come back fro a new appointment, so that the doctor can get paid.

Wish I could do that with my clients, I thought.

The poop test was for colon cancer. A new test that catches it early. Easy to do. The doc is giving these out like candy. There’s a grant, apparently, for running these tests on old sods like me–for "the program".

"I’m not the cancer type," I protested, fending it off. "My heart will take me out. You know that old saying (actually a newish saying), ‘Look at your mother; look at your father. Whom do you resemble? There is your fate.’ Well, I resemble my father, who died of a single heart attack at 67, and age which, seeing as it is only 5 years from now in the lifetime of this ape, is probably a much more crucial an issue."

The doc paid no attention to my hardwon homespun wisdom. She stuffed the poop test somewhere in the junk I carry around with me. I stood in the parking lot, looking at the promotional picture that goes with this test, of a bare-assed older couple–their buns neatly blocked out by a slogan like "Hindsight is perfect", and considered tossing the paraphernalia. Then I remembered research projects I had done, and how I felt when my subjects mislaid, misunderstood, or forgot.

Okay, okay…I’d get around to it one of these days.

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