Excerpt from *Yes*: The Diagnosis

July 18, 2012


LUKI tried to make it look as though he met the doctor’s eyes, but really, he looked out the fifth floor window to the Seattle city traffic. Downtown, lots of people in the street, though not as many as say, New York, or London, both places Luki had been. The opulence of the oncologist’s office held no power to impress Luki. He had means, and, before he loved Sonny, this was the kind of place he chose to live and work. Because it was cold, sterile, empty of connotations and implications.

He looked—surreptitiously, he hoped—from the window to Sonny, marveling at the way he looked beautiful in a new way in every setting. As if he wove himself into a scene the same way he wove shining ideas into his tapestries. Would he, Luki, be here listening to the doctor drone if it wasn’t for Sonny? Probably. But it would mean less.

He registered the doctor’s voice: “Now, I’m not going to mince words….”

That sounded ominous.

“That would be dishonest, and unfair to you.”

“Yes,” Luki answered, because it seemed something was called for. The doctor, who was not, Luki thought, cold or empty, continued to drone. That was the only word Luki could think of for it. Blah, blah, blah. He’d already seen two doctors, had a bevy of pictures taken of his interior—like real estate—and endured poking and prodding that would stir the dead. But he inwardly admitted his reaction—or lack of reaction—to the doctor’s words might be less because of the doctor’s boring manner and more because he, Luki, didn’t want to hear a detailed description of the tumor in his lung.

Distracted, he gazed at the axial CT images, which was a view from the top down, and made his lung look like an almost egg-shaped hole, and the tumor look like a yoke splatted in the middle of it. Mr. Vasquez, I’m afraid you have a fried egg in your lung.

Luki didn’t realize he’d chuckled aloud until Sonny clamped a hand on his shoulder, and he saw a shocked look on the doctor’s face. “Sorry,” he mumbled. “I was thinking about… something….”

“I’m not sure how much you heard of my explanation, Mr. Vasquez.”

“Just call me Luki, please. I heard it all, I think. Apical tumor, right side, squamous cell, advanced, etcetera.” The doctor and Sonny both looked shocked, and Luki felt shocked too. He hadn’t realized that despite his efforts not to, he really had laid claim to the doctor’s words.

“Yes, well,” Dr. Zhvornak continued, “good, so now this is the important part, Luki.” He slid his stool closer. “There are both positive signs, in terms of what’s in store for you, and negative ones. Negative first: The location in the apex of the lung—”

Another shock, this one physical, coursed through Luki when the doctor tapped his chest to show him where the tumor was growing, rather than pointing to the images. If he was trying to secure all of Luki’s attention, it worked.

“—tends to suggest a less favorable prognosis. And the tumor is advanced, adhering slightly, from what we can see, to the chest wall, here. Understand so far?”

“Yes.”

“Some signs that are more positive: Despite the location of your tumor, you have no signs of Pancoast syndrome—which shows up when a nerve is sheathed in tumor. Though the tumor is large and adherent to the chest wall, I don’t believe it truly invades the tissue there significantly. And, believe it or not, it is favorable to you that this tumor is in your right lung, not your left. Very favorable, we found no evidence for metastases. Do you know what that word means?”

“Yes.”

“We can fight this aggressively if you want. It will most likely involve chemo, radiation, surgery, chemo, and radiation again. Then, either immediately or six months later depending on the signs, another round of chemotherapy. That last round is insurance if we’ve been successful. If we’ve not met with success, if the cancer is still active, then that last round will most likely be palliative. That means—”

“We know what it means!”

“Let him say it, Sonny.”

“Palliative means it’s offered to reduce pain and discomfort in the dying process, and it may possibly lengthen your life by months or maybe a year. I’ve outlined for you the most aggressive treatment, Mr. Vasquez—”

“Luki.”

“Luki, then. I have twenty years of experience treating cancers, and I can tell you yours is far from the least favorable scenario. This treatment regimen is my recommendation—leaving no medical stone unturned, so to speak. You will find the process painful, debilitating, and long. You may never recover your full strength. You will certainly lose part of your lung. You’ll have a new scar. During the process you’ll almost certainly lose your hair.”

Luki had no difficulty maintaining his cool exterior until those last three words. Lose. Your. Hair. His heart began to pound at the thought of grieving his carefully tended chestnut curls, which he considered a mitigating factor, making up in part for his frightening visage with its long, livid scar. When he tried to swallow, he coughed. Thankfully, it passed without becoming a spell. Sonny sat behind him and to one side, and now he lifted a hand to those curls as if to protect them.

“Statistics mean little in cancer treatment, Luki, but I like to be completely frank. Considering all the information we’ve gathered, the odds are one in three that you’ll survive for the next five years, if we fight with every weapon we have. Do you want to proceed?”

“Yes!” The word fairly burst from Sonny’s lips.

“Mr. James—”

“Call me Sonny.”

“I appreciate, Sonny, that you are invested in Luki’s welfare. Obviously, the two of you care deeply for each other. That commitment—if you two can make it last through the hell and high water you’ll face during treatment—is in fact another strong point in Luki’s favor. But Sonny, it has to be his choice. You can’t make it for him.”

Luki stood up. “Let’s go, Sonny. Dr. Zhvornak—”

“Dr. Z, please. We’ll get to know each other well, if you opt for treatment, and besides”—he smiled—“everyone massacres my last name.”

Luki laughed—which a few years ago would have been a miracle in itself—but Sonny looked horrified. “Luki, what do you mean, let’s go? We can’t just go. You have to—”

Luki gave Sonny a long, not too friendly stare, then looked over his shoulder at the doctor. “I’ll be in touch. It won’t be long. Thanks for your honesty.” Luki turned to walk out, but Sonny continued to stand in place, his dark skin visibly blanched. Luki raised his brows. “Sonny?” It was more an order than a question.

4 Responses to “Excerpt from *Yes*: The Diagnosis”

  1. Great excerpt, can’t wait to read the entire thing.

  2. Lou Sylvre says:

    Thanks Elizabeth! Stay tuned for a possibly less painful excerpt a bit later!

  3. Judi P says:

    Oh Jeez… ;A;/ I’m gonna tear up.. LOL…
    I want to read the whole thing more than ever…
    Wonderful Excerpt!

  4. Lou Sylvre says:

    Thank you,, Judi! I hope you’ll let me know your thoughts once you’ve read it!

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