Aaron moved from desk to desk through the office he had spent the last nineteen years in. Oh, he had not had the same job for that length of time but he had worked at the same address. He had risen from a claims adjuster to Assistant Manager during that time. Today was to be the last time he was in the office—at least as an employee—and it was not a full day. It was just short of ten a.m. and he was making the final rounds telling his employees goodbye before he went off to an early retirement. His company was downsizing and had offered early retirement to those who had a total score of years of service with the company and age that equaled at least 80. Aaron had just made the cut. He was just past age 51 and had 29 years with his current employer.
Thankfully savings and the sweetened retirement package had made it financially possible for him to retire. He had become so tired of the pressure he had been looking for other work when the early retirement opportunity was announced. He had been one of the first persons to apply. The thought of retiring early was frightening because it would be so long until he could collect his social security but he and his wife had decided he should make the move and retire for the sake of his mental and physical health as well as for the sake of their marriage.
The day of his retirement Aaron and his wife Bonnie left for a six week retirement trip. They had always wanted to travel and so they immediately began doing so. The first few years of Aaron's retirement they planned to drive all over North America. They intended to have an ultimate destination in mind for each trip but they would take their time getting there and getting back home. If they saw someplace they wanted to see they would stop and see or do whatever caught their interest. The first three trips were wonderful. During winter they were on the beach in south Florida, in the Keys. As the weather warmed they moved north. During the hot part of the year they were in Canada, Alaska and the northern part of the United States. Most of their trips were six to eight weeks long then they would return home to do necessary upkeep, touch base with family and friends and pick up clothes appropriate for the weather they would face on their next trip.
Aaron and Bonnie were not hypochondriacs by any stretch of the imagination but they were careful of their health. They had the recommended checkups for persons their age. They went to the dentist every six months for exams and cleanings as recommended. They took vitamins and exercised. They ate balanced meals and tried to eat healthy foods. In short they tried to live life right yet still eat and drink well. They intended to fully enjoy the time they had remaining.
When Aaron was 50 he had his first colonoscopy as is recommended. Polyps were found and removed. Then he was informed he needed to have another colonoscopy every two years because polyps had a history of turning malignant. With a history of polyps more care should be taken.
Aaron had his second colonoscopy at age 52 as recommended. He and Bonnie were upbeat and looking forward to another winter in Florida. They were scheduled to depart from Wilsons Mill a week after the procedure. The gastroenterologist came into the room shortly after Aaron was returned from recovery.
Dr. Johnson said, "Mr. Talkington we found two more polyps this time. I only removed one of them. The other polyp was very large. It has to come out but we need to know more about it. Before we remove it I want to see the biopsy as it looks suspicious. I need to know how deep it goes before we attempt removal."
Bonnie looked shocked and Aaron felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. He was already thinking of the "C" word and felt like the bottom fell out of his life. Bonnie said, "Doctor we're supposed to go to Florida for six weeks beginning next Thursday. Am I going to know about this before we leave?"
"I should have the biopsy back next Monday. I will be out of the office most of the day Tuesday. If I have not called you by Wednesday afternoon you can check with my office for the results."
Bonnie set her lips then asked, "What about our trip? When will he have to do something about this?"
"If the trip was for a week or so there would be no problem but if the growth is malignant we will want to move to remove it as soon as possible. Even if it is not malignant it should come out very soon to be safe. I recommend surgery immediately in either case but obviously if it is cancer the surgery should be sooner rather than later."
Aaron lay on his bed and listened to his wife and Doctor discuss his problem. He understood what the doctor was saying but what bothered him was his wife. She seemed more worried about her winter in Florida than she did about his health. He was still not thinking clearly because of the anesthetic in his system but he had a strange feeling about the conversation. Bonnie's attitude worried him.
Six days later just after noon on Tuesday the phone rang. Aaron was sitting at his desk researching stocks and repositioning himself in his self directed Individual Retirement Account. He picked up the phone. Doctor Johnson said, "Mr. Talkington?" When Aaron acknowledged the doctor continued, "I got the results of your biopsy back yesterday as I said we would. It was a cancer sir. My office will be setting up further tests for you as soon as possible. Our first test will be a CT scan to determine the size and depth of the growth. After I receive that we will get back in touch to make further treatment arrangements."
Aaron sat somewhat in shock. He had been expecting this outcome but it is still a shock when you hear the words you have been dreading. He tried to ask questions but many of the things he wanted, needed desperately to know could not be determined this early in his treatment. Finally, still in shock, he said, "Thank you doctor," and hung up.
It was normal in the Talkington home for Aaron and his wife to put the phone on speaker when they answered. They were a couple and had been for 28 years. They neither one had secrets from the other. In fact, many of their friends would not call to visit because they did not like the fact each was privy to every phone call.
When Aaron hung up the phone Bonnie came into the office from the kitchen where she had been working. She stood in the door for a moment then walked to one of the chairs they used to read. "Well, that sure puts a crimp in our travel plans. Did he say when everything would go down?"
"No. You heard it. They'll call with the next appointment."
Later that afternoon Dr. Johnson's office nurse called with the next two appointment times for further tests. There was a blood work up scheduled for the next day then in four days the CT scan. It would be three days for the results to be read and the doctor to call back at the outside. As soon as he hung up Aaron began canceling reservations for their trip. He cancelled three weeks ahead and decided to wait before cancelling more. Depending on how the tests came out and how soon he had his surgery he had hopes of going to Florida for at least part of the time they had scheduled.
Bonnie walked into the office and saw the computer screen had a cancellation verification e-mail visible. "What are you doing," she asked. "You aren't cancelling all of our reservations are you?"
"NO, I only cancelled the first three weeks. I thought we might still be able to go for part of the winter. From here out I will only cancel as we get closer to the reservation beginning date. I plan to cancel each reservation just before it is no longer open to cancellation without penalty. That way if things work out for the better we can still go south part of the season."
Bonnie sighed and said, "Well I suppose that's the best you can do right now." She turned and walked from the room with no further conversation. For the next three days she was quiet, pensive. When she said anything to Aaron her voice was sharp. She seemed upset but when Aaron asked her what was wrong she always said "Nothing". Aaron chalked her attitude up to worry over his health problem. After all, he wasn't the most chipper person in the world either and he had to watch himself to keep from snapping at Bonnie. Aaron knew how he would feel if it was Bonnie with this hanging over her head.
A few days later Aaron and Bonnie went to the pre surgery check up. Bonnie seemed surly once again and just sat staring into space while they waited their turn to see the surgeon. Aaron was not much better. He looked around the room and saw all the sick people, people with hope shattered because their cancer came back, people like him that had not had surgery before and still hoped for the best, that they would beat the "big C".
During the consultation Aaron had trouble concentrating on the discussion. He remembered listening to and approving the plan but when the surgeon asked if he had any questions his mind came up blank. All he could do was shake his head no. Bonnie on the other hand had many questions and they all seemed to dwell on recovery times and what Aaron would be able to do after the surgery, if he could travel and if so how soon. Aaron thought many of the answers were positive but Bonnie seemed worried. Finally the exam ended and Bonnie and Aaron left for their home. The trip home was quiet, tense.
.... There is more of this story ...