Sample P19 from [Anonymous,] "This Cancer Victim May Ruin My Life," Medical Story, 1: 1 (September, 1961), 18-21, 36. A part of the XML version of the Brown Corpus2,005 words 455 (22.7%) quotes 1 symbolP19

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[Anonymous,] "This Cancer Victim May Ruin My Life," Medical Story, 1: 1 (September, 1961), 18-21, 36.

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I don't really believe in intuition . But I swear to you from the moment I opened my eyes , I knew it was going to be a bad day . Part of it was the weather , so foggy it would take me twice as long to get to the hospital . Part of it was being so tired -- I'd not only had my usual full day yesterday , but a dinner meeting as well , that kept me up late . But the rest of it , the main part , wasn't based on logic at all . It was just going to be one of those days .

For the thousandth time , I wished I'd chosen some nice , nine-to-five , five-days-a-week profession . And for the thousandth time , I answered myself . I hadn't chosen medicine -- it had chosen me .

Actually , I shouldn't complain , I told myself in the shaving mirror . I had a lot to be thankful for . A profession that brought me as good an income as mine wasn't to be sneezed at . Maybe I didn't see as much of Gladdy as I'd like , but how much worse it would have been if I'd had to board her out somewhere after Alice went -- send my daughter to an orphanage or a boarding-home . At least , we were together and we had Mrs. Hodges , bless her , to look after us -- no mother could be fonder of Gladdy than Mrs. Hodges was . I was lucky in lots of ways , no doubt about it .

Especially in the way Gladdy had turned out . Growing up without a mother from the time she was three -- it wasn't a good thing for a child , even knowing the kind of mother Alice had been . But I mustn't start on Alice . She is a closed book , a picture I keep on my bureau , but never look at . If she'd kept on as she'd been going , the story I'd told Gladdy would probably have been true by now , anyhow

As usual , Gladdy's bright smile greeted me at the breakfast table . Her first class wasn't until ten , but she always got up to have breakfast with me . It made me feel good and knowing that she'd decided , all on her own , to go to college right here in town made me feel good , too . Oh , I knew that I couldn't give myself all the credit for her decision . I had a feeling that young Pete Michelson , the most promising intern at Fairview , had something to do with it , too .

She'd been out with Pete the night before and her gay chatter about their date lightened my mood a little . But once I was alone again , driving to the hospital , the heaviness returned . If she and Pete were really getting serious , I'd have to do some hard thinking . Should I tell him the truth about Alice ? ? Did he have a right to know the secret I'd kept from Gladdy all these years ? ?

The boys were already waiting in the corridor outside my office when I got to Fairview . Two interns and Dick Ishii , the other resident . I'm Chief of Medicine here and this morning would start like all others , with me taking the boys on the rounds . Pete was down on Seven , Dick told me , and he'd meet us there .

There wasn't anything of special interest that morning , no one sicker than they should have been . Pete came to meet us when we stepped out of the elevator on Seven -- he'd had a case of post-operative shock , but it was all taken care of now . Seven is a women's floor and , as it happened , not very busy right then . When we'd finished our regular rounds , Pete pointed me toward the small ward at the end of the floor .

`` Got a new one in last night '' , he said . `` I haven't seen her yet , but I hear she's a lulu '' ! !

I wasn't surprised . The ward was a small one , four beds , kept reserved for female alcoholics . We didn't get many at Fairview and they were never pretty sights . It was thought wiser to keep them segregated from the patients in the regular charity ward .

The moment I walked in , the whole miserable feeling of the day seemed to focus on the woman in the bed . They'd cleaned her up some , of course , and she'd pretty much slept off her drunk . But there was something about her -- and I felt my lips forming a name . Alice But this woman's name was Rose Bancroft ! !

I looked at the chart for reassurance . Yes , Rose Bancroft , diagnosis : acute alcoholism . She looked about sixty , though I recalled that the chart gave her age as forty-four . An ugly scar disfigured the somewhat familiar puffy face , already marred by the tell-tale network of broken red veins that heavy drinkers carry . Her coarse hair was two-colored -- bleached blonde and its real , dirty gray .

Oh , could it be ? ? No , no it was an unfortunate resemblance , that was all it was , and I turned to Dick , forcing myself to put my disquiet out of my mind .

In a low voice , Dick filled us in

she'd been picked up downtown , passed out in the doorway . Although quiet when they brought her in , she'd suddenly turned violent and had to be knocked out . It was the old story . We'd keep her a day or two , and the AA people would talk to her . But if she wasn't interested , she'd just go back to the same life she'd left .

Turning toward the patient again , I -- I can't describe what happened to me then , except to say that I felt sick . I tell you , it took every ounce of control I had to be able to speak . `` Now , Miss -- or is it Mrs. Bancroft '' ? ?

I never liked going straight into an examination with patients -- it relaxes them , I've always thought , to chat first . This was one time I'd have gladly broken my own rule , but habit was too strong .

`` Hey '' ! ! Her voice was flat and dull . But those penetrating eyes -- I had to turn my head away . It was then that I saw what the drawn-back covers revealed . There were bloodspots on the sheet .

`` What's this '' ? ? I asked . `` Your period '' ? ?

She shook her head . `` I been spotting a little now and then '' , she said quietly , no emotion in her voice .

`` Have you spoken to a doctor about it '' ? ?

Once again , there was a negative shake . I told Miss Groggins to move her down the hall where we had an examining table . `` Better do a Papanicolaou '' , I told Pete . It was only a few moments before Miss Groggins had her in the proper position for a vaginal , but I couldn't see anything wrong on gross examination . Pete stood by with a slide and took the smear , sent it down to the lab with a request for the test . That done , I told Miss Groggins to take her patient back to bed and again put her out of my mind .

I was busy the rest of the day . Late in the afternoon , I was up on Seven again . One of my private patients was being admitted and I went in to see her settled . On my way to the elevator , I ran into Pete . `` I've got the results on the Bancroft smear test '' , he said . `` There's something there , all right . Class Three , they said . Do you want to talk to her , Doctor '' ? ?

`` Well '' -- I didn't -- I didn't ever want to see that woman again . But that was ridiculous , of course . `` All right . We'll do a D. and C. and get her permission for a hysterectomy . Maybe it's nothing , maybe it's intraepithelial or in situ -- can't take any chances '' .

`` If you can keep her here that long '' , Pete said wryly . `` Groggins tells me she's started badgering already , wants to get out . Wants to get to her booze , I guess '' .

I grimaced in distaste . `` Well , better see what I can do '' .

We'd been standing right outside Miss Bancroft's door and as I went to turn the knob to enter , I was surprised to find that the door was slightly ajar . But she seemed to be dozing and in any case , we'd been talking in low tones .

Her eyes opened as soon as she heard me , though , and once again , I felt an inward shiver . `` I sure can't complain about the service in this place '' , she said . `` I just got through seeing one of you guys . What do you want '' ? ? There was something almost insulting in her tone , but I disregarded it .

`` I've just been talking to Dr. Michelson '' , I said . `` We'd like you to have a dilatation and curettage . That's quite minor , nothing to worry about . But we would like your permission to do -- that is , to go further if it proves necessary '' .

`` No '' . It was flat , definite .

`` Suppose you let me explain . Actually , I rather doubt that we'll have to do this . Even if we do , you'll be out of here in a week , probably '' .

I was sure that was the difficulty -- she just didn't want to stay here , where she couldn't get to the liquor .

`` No '' .

I looked at her in amazement . I'd had patients who'd refused surgery before , of course , but never one who didn't show , in one way or another , the reason why . Mostly , it was fear , but this woman's voice didn't tremble and her hands were still on the coverlet .

`` Will you tell me why '' ? ? I asked .

She smiled , a smile without humor . `` You shouldn't tell your little secrets outside of the patient's door '' , she said . `` I've got cancer , haven't I '' ? ? She went on , disregarding my protests . `` I'm not going to be one of your guinea pigs . Let your pupils learn on someone else , Doctor . Just let me die in peace '' .

I stared at her , almost speechless . Her little speech was totally out of character with the sort of person I thought she was . Even her voice had taken on a more cultivated tone . This was someone who'd come down in the world , I thought . A long , long way down . Again there was something familiar about her , something --

`` You haven't got cancer '' , I said as strongly as I could . `` I don't know what you heard that would make you think so , but I assure you I don't even know myself , so how can you be so sure ? ? And even if '' --

`` Don't give me a lot of talk , Joe '' .

I gaped at her . She could have found out my first name , of course -- that wouldn't be difficult . But there was that something , some echo in the way she spoke .

She was watching me intently , a funny little half-smile on her lips . `` Surprised , baby ? ? Guess I've changed , haven't I ? ? But you haven't changed much , Joe '' .

I knew then , knew with a heart-stopping shock . `` Alice '' -- I stammered through dry lips . `` Alice , for goodness sake '' --

`` Alice '' , she echoed mockingly . `` What's the matter , Joe , you scared of me ? ? Think I'm going to make you introduce a drunk as your wife ? ? Well , don't worry . Just let me outta here '' --

`` But why did you come back '' ? ? I'd found my voice . `` Where have you been all these years '' ? ?

She shrugged . `` Here and there . As for coming back here -- well , I'll tell you the truth , I didn't even know where I was when I came to . The last thing I remember is a bar in San Diego '' --

The way she spoke , her flat acceptance of her alcoholic blackout , made me shudder . And this was Gladdy's mother ! !

`` I never asked you for any favors , Joe '' , she went on , `` but I'm asking one now . Let me outta here ! ! You doctors are all alike -- all you want is to cut up people and what's the good ? ? No , I want out , Joe '' ! !

I looked at the pathetic wreck of a woman before me . Let her out , let her out -- that would be the solution , wouldn't it ? ? What she'd said was true -- in all these years , she'd never asked for anything from me . If I let her go , she'd disappear once more . And Gladdy would be safe ! !