Originally published on The Biopsy.
“Are your ready to see this patient?” asked my attending.
This patient was a young mother-to-be, otherwise healthy with her first baby on the way. I had hardly conducted any prenatal checks myself nor led a gynecological exam. I was vaguely familiar with the questions I should ask and distantly comfortable with the physical exam maneuvers I was to perform.
I had done them before, once, in a time that seemed so far past. Mentally, I weighed the pros and cons of leading this appointment. The cons seemed to stack up.
“Are you ready?” echoed in my head.
The hollow spaces hissed back, “No.”
She withered into a sliver of a woman after I told her the news, “Stage 4 pulmonary adenocarcinoma. You have lung cancer that has spread throughout your body.”
“But I was so healthy?” You could see her life decisions replaying in her eyes through a lens of doubt, questioning everything.
“I am incredibly sorry. I honestly don’t know what to say.”
So I sat there while she delicately sobbed her regrets away. My hand reached out and held hers. I’d occasionally add prognostic words – chemo, palliative, radiation, family – but they just evaporated into the room’s dark cloud.
“I’m not ready for this,” her eyes pleaded with mine.
She texted me, “We need to talk.”
It’s amazing how a cliché can make your heart drop.
“Not me, not right now. I just can’t.”
My brain replayed everything – the memories, the laughs, the chemistry.
I put my fingers to the phone’s keyboard.
There was about a 20 story drop between me and the rushing river below. I was perched on a small mental grate that jutted out on the side of an old bridge. it was a crisp winter day, clear skies and nothing but the sounds of nature around me.
It was a beautiful day to jump.
The man who jumped before me screamed the entire way down. I wondered if I would do the same.
The only thing connecting me to the bridge was a thick bungee cord. I got into a squatting position so I could explode out into a swan dive as beautifully as possible. My friend held a camera to record everything.
Behind me, the jumpmaster yelled instructions, “THREE. TWO. ONE. DIVE.”
“No one is ever ready,” I thought. I led that appointment.
“No one is ever ready,” I whispered back. I never saw her again.
“No one is ever ready,” I texted back. She never responded.
“No one is ever ready.” I jumped. I loved the rush.
We are never ready. We are never one-hundred percent.
It’s the missing percentage that makes life thrilling, worth loving, worth living, worth trying.
And, God, I hope you try.