Cancer in the Architect’s Dream

The Undulating Chain, by Nirazilla, on Flickr
Today I went to the James, a local cancer hospital.

As we drove up to the medical complex, the hospital buildings lined the street like an architect’s dream. All those dark glassy windows, polished metal, smooth tan walls; the size and shape of the buildings in perfect distance-point perspective; the streetlights and grass and pedestrian bridges as ornamentals. It seemed like a student’s portfolio come to life; like a miniature diorama at large. True renaissance beauty.

The waiting room was more of the same, but subdued, interior. Tiles gleamed beige and forest green; curved stucco walls were offset with swooping tutti-frutti sculptures, and elderly patients sat beside the requisite fishtank.

It’s so wealthy, I said to R.

Cancer is emotional, he said. People get emotionally invested in defeating it. If someone survives, they are so grateful that they donate a lot of money back. The best way to a person’s wallet is his emotions, you know, what he cares about.

R. was recently diagnosed and the cancer is already consuming his life, his thoughts. His money, his emotions. We were at the James today to follow up on tests.

What’s the likelihood of recurrence? he asked the staff.

Can’t say, they told him.

How much will this treatment cost me? he asked.

Can’t say, they told him. But keep coming back, we have more tests.

This drives him crazy. R. is a businessman, and always gets a written estimate before contracting for a project. He analyzes risk in card games, chess, relationships, life. He knows the pros and cons of everything. And this is one risk he didn’t get to analyze. He didn’t get to opt out of cancer. So now, he wants odds, he wants projections, he wants to have choices again, and they’re not giving him anything.

Wait and see, they told him.

Wait and see. We drove down the parking garage, circling, circling, circling. We paid the attendant and turned towards the traffic light, away from the architect’s dream.

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