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  1. At the last session of my spring Wednesday night writing workshop, my lower back/leg pain, for which I’d been taking meds, acted up, making it difficult to sit. My student, B, who speaks her mind freely, said I looked pale and unwell. I am a card-carrying truth teller in many ways and in most areas; however, I never understood the point of telling people they look tired or unwell or pale

The following day, I did not get into a postpartum mood as I often do at a semester’s end. I got to a neurologist–Dr.V–who banged on my knee, had me

do leg raises and sent me for an MRI.

  1. A few days later: Four doctors and a repeat:

  2. –the eye doctor, at my post-op visit, confirmed I had 20/20 vision. I came home to the following phone messages: –my husband’s doctor reporting the results of a recent procedure were ‘negative’ –my longtime internist checking on my eye and back –the neurologist saying he got the MRI results. Please call. –the neurologist again. Better I come in.

  3. The next day, I went to see Dr. V. He pulled up a chair next to his desk and sat me down. “I don’t hear well. It’s easier for me with you here,” he said, then mumbled that he’d waive my co-pay but would bill my insurance company for this visit. Of course. My diagnosis: nothing is ruptured or herniated. I have “bulges” or “protrusions” which will probably heal on their own. I do not need medication, second opinions, or physical therapy unless I want them. PT, he said, is best for muscle strengthening and if not done right, can harm. I asked for a PT script just in case. On it, he wrote the diagnosis, which includes the words “lumbar spine.” And under it, “PLEASE TREAT GENTLY.”

  4. I intentionally left out something earlier about my last Wednesday night class to round things out now as I come to the end. B, who had mentioned I looked pale and unwell, was the last student to read her work. It was poignant and beautifully written, surpassing everything she had written before. We were blown away. After we critiqued it, she looked over at me and quite loudly said, “I improved because of Nancy. She made me go deeper and gave me the space.” A lump formed in my throat. Her comment touched me. I have always understood the point of acknowledging who one is and what he or she has done. It’s among the most human things we can do. Who cared what B said earlier?

We’re all a mix, aren’t we? Things balance out. My Wednesday nighters renewed their vows with me. They will all take my workshop again in the fall. In the meantime, I put the neurologist’s prescription in my top dresser drawer. “Please treat gently.” Of course.


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