Rendered Fat Content


Albert Emmanuel Bertrand: The Absinthe Drinker
(c. 1890)

"Absence made this heart more insistent."

The Muse insisted that I take that trip, which made me absent for those treatments. The treatments had become routine. The radiation, a mere few seconds. The aftermath, difficult to assess. The oncologists both promised worsening experience over the next months. Still, each day passed without any dramatic changes: a definite but subtle tiredness, a growing willingness to sleep in each morning and to retire ever earlier after supper, but nothing dramatic. We, the patient and her Emotional Support Animal (me), might have grown complacent, continuing a long streak of decent good fortune into a surprisingly welcoming future.

The Muse's cancer treatment occurs as an experiment.
Since she qualified for a clinical trial, her doctors carefully observe and remain hesitant to predict too much. They have no experience with this treatment with this type of cancer, so they remain watchful and consider each reported side effect important. They even consider a lack of reporting significant, so they collect an awful lot of data. The Muse's experiences so far have been excellent if increasingly unsettling. The radiation continues feeling as if evil's being employed, continuing to seem a creepy violation of sovereign territory. My role as Emotional Support Animal has been mostly to just accompany. I drive and escort, then patiently await her return from the lead-lined room before handing back her pocket contents and driving her home.

The watched pot never boils. An unwatched one might continually bubble, but without an observer, nobody could possibly know. In my absence, the routine wrinkled. The technicians decided to shift the order of treatment, last step first and first step into the middle. This resulted in a bit of a muddle with The Muse feeling abandoned after nearly four hours into what was supposed to have been a total of about half an hour of treatment. Further, she experienced a definite side effect which further slowed completion. I, distant, was left to text, wonder, and fuss. I know I could not have intervened had I been closer, for Emotional Support Animals wait in greater isolation than does any patient, but my absence still felt significant, as if a great 'what if' had happened on my watch, as if I'd been derelict even in my meagre duty. Nothing except an over-long delayed lunch ultimately came of the incident.

I'll let this experience guide my near future judgement. While The Muse remains isolated here, I'll remain beside her. True, I'll remain in a room removed from the actual action, but I'll remain just as close as possible in the unlikely case that proximity might prove helpful. I know that it probably won't contribute, but what else might an utterly helpless witness expect to provide?

I told her that I'd gladly take this bullet for her if it would do any good. It wouldn't, and my promise rang particularly hollow in abject recognition of that situation. The Emotional Support Animal can at least—and perhaps at best, too—merely be present, patient, and witness. My admiration for the patient grows as my sense of impotence increases. The doctors and the treatment, as well as The Muse, will somehow manage to wend their way through this regimen, probably without my hands-on help. I'm not a designated hands-on helper, though, but an Emotional Support Animal. The support I provide will probably, by definition, remain
emotional. The Muse hopes her experience will assist future patients. My patience will be stretched in the sincere interest of contributing something, if only my sometimes stressed-out presence. Absence made this heart more insistent.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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