Why didn’t someone stop me? I might never have sawed a section out of his skull, or spent the next 8 hours untangling a mess of tumorous tendrils out his occipital lobe. I remember looking into the gelatinous folds of brain, and thinking like a medieval mystic: is this the hiding place of the soul? If I could in this moment not only excise his tumor, but also unlock the very core of his being, what might I learn? A bleeder quickly brought my hand and mind to the task at hand. “Cauterize” I spoke one of about a dozen times during this procedure. Science was so soothing for me. It has so many answers, and so few disturbing questions.

Rashad MacQuire was in every appearance a perfect specimen of a 35 year old man:  tall, muscular, lean, with enchanting large hazel eyes, and a seductive full smile. I could not but find him attractive and fascinating. He was bold, engaging, and full of life. Like a 6-year old, he sang his words, he danced his movements, and exuded drama even in small things. He grasped at life, even as it now deserted him at the height of his physical powers.

He found his passion in acting and singing, while I found mine here, where life and death balanced on a scalpel’s edge. Neither of us could have foreseen that we would fall in love. I was a white woman born and raised on the farmland of the midwest. Rashad was an African-American, raised on the streets of Detroit. We were both exceedingly bright, but his intelligence was like that of a leopard moving for the kill. Mine was shaped by books and lectures. His mind was wild and beautiful; mine was classical and precise.

The surgery did not fully remove the tumor. I simply could not reach and remove every serpentine cancer that coiled around the folds of his brain. We knew the end at the beginning. I told him he was dying. “Aren’t we all?” he replied. As we grew closer during his recovery, I removed myself from his treatment team. I took a sabbatical from medicine to share the next 6 to 18 months of his life with him. Had he asked me to marry, I would have said “yes.” We fulfilled his dream of opening a community theater the neighborhood where he grew up. I opened a medical clinic next door. We lived in a small apartment above the theater.

At 12 months, the tremors returned. His balance was uncertain. He suffered a series of small seizures. Death sent us daily reminders. Rashad’s moods changed to dark, and he became depressed. None of this surprised me: a medical text book ending. Only the emotion was left out in the clinical studies.

When he died, I remember a Spring rain, and that when I exited the hospital, the tulips were bent nearly to the ground. I crushed several under my feet. Why didn’t someone stop me?

(c) 2012 FXP