Ellen Williams


"Dearest Maggie, you're going to be just fine," Sally said. "Everyone has had surgery, well, mostly everyone. There's really nothing to worry about. Whether it's elective or selective, just tell yourself you can do it. The body believes every word the mind tells it, you know. You just have to make sure you've got all your ducks in a row."

"I know, I know," Maggie "but why in the world are you talking about ducks? I mean I'm……"

"Scared, right?" interrupted Sally. "Everyone feels that way. Even if it's just for a hangnail, it's all serious and scary. As they say, there's no such thing as minor surgery. I would call that an oxymoron, wouldn't you?"

"I guess, however, I'm not a moron," interrupted Maggie. "I have enough sense to realize that if I keep busy it will help to keep my mind off of it. But you have no idea what that doctor said. "He's the one who's doing the female surgery, you know, ‘down there.' I think they call it a hammock or a sling, or something like that, but let me tell you what he said. I was so upset."

"What do you mean," asked Sally?

"Well, the nurse had taken my history and I told her, along with all the other medical details, that I had PD. She asked how long and if it had spread to anyone else. I told her certainly not, and I believe I manage it rather well, through exercise, diet and medication. Well, here I am on the exam table and while the doc was checking me out, he asked the date of my last bout of venereal disease."

"VENEREAL DISEASE?!" I shouted. I DO NOT HAVE VENEREAL DISEASE. I HAVE PD. PARKINSON'S DISEASE, PD, NOT VD!! I was so taken aback that I bolted forward to a sitting position, bumped right into him and sent him flying backwards, half-way across the room, on his little round stool on wheels. While helping him up, the nurse apologized for her mistake and said she didn't hear me clearly. Huh! I guess not.

"Later, in his office he said I was a suitable candidate for his surgery, which is a good thing since it's scheduled for next week and he recommended that I have my internist check me out, partly routine and partly because of my Parkinsons."

"Now, it appears I'm not such a suitable candidate after all. My internist wants a cardiologist to check me over because of some symptoms I reported and it might include some sort of heart test where they put a tube in an artery. He also said he was canceling my female surgery. OK, I almost went ballistic because I had really taken some time to prepare my wardrobe, laying out just the right outfits, matching shoes and scarves and special facial makeup including just the right shade of powder" (here, Maggie paused to catch her breath, having worked herself into a state of frustration, took a deep breath and continued on): "to offset those glaring hospital ceiling lights, and worst of all, I'm not even sure if I'll need those outfits because the heart test is usually not an overnight stay."

Exasperated by now, Maggie, speaking to herself, said "OK, OK, adjust, adjust, put things in order of their importance and get busy and juggle all these doc appointments so I can fit in my lunches and club meetings."

"Really, Maggie, what's more important, your medical condition or your appearance?" Sally asked.

"What's the difference? Every time I turn around something else is wrong with me. You talked about ducks in a row, well, how about the feeling that all the docs are playing ‘Round Robin' with me, just going from one to another. Ducks and robins indeed! There had better not be some old bird waiting his turn in line."

"Hah! That's better, laughed Sally. Sounds as though you may be getting your sense of humor back."

"Well, the following doesn't exactly tickle my fancy: my internist is making an appointment for me with the cardiologist, which certainly couldn't have been the next day because that's when I had an appointment with my eye doc for yet another exam. Let's see, don't find anything too funny there." Continuing on, Maggie explained: "The eye doc gave me a prescription for new glasses, although he said I would probably want cataract surgery soon. I told him I will delay the eye fix until I find out if I need a heart test and also until I can find out about the date of surgery for the other end. Can you guess what he said then?" Maggie asked.

"Sure," Sally said jokingly, "he said to wait until you know which end is up!!"

"Oh, now stop. He agreed it would be best not to fill that eye prescription until after the heart test and I know I must have done a slack jaw, ‘cause I said: "you mean because I might not make it through the test?"

"He replied, ‘of course not, but maybe by then you won't have such a full plate,' Maggie explained.

"Can you imagine, Sally, I'm on such a starvation diet now that my plate has forgotten how to be full ….haha," joked Maggie. …and if it ever did get too full you'd just get a doggie bag," quipped Sally.

"Say, since we're being so silly," giggled Sally, "have you ever heard that some doctors sing while they're doing surgery?"

"Oh sure," Maggie replied, "and they probably sing something like this:"

"Gimme some Old Black Magic,
Might Just Do the Trick,
Unless You Think of Something Else, Real Quick
‘Cause Every Time Your Eyes Meet Mine, I Think
Oh Oh, She didn't get enough anesthesia!!"

"Oh, you're kidding, that's so funny," Sally laughed, "and I suppose the patients sing "All of Me" and now both singing:

"Why Not Take All of Us
Can't You See, Of Us There's Too Darn Much?"

"OK, enough!" pleads Maggie. "I have more scheduling to do."

"In heaven's name, what more could there possibly be….bad liver? flat feet Too much hot air?" (giggling) - "but we've always known that!"

Ignoring Sally's comments, Maggie explained: "I had scheduled a sitting for a portrait of myself at a well-known studio as a gift for our granddaughters. Now, I can't possibly do a flattering picture because worrying about pending surgery might give me frown marks. However, the photographer assured me he could do wonders with touch up paint. I told him I didn't know if there is enough touch up paint in the world for a woman my age," giggled Maggie. "Of course, I was only kidding."

Sally replied: "Well, I've found the solution. Whenever I see someone nearby with a camera, I immediately cradle my chin in my hands, with my elbows propped up on a table and then sneak my thumbs under my jaw and chin and very carefully pull back some of the loose skin and just ever so slightly, smile. Try it, it really works. But I do agree, photographers can do miracles these days, even on gals like us."

"Miracles?? Well!!" Maggie responded, "but, there's one more thing I haven't told you and it's my most important concern of all. I went to a lot of trouble getting a pedicure so my feet would look good on the operating table. Those docs and nurses notice things like that. Deciding what color polish to put on your toenails is no easy feat. (Whoops, didn't mean the pun). I couldn't decide between midnight orchid or raspberries and cream, so I went with glowing peach. What do you think?" asked Maggie.

"I think you concentrate on your appearance as a way of avoiding or not accepting your medical problems… or were you talking about the pedicure, colorwise?" Sally responded.

"I was talking about the color of my toenails and not your kitchen sink psychology and if the docs insist upon some heart test, how in the world am I going to work in another pedicure? You know those pedicurists require plenty of advance notice."

"So, in other words, Maggie, you're saying:"

"If your feet aren't pretty on the operating table
With your toes painted red and looking real smart
Might as well postpone on fixin' up the heart
To a day when the toes can be looking their best,
Should they go out the door ahead of all of the rest."

"Oh, Sally, I was just teasing. You know I don't mean that. This says it all:

One doc, two docs, three in a row
One for the body, and one for the cardio,
One for the eyes, one more for the cysto,
All together now around and ‘round we go


Ellen Williams was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease five years ago. During the past year, she began to keep a journal expressing her experience. This led to other subjects and formats, such as poems, short stories and essays. Several poems and an essay have since appeared in local papers. Previously, Williams had earned a Master's degree, practiced as a counselor and had not seriously explored creative writing. Today, she is exuberant about her new interest and the joy it has given to her when sharing her works with her family and friends. She feels fortunate to have discovered such a fascinating challenge at this stage of her life.