Check all the boxes that apply

check all the boxes

Partner and I got our flu shots very early this season. We’re both older, and I’d just been diagnosed with cancer, so we agreed that it was probably a good idea for the two of us not to get the flu this autumn/winter.

CVS (and many other pharmacies) offer flu shots for free (for those of us lucky enough to have health insurance). They have a cute little kids’-tea-party table and chairs set up behind a screen in the back of the store; you fill out a form, check a few boxes, and then the pharmacist gives you a little tiny jab. (Usually it’s administered by Alexander, the handsome Russian pharmacist. We were disappointed this year because he wasn’t available, but the on-duty person was a lovely funny person, and she was almost as good as Alexander.)

The form was routine:




  • HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE? (Yes, a little.)
  • HIGH CHOLESTEROL? (Certainement pas.)
  • DIABETES? (No.)
  • KIDNEY DISEASE? (Are kidney stones the same thing? Maybe a little. Okay, then I’ll say ‘yes,’ and explain if necessary.)

And then:


I stared at the question as if it were written in Hebrew. “What am I supposed to say?” I hissed to Partner.

He glanced over at my form. “I think the answer in your case is ‘Yes,’” he said calmly.

Reader, I cannot tell you how difficult it was for me to check that box.

It got a little easier after that. ARE YOU ON MEDICATION FOR CANCER? (Not yet.)

And I gulped and gave the form to the pharmacist, and she glanced at it and gave me my shot.

So – you see? That wasn’t so difficult.

It’s just the idea, that’s all. “Cancer” is a hard word to say out loud, especially if you’re talking about yourself. But, believe it or not, it gets easier to say.

Cancer is just a stupid condition, after all, like high blood pressure and kidney stones. It’s treatable. In a few months, I’ll be better, I hope.

And I’ll be around next year to have another flu shot.




At a certain age we lose our self-consciousness about our bodies.  Just yesterday I was having a quiet conversation with the driver of our campus shuttle-bus as we were trundling between campus locations; I don’t know how we got on the subject, but for some reason he mentioned that he has a colonoscopy scheduled for next week.  “I think I’m gonna cancel it,” he said.  “Who cares?  I’m seventy-three. What’s the worst that could happen?”



I tsked.  “You never know what’s in there.”



He shrugged.  “Who cares what’s in there?”



All at once I realized that the girl sitting across the aisle from me – probably a medical student – was staring at both of us with complete incredulty.  



Just because two old men were having a casual conversation about having themselves probed!


I have had for the past few months a stubborn little inflamed patch on one of my fingernails. The doctor confirmed that it was – ew – fungus. “It usually goes away by itself,” he said. “And the medications don’t work all that well. And it doesn’t usually spread from finger to finger, so I wouldn’t worry about it.”



But it’s not terribly attractive.



I’d seen a number of ads on TV for various products, and thought I’d try one, so I went trooping off to CVS.



While there, I realized that lately I’ve been having, um, tummy trouble. The tummy-trouble aisle is quite extensive, and has just about everything you can think of: pills, gadgets, drops – um – other things . . .



I made my selections and took them up to the cheerful smiling girl at the cash register, who knows me by sight because I go there frequently.



And she looked down at my fungus medication, and my tummy-trouble apparatus, and –



I give her credit for professionalism: not once did she flinch. She bagged my items very quickly, however, as if she wanted them out of her sight, and me too.



But her smile never wavered.



She is a tough little cookie.



Thank goodness she didn’t have to call for a price check on anything,



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