It must have sounded like I was having a shouting match with a naked woman online, but I was just having teleconsultation with a 92-year old lola who was hard of hearing. She underwent mastectomy a few weeks ago for breast cancer, and when I asked her if the surgical site was healing well she immediately lifted up her blouse, proudly showing her scar. I love my senior citizen patients. For them I am always the most handsome doctor they have ever seen–presbyopia and all. And pre-covid, the best smelling (masking perk: not having to spend money on perfumes!). One such lola, 75 year old Mrs. M, once told me that the pulmonologist I had referred her to was very handsome. She must have thought that I felt offended, so she immediately followed it up with, “I mean gwapo rin sya, like you, pareho kayo!” My secretary was also the prettiest woman she had ever seen. And all the chemo nurses, they were all gorgeous and dazzling. I would tell her, in return, that she always looks elegant and fresh. At some point it had become obvious that we were just bouncing flatteries off each other.

Before her death, when cancer had sapped all her energy and gregariousness, she came into my clinic in a wheel chair, wearing more jewelries than I had ever seen her wear. She was wearing diamond earrings, gold necklaces, rings. I paid her a compliment, but she could only smile and mumble. I didn’t get any flattery in return, and it had become obvious that she would soon be going. It made me very sad. Another patient, who had become Mrs. M’s friend and would always be in the waiting room with her, told me later on that Mrs. M was made to wear those pieces of jewelry because her kids were already fighting over those. It made me feel sick, and I didn’t want to listen any further to more vicious details. If there’s something sadder than death, it’s the ugly family altercations over wealth that ensue after it. Or even in anticipation of it.

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