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Creative Nonfiction Contemporary Inspirational

I met a miracle worker once. I hadn’t planned to. I don’t think she knew she was a miracle worker. She was humble, kind, smart, maybe in her late thirties. She had long dark hair; spoke English with a lovely Portuguese accent. More than likely it doesn’t occur to most miracle workers that their presence, their being, along with whatever skill set they should have, impacts others so profoundly.


I had been having dinner with my family, a beautiful June evening, when the phone rang. There are many paths one may take in life. That phone call altered the course of my life, finding myself on a path completely unexpected.


I hadn’t been feeling my usual self, having difficulty cycling up the long hill to the university. I could never keep up with my stronger, fitter wife, but this was different. Then I had scratched my hand while gardening, and it wasn’t healing properly. 


I went to my family doctor, he took one look at the infected scratch, and sent me off to the lab for blood work.


My wife and I had planned to meet some friends the next morning and leave on a road trip, one that would take us through small town, coastal BC, far from the resources a major urban centre like Vancouver has to offer. 


The trip wasn’t to be. 


The phone call. It was from someone I didn’t know, a male voice, giving me the results of the blood test I had had that afternoon. I was eating pizza, drinking beer, on a beautiful June evening.


What are you saying? 


Go to emergency immediately? 


It looks like you have leukaemia?


Well, talk about ruining one’s appetite.


I have driven down 12th Ave in Vancouver, past the hospital, many times. Large imposing buildings, night and day people coming and going. But I was always on my way to somewhere else. The hospital was never my destination. So in some ways I had stopped noticing it. I didn’t think about its purpose, its function. I took for granted good health, staying active, being fit. In fact just a year prior to this fateful evening my wife and I had bicycled from Vancouver to San Francisco to visit our son. Our eldest daughter had encouraged us to take the bicycle trip to San Francisco, saying that we weren’t getting any younger and one never knows what tomorrow may bring. She got that right!


What do you mean there is something seriously wrong?


This was a case of having the rug pulled out from under me. I had read that was good for one’s learning in the long run but suddenly I was confronted with maybe there would be no long run “Man plans, God laughs.” It’s one thing to cancel a road trip,quite another to likely cancel a life. I guess I needed a miracle.


I am not a good patient. I resist giving up control. I ask too many questions. I read too much and remember a lot of it. Plus I’m from New York, so speaking my mind comes naturally, but a fish out of water, at times, in genteel, polite Canada.


Didn’t take long before I had my first fight with the emergency doc. I wanted to go home. 


“You go home and you may not live to come back,” the doctor insisted. 


I was eating pizza, drinking beer, an hour ago. What are you talking about! Tests, biopsies, and hospital admissions. Just let me go home. 


They did, for an afternoon. I had turned 70 a few months earlier. Still active, fit, skinny.


“Our hospital doesn’t treat 70 year olds.You couldn’t withstand the chemo. Sorry.”


That was it, then.


They would give me transfusions, keep me comfortable, but no treatment. 


This went on for the better part of two weeks. I’d walk along the beach with my wife. I’d cry. We’d cry. We have kids and grandkids, plans and dreams and hopes. 


Sorry, we don’t treat 70 year olds.


Then the results of my biopsy. A genetic test came back in my favour. I’d be a good candidate for treatment. 


But I’m 70


It was then that my miracle worker appeared.


She was here on a fellowship, from Brazil. She listened. She touched my arm when she spoke. She met my family. She listened to my stories. She was kind and comforting, and compassionate. I felt hope in her presence. Her name was Christina.


Christina sat before fourteen staff hematologists and convinced them that I should be treated. That one size does not fit all. That 70 is a number, not a profile of a life lived. 


They agreed.


She was there for the entire five weeks I was hospitalised. 


Reassuring, a gentle touch, always able to spend a few minutes listening. She embodies the miracle of the art of medicine, along with the science. Her being my doctor may have been a lucky coincidence, but I experienced it as a miracle.


I am here now. Five years have passed.


Three summers ago we took a trip to Newfoundland. We met welcoming, generous, inclusive folks who saw in everyone a clapper, a dancer, or a singer, inviting you with their eyes and smiles to join in, to participate. 


I returned from that trip full of songs and poems, as if part of my soul had been opened to express and explore. 


Now I write about how we navigate through loss and pain, joy and laughter, the enduring and the fragile. How life seems better lived without judgement, but with kindness and compassion. That perhaps we are all miracle workers if we should view life through a more loving lens.


I notice those buildings now. I think about the nurses, the angels by my bed 24/7. The doctors filled with conviction and caring. All of the workers who turn those large, imposing buildings into places of healing, into a world you only get to know when things go really wrong. But mostly I think about Christina, with gratitude. 


             That I got another chance,

             To laugh and cry,

             To see your lovely smile.

             I got another chance,

             To breath and sigh,

             And do life’s crazy dance.




June 28, 2022 14:28

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16 comments

Hannah Gilgoff
00:40 Jul 26, 2022

I love how you tied in the miracle workers of Newfoundland, opening up your heart and soul to writing. And of course, thank god for Christina! ❤️

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Robert Gilgoff
05:07 Jul 26, 2022

So glad you read this and I’m here to share it with you- thanks to Christina!

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Charlotte Morse
15:27 Jul 08, 2022

Beautifully written Robert and so moving. Thank you so much for sharing. It's hard to retell such deep emotion, and yet you did so beautifully, eloquently. Well done! Keep writing, it's an amazing first story.

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Michał Przywara
13:30 Jul 06, 2022

An enjoyable, emotional story, Robert. Thanks for sharing. As a story, this was structured well. You establish a calm beginning, and then the diagnosis comes as a shock. Things get dark with the initial consultation, which sets the stage for the miracle worker. I liked the line "I had read that was good for one’s learning in the long run" because, considering the conclusion, it seems it was right. What an important lesson, and how much better the world might be of more people understood it. "How life seems better lived without judgement, b...

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Robert Gilgoff
18:13 Jul 06, 2022

Thank you for your comments and support. Robert

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Katy Borobia
17:28 Jul 05, 2022

I loved this story and your writing style. You obviously have a sense of humor, even in telling such an emotional story. Thank you for sharing!

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Robert Gilgoff
19:21 Jul 05, 2022

Thanks for the kind words. My first go at a short story. Robert

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Carolyn Brown
18:01 Jul 04, 2022

Oh. I have a few years to 70 but I know a lot of people of the age who are like you going strong. That seems a shockingly low place to set such a bar. Please, go to space to prove them wrong! Take Christina too :)

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Robert Gilgoff
19:22 Jul 05, 2022

No one was more shocked than me re 70! So far , so good! Robert

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L. Maddison
10:11 Jul 03, 2022

This is a remarkable story, and a great tribute to Christina.

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Robert Gilgoff
18:03 Jul 03, 2022

Thanks for reading. Christina connects with our humanity, not our symptoms- a true healer. Robert

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Jan Blades
16:03 Jun 28, 2022

Very moving and well written Robert.

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Robert Gilgoff
19:21 Jun 28, 2022

Thanks Jan. Seemed like a good time to write it. Robert

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Betty Gilgoff
14:45 Jun 28, 2022

Great to have you sharing this Robert. Wonderfully done.

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Robert Gilgoff
19:22 Jun 28, 2022

Thanks for he kind words and so patient listening. Robert

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Robert Gilgoff
14:33 Jun 28, 2022

The verse at the end of the story is the chorus in this song. If you have a moment have a listen. https://youtu.be/A453qZYET_Y

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