The doctor looked at the patient with an impassive face as she described her symptoms. He is familiar with the ritual.
Crippled by an unexpected, unpreventable, and largely untreatable illness in the prime of her life, the patient had been denied many of the things in life that her peers have and continue to enjoy.
Still maintaining eye-contact, the doctor thumbed the pages of the casenotes absentmindedly as the patient continued; her myriad of vague complaints may be symptoms pointing to the diagnosis of an obscure systemic disease, except they are not - she had been 'worked up' extensively by the previous doctors, as the thickness of her file attested to, and nothing has turned up.
She was probably depressed, the doctor thought.
Certainly he too would be depressed if the same fate had befallen him. Yet despite the difficulties she faced she had managed to find and hold a job that has kept her busy and provided for. She has also kept her quarterly appointments to the clinic faithfully.
Finally, she paused.
"Am I dying, doctor?" she asked.
"We all are," the doctor replied.
The patient gazed at the floor for a good five seconds, then turning to the doctor again, said,"I know what you mean, doctor."
She leaned back in her wheelchair, the cue for her maid to wheel her out of the consultation room.
The doctor allowed himself to smile as he bade the patient goodbye.
The ritual is completed.