Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 6.27.18
Stanstead, Quebec


Letter from my family doctor

"Unfortunately, due to family and personal reasons, I must close my clinic at the end of August 2018. I will be moving my medical practice to Abitibi, specifically the emergency room in the hospital at Rouyn-Noranda. I will remain responsible for your medical dossier in the coming years."

Distance from Stanstead to Rouyn-Noranda is 790 Kilometres
Travel time by automobile is nine hours

Dear Doctor,

How are you? I am fine. At least I think I am. Really, I can't know for sure since you, my family doctor, are now 800 km away. Let's just ignore the phantom tingling and assume I am fine.

It has been two years since my last checkup with you. Actually, that was my only checkup with you. I was on a waiting list for a family doctor for about seven years before that. About halfway through that waiting period, someone from the Health Department called to check my status. My wife took the call and made the mistake of reporting that I had no health problems. That put me back on the list for another four years.

But finally I got you, and we did have a good checkup, didn't we? I really thought we hit it off, and not just because you palpated my liver in a way I only dreamed possible.

I did not make an appointment last year because I know the Quebec healthcare system actively discourages people from seeing a doctor unless they are actually sick. Preventive medicine in Quebec means as much as possible being prevented from seeing a doctor.

Nonetheless, I think it's important for a man my age to be have regular checkups, if only to repeatedly hear the phrase "for a man your age."

But, again, you're 800 km away and I have neither vacation days nor bus fare. Instead, let's try to do this remotely.

My weight is unchanged, although this is a guess since I have no means of weighing myself and the grocer doesn't like it when I climb on the produce scale. I would describe my weight as somewhere between "normal" and "cadaverous." Please see the enclosed selfie. How do I look to you? Please note that the green hue is merely my choice of filter.

For my blood pressure, I measured it on one of those automatic machines at the pharmacy. I was a little nervous because there was a geriatric in a mauve velour tracksuit hovering around orthopedic insoles and giving me the stink eye. It was hard to concentrate but I wrote it down: my results were 120 over $6.99.

I anticipated that you would want a blood test to check my sugar levels, cholesterol, etc. Obviously, I don't have the equipment to draw blood. Instead, you'll find enclosed a soiled Band-Aid from when I cut myself opening a tin of corned beef. The Band-Aid should provide you the sample you need, and the corned beef should settle any questions about cholesterol.

I will now describe a mole I am concerned about: it's like someone took a raisin, sliced it in half, rolled it in fine sand, baked it at 375°F for 20 minutes, turning once, and then hot-glued it to my back. You're probably wondering whether the mole has changed. Well, sure, it says it's changed but can you ever really trust a mole? After all, I've been burned before. For moles.

Oh, why not talk about that phantom tingling! It starts in my upper arms, then migrates down to my forearms, eventually becoming a numbness in my hands until finally I can't feel mu fpogerth qe uelle buaaoiuaer009elvcao8el…

And then it just goes away.

Speaking of fingers, I guess I can't put this off any longer. It's time for the, you know, "the test." Unfortunately, you're there, 800 km away, and here I am, leaning over an ironing board with my pants down. It isn't easy to find someone to do this. It's not like I can ask for volunteers in an office-wide email. Again. And I can't ask my wife, certainly not without buying her dinner first. So I'm in a bit of a tight spot.

No, literally, I'm in a bit of a tight spot. So here are the results of my self-exam: yes, I did take a deep breath and, yes, I did feel a little pressure. I have no idea how my prostate is, but the good news is that I'm still very flexible for a man my age.

This concludes my checkup. Please enter all this data into my file, Doctor, and let me know if you have any concerns, questions or travel tips for the Abitibi region. In the meantime, I will continue to exercise regularly and eat well. As they say, an apple a day keeps the doctor away.

I must have eaten a lot of apples…

Sincerely, your patient