The surgical proposal

What health boxes should a prospective life partner tick before you decide to marry? And is there a cure for a disease called incompatibility?

She came to me with her father. They sat in front of me in my office for a consultation, looking at me a little tentatively. She looked like she was in her late twenties, hair parted somewhere between the centre and side, distinct enough for me to notice. Her dress had a valley of yellow flowers that resembled the golden fields of the South of France. “This might seem like a strange consultation, but we wanted your opinion on the matter,” she said, looking sideways towards her father, who gave her a supportive smile. “I’m looking to get married and have received a proposal from a boy,” she said, clearing her throat. I wasn’t sure what exactly was so embarrassing for them to treat the subject so gingerly. “He’s very nice. Has a good job. Earns well. Handsome also,” she pulled out a photo on her phone as if I were Sima aunty from Indian Matchmaking. “So wherein lies the conundrum?” I asked. They leaned forward, I’m guessing for me to repeat myself. “What is the confusion?” I simplified. “He told us that his father has Parkinson’s. We want to know if Parkinson’s is hereditary and if the boy can get affected in the future,” they asked, speaking frankly. And I’m guessing, if it was, they would reject the proposal.

I started by explaining to them that Parkinson’s was a degenerative condition of the brain, where dopamine, an important chemical, gets depleted, resulting in tremors and slowness of movement and some tightness in the limbs. “It’s very often controlled well with medication, and sometimes, we can even offer an operation called deep brain stimulation if the tremors get out of control,” I laid out the basics. In the midst of my explanation, I remembered an elderly couple who had once confided in me not to over-treat the husband’s Parkinson’s because their sex life was marginally better because of it. But it was not my place to get into this in the current conversation, and, dear reader, I request that you refrain from doing the same in your head.

“It’s almost never hereditary,” I explained to them, alleviating their anxiety. “And in the extremely rare cases that it is, it shows up early on in life. So, you have nothing to worry about if he’s not shaking by this age,” I said with a gentle smile. “Any other questions?” I asked. “His uncle died of a brain tumour, he told us. Anything to be concerned about that?” the father added. “Certain brain tumours have a strong genetic predisposition,” I cautioned, “but it’s mostly for direct lineage, as in parent to child, so you should be fine,” I said, seeing the relief on their faces.

“How may boxes will you check before you get married?” I asked, intrigued by the thought process of seeking a partner to spend the rest of one’s life with. I believe you can be only one of two things in a marriage: lucky or unlucky. We can check as many boxes as we want, but we keep forgetting that they may all be Pandora’s boxes. As Cheryl Strayed says, “You don’t have a right to the cards you believe you should have been dealt with. You have an obligation to play the hell out of the ones you’re holding.”

“Any ailment in your side of the family?” I asked, mostly out of curiosity. “No,” she said instantly, until her dad reminded her that her mother had breast cancer several years ago and underwent surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy. “But she’s fully cured now, so nothing to worry about, right?” she assumed. “Breast cancer has a pretty strong genetic disposition, especially if your mom had it when she was less than 40,” I said, and they concurred that she did. “I don’t mean to get you worked up; all you need to do is get screened regularly,” I advised. “Is there any way to prevent it?” she asked. “Regular screening and early detection is the key,” I guided. “Some people remove their breasts if they are positive for a certain mutation, but that might be too much,” I opined. “We now have whole body genome sequencing for checking our predilection for thousands of diseases, but again, none of these are foolproof,” I said, lamenting that despite all the advances made by medicine, we continue to remain so far behind in providing certainty. Nothing is in our control, and yet, we’re busy checking boxes.

“So, will you tell him that your mother had breast cancer?” I asked upfront, even though it was none of my business. “I think I must,” she said, owning up to her end of the deal, and my heart was warmed.

“If you really want to discuss ailments, discuss mental health history in the family,” I stated, referring to its under-diagnosed nature. “If you’re getting married to a Parsi, there’s nothing you can do about it,” I joked, “but assuming you aren’t, it might be worthwhile discussing,” I mourned my wife’s plight. “Also discuss bills and money, credit and debt, parenting styles, and what beliefs you’d like to instil in your children. Discuss how you’d deal with the extended family and what are your financial and sexual expectations. Talk about childhood traumas and check if they’ve been resolved. Speak about your careers and how you’d like them to take shape. Describe your bucket list, your dream home, and your political views,” I listed out, my Sima aunty suddenly resurfacing. “And if you really want to go the distance, then cognitive neuroscience allows you a detailed testing of your personality and can identify the exact points of confrontation between the two of you. Knowing those in advance will help you understand each other better and divert the obstacle course ahead with ease,” I finished.

“We came here with such a simple question, but we’re leaving so much more informed,” she confessed with a big smile.

“May you live happily ever after,” I wished them the myth.

Six months later, they got married. Then, she brought her husband to me with back pain, which I treated with ease. Back pain in recently married couples has a specific diagnosis (excessive use of the front) but I gave him some exercises and told him he’d be okay.

“So, how’s everything?” I asked at the end of the consult. “Parkinson’s and breast cancer are the least of our worries, doctor,” they both said smiling. I understood. “Marriage is just two people trying to stay together without saying the words ‘I hate you,’” I reminded them of what Jerry Seinfeld once said, and we all laughed together.

21 Comments on “The surgical proposal
  • Vipul Shah says:

    Dearest Dr Mazda sir ….

    Extremely Extremely Happy to see your Role outside OT of Sima Aunty 💕

    This shows that you are ALL ROUNDER & not ordinary match making Advisor only…..

    Light piece show casing your versatility of writing & additional word Parsee is icing on the cake of your Article 🌹

    Like a true Friend you not only winning Heart of all your patients but marrying Couples toooo ❤️

    God Bless sir with more & more variety of Subjects for your esteemed Readers & Followers 🥰

  • Arun Pushkarna says:

    How many facets of this diamond will the world get to see?
    A true gem! So well written.
    Reminds me of a wonderful write who once wrote a runaway best selling novel in two months. When asked what he would do if he had a whole year to write.
    “I’d write a short story” he quipped.
    You really excel Mazda!!
    Take a bow!

  • Muralidaran C says:

    Well written Dr.Turel.. Humour information and education… Really enjoyed the reading till the end..

  • Supriya Correa says:

    Mazda Turel, Marriage Therapist.

  • Ralecha Mmatli says:

    You are an all rounder Dr Mazda. You are indeed God-sent to take care of us. Keep shining and easing our many burdens we carry around!!

  • Gloria Msampha says:

    Great piece. Loved the article. You just have to put God into your marriage and your future .

  • Kersi Naushir Daruvala says:

    Marriage is not a relationship it’s love and care for both people for happiness, health and good times. To me illness does not matter as you both have to look after one another that I believe is part and parcel of life. So before or after marriage health is a two sides of a coin WIN or LOOSE.

  • Dr. Rafat Ansari says:

    In a marriage…”I love u “turns into countless “I hate u’s”…n vice versa..
    It’s just the level of understanding n care for each other which matters to continue staying married! Uve gt so many facets to ur personality doc!KUDOS!!

  • Dr Upma Jaiswal says:

    Well versed and we.enjoyed the dash of humour .

  • Dinesh Shikotra says:

    Excellent narration Dr Mazda. Whether it’s an ailing patient or just a person consulting, both leave your office smiling and satisfied. And surely their prayers always Include silent blessings.for you. God Bless You.

  • Setu Ram says:

    Great Counsel Dr!

    I would add mutual respect, breathing space, and not being clingy or needy to the mix.

    If the “I hate yous” overwhelm, then use the Martingale strategy, double up after every coin toss loss, eventually you will win 🙂

  • Marzin R Shroff says:

    Loved the article!
    Your writing cuts as sharply as your scalpel. If neurosurgery ever gets old, you’ve got a bright future in matchmaking 😊

  • Rita singh says:

    What a read! Serious yet humours in many ways. I hate u,thing is so very common in marriages after being together for couple of years. Ur matchmaking is excellent

  • Vineeta Rao says:

    Dr Turel ,you are incorrigible, witty, funny ,one of a kind !

  • Mahashweta Biswas says:

    Super article, chances of becoming a medical marriage counsellor. Loved the humour as usual


  • Dr Anil Parakh Gleneagles Hospital says:

    Enjoyed reading it
    We come across these things many time in life .Due to east access of google and informations, people are more aware and confused.
    We should take these cases seriously and answer very wisely as sometime we are unnecessarily quoted in their family conflicts.
    Dr Mazda, you have described this very brilliantly

  • Dr. George John says:

    Excellent article and advice. I am a senior doctor and though psychiatry or neurosurgery is not my specialty, I offer similar advice with many of my patients who have become like family. Though not as articulately as you have.

  • Sunita Masani says:

    Super fun reading this one 😀

  • Jiwesh says:

    Really loved and enjoyed reading this piece and hope to meet you at ynfcon pune. Keep inspiring Sir🙏

  • Pratima Shrivastav says:

    Ha ha…out of your box. Well anyone needing mental health compatibility, I’m right here. You are so right that remains the most understated companion for life also leading to a lot of physical diseases….sometimes.

  • Farrokh Jijina says:

    Brilliant, as always


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