Read an Excerpt
"You’re not seriously telling me that I’m in danger of having a heart attack. I’m only thirty—eight years old!" Carlton Jaymes Pearce stared at the physician, willing him to retract his words. All he’d come to the clinic for was his employer’s required annual physical. He hadn’t expected dire predictions about his future. "If this is some sort of joke..."
"No joke." The white—haired doctor shook his head. "I wouldn’t joke about something like this. It would be highly unethical. And contrary to common belief, age is no protection or guarantee that you’re safe."
"But...but how?" He took good care of himself. He didn’t smoke, ate mostly sensibly, and went to the gym three or four times a week.
"Your cholesterol is extremely high, as is your blood pressure. Your family history is another risk factor against you." The doctor looked up from the file, narrowing his eyes. "However, I suspect that the largest contributor is your stress level."
"Stress." There’d certainly been enough of that in the last two years. With the way the banking sector was heading, it wasn’t likely to get any less stressful in the future, either. His personal life was a mess, too. The breakup with Michael had been awful, but he wouldn’t accept infidelity no matter how neglected the younger man had claimed he’d felt.
"Exactly." The doctor tilted his head and raised his eyebrows.
"Well, since that isn’t going to get any rosier, I suggest you give me a prescription to handle the cholesterol and the blood pressure, and I’m sure I’ll be fine." He could deal with taking some pills.
"I’m afraid that isn’t possible." The doctor held up a hand to stop him from interrupting. "I agree that medication would reduce some of the physical risk factors, but it wouldn’t reduce your stress levels. I cannot in good conscience put you on medication and leave it at that. What you need is rest and a complete change of lifestyle."
"Rest? I can’t take a vacation at this point in the fiscal year." His boss would kill him a long time before any potential heart attack would.
"You don’t understand, Mr Pearce." The doctor leant forward in his chair. "This isn’t a question of a vacation. I’m going to recommend a leave of absence of at least six months before a re—evaluation to see if you’ve made enough progress to consider a return to part—time work."
"You...you what?" He could feel his blood pressure rise. He was ready to have that heart attack right now. The man was clearly out to end his career. "Are you trying to get me fired?"
"No, I’m not. I’m trying to save your life. As far as I can see, it’s either your current job or your life. It’s extremely unlikely that you’ll be able to keep both." The doctor shrugged and sat back. "I’d go for my life if I were you, but it’s your choice."
"It’s that serious?" Carlton took a deep breath and sat back when the doctor nodded. Maybe it was time to reconsider. His job as chief financial officer at the large bank he currently worked for had lost its appeal about two years ago. His boss would never approve a leave of absence—there were too many equally qualified people flooding the market right now. He had more than enough money to last him several lifetimes if he continued to invest carefully. So what was stopping him?
"Isn’t there anything you’ve always wanted to do, but never had the time to follow up on? Something you dreamed of when you were a child?" The doctor smiled. "Provided it’s not stressful in its own right, of course. I had a patient in here the other day whose response was sky diving. That was not a choice I was able to support."
"Sailing." He didn’t even have to think about it.
"Sailing?" The doctor nodded. "That could work."
"Really?" He grinned. "I’ve always loved the ocean. We used to spend our summer vacations in Florida, at my grandparents’ beach house. I spent all my time either in the water, swimming, or near the water, reading. But I was never allowed on a boat. It was considered too dangerous."
"Well, now you can do what you want. If done right, there is no inherent danger or stress in sailing. Learning to sail might be exactly what you’re looking for." The doctor made a note in his file. "I’ll still want you to return here for another evaluation in six months’ time, just to make sure you’re on the right track."