"Lori, its cancer." He hadn't even padded it at all, just dropped it on her lap like a sack of shit.
“No” she said “Jimmy’s dad had cancer but, he’s just got that winter flu and can’t shake it. J.J. brought it home from his class and had it for damned near a month . . ."
"Lori”, he said interrupting her mid sentence. “It’s not the flu. It’s cancer, and it’s not good," Dr. Walters repeated slowly.
His words hit her chest hard and shattered in her lap. She dropped her head trying to piece them back together and make since of it all, but when she couldn’t she looked back to him for answers.
"How…?" she started, but the words trailed off without completion and she searched his face for answers.
He handed her a box of tissue embroidered with geese.
She took two and wiped away tears that she hadn’t realized were there. She took a deep breath and felt a sort of calm come over her. It was as though she wasn’t there, like she’d been replaced by a stronger version of Lori Moore, one that she'd never known, but also one that she welcomed. "How long does he have, and how bad is it?"
"There’s no way to know for sure, but we think six, maybe eight weeks." Dr. Walters said.
His words hung suspended in her mind as she knocked softly on the exam room door. When there was no response she pushed on the door and it swept into the room slowly, revealing the man she married seven short years ago sitting on the edge of the exam table in nothing but a white gown. He looked up at her and relief washed over his face.
"So what’d they say?”
The sun had leathered his skin and his hair was no longer the semi short ‘wild man’ look she’d grown to love when they were younger.
“Was it a respiratory infection like I thought?” he asked. He pushed himself off the table and began to put his clothes back on. She watched as he fumbled with the suspender clips trying to catch the fabric. He looked up at her with a silent plea and she came to his rescue.
She snapped the first clasp into place. They were so close now that when he exhaled, she could feel his warm breath on the top of her head. She was glad for the suspenders; because it meant that she could lie to him and not have to look at him. She nodded, "They won’t know for sure till all the tests come back, but yeah, that’s what they’re pretty sure it is, They said that it could last another few weeks the way that the weather has been changing, but he's going to give you some antibiotics."
"That's what I thought it was," he said shaking his head, "but nope, I had to come here and have the vampires poke me in seven different places in order for them to tell me what I already knew. And you know what the worst part of it is?"
Finished with the straps now, she stepped back and their eyes met. That was the part that hadn’t changed; deep green and wise beyond his years. "No Hun, what's the worst," she said handing him his coat, and turning for the door. ‘If she could just make it to the car she could pretend like it had never happened,’ she thought to herself.
"The worst part is that we have to pay for them to tell us what I already told them it was," he said throwing his hands into the air with a crazy grin. "You know I should have gone to medical school. I would have if I'd had the money.” He said pushing his arms into his sleeves as he crossed the room. “If I had, I wouldn't need the damned white coat needle people to steel my blood and make me pay them for the shit I already know."
They’d reached the door and he took her hand and spun her around and his face softened,”but I knew you were worried, so I'm glad we know I’m fine. Now you can stop worrying”.
Their eyes met again, and she had to use every ounce of energy in her body to keep herself from losing it right there in the doorway. "I know, and I should have listened to you." They kissed and she tried to saver every moment without it seeming out of the ordinary.
They left the office hand in hand. If you'd been a bystander you would have thought they were newlyweds just starting out, with their whole lives ahead of them, but that couldn't have been further from their reality.
He hadn't felt like driving, so she did, and as he slept in the passenger seat her thoughts rolled back to the rest of her conversation with Doctor Walters.
After his prognosis they’d sat in silence for a long time neither wanting to break it. Lori felt her heart pounding in her ears and the smell of alcohol made her feel faint. She gripped the arms of her chair to steady her body as well as her mind.
Dr. Walters had not only been the doctor that had put twenty-six stitches in her leg after she’d fallen out of a tree when she was nine, he’d also been the doctor that had, after two miscarriages, delivered their son into the world. And now, four short years later, he was telling her that her husband was going to die.
“Hey,” Dr. Walters said resting his hand on her shoulder. “We’ll get through this. The hardest part is going to be telling him. It will get better from there. The two of you can plan for it, you can be ready, and not many people get that chance.”
She shook her head realizing that her tears had returned, “I’ll never be ready for that” the words broke in her throat and barely made it through her lips. She sat for a long moment with her eyes closed and her chin to her chest, praying for strength and praying that she could wake up from this awful place, but when she opened them and lifted her head the room was the same. The diagnosis was the same and there was only one way to go, out.
“Can I,” she started but then changed course. “Will you let me tell him, please?”
Note To Reader: Now it’s your turn. Use the comments section to let me know which path to choose. You have till Tuesday at midnight to pick-a-path.
Path A: Dr. Walters agrees to let Lori Moore be the one that tells her husband Jimmy he has cancer.
Path B: Dr. Walters does not agree to let Lori break the news to Jimmy.
Till next time,