“Naked again with nothing to show for it,” shivered Anita as she adjusted her paper dressing gown. “For what they charge, they could at least turn up the heat.”
Perched on the end of the exam table, Anita studied the wall clock in the corner. Her thoughts drifted through space as she watched the second hand revolve like a planet around the sun. With only a shabby, harvest gold armchair for company, the minutes dragged while she waited. As late morning turned into early afternoon, Anita felt a kinship with Saint Jude, the Patron Saint of Lost Causes.
Suddenly the hinges creaked and Dr. Mattigan appeared in the doorway. “Knock. Knock,” he chimed as he closed the door with a flourish. Waving his right hand, he motioned for her to sit in the armchair. Suspicious of his airy demeanor, she made a mental note to nominate him for an Oscar. Dressed in a crisp white lab coat he played his part well.
“I hope you’re practicing your acceptance speech,” she teased.
With a puzzled expression, Dr. Mattigan turned. Taking a deep breath, he paused and delivered his news. “You have breast cancer.”
Oh the fear and dread from one little word! Present in her family for three generations, cancer was the gift that wouldn’t stop giving. With her eyes welling with tears, Anita instinctively felt the knot in the swell of her breast. As her fingers stroked the skin, the dressing gown crinkled. With her heart thundering in her ears, she only heard snippets of the doctor’s words.
“Malignant…treatment plan…Tuesday. Do you have any questions?”
Questions? Where would she ever begin? With a shake of her head, Dr. Mattigan left the room. Rising to dress, she glared at the clock. “At least your world didn’t stop spinning,” she spat.
Hurrying through the lobby, she ran when she reached the parking lot. Alone in the crisp autumn chill, her boiling emotions rose to the surface. Within seconds, blurry images of crimson and gold were awash in her tears. Like watercolor on a canvas, the vibrant hues gave way to a colorful haze. With the smell of burning leaves blowing in the wind, Anita’s anger flamed in her heart. As the fire continued to burn, it threatened the very core of her faith. Cinders and ashes swirled in her soul.
Detecting movement in her right hip pocket, Anita scowled. Annoyed by the intrusion, she grabbed her buzzing Blackberry and examined the display. “Oh no!” she cried. “How could I’ve forgotten?” Gripping the steering wheel for strength, Anita hurried across town. As she drove, she found comfort in the solid rubber beneath her fingers. Weaving in and out of traffic, she thought about her special little firefighter. Every day for the past three weeks, Scott had asked about the Fall Festival. Regardless what costume he saw, he wanted to be a firefighter. “I won’t let you down, ” she whispered. Cancer would rob Scott of many things, but it wouldn’t steal his childhood.
The leaves crunched in protest as Anita trotted up the sidewalk. Pausing at the door to paste on a smile, she found a spot near the bleachers. In the middle of the melee, she glimpsed a shiny black helmet. With her heart bursting with pride, she watched as Scott’s tiny fingers gripped the ladder of his beloved “fire twuck.” As the older children pushed and shoved, the stripes on his overcoat shown like yellow beacons in the midst of a storm. With his eyes wide with fear, Scott scanned the crowd. Once he spied Anita, his face erupted in a lopsided grin.
Breaking from the group, Scott tumbled into Anita’s waiting arms. As she stroked his rumpled hair, the touch of his warm embrace doused the angry flames in her heart. Looking into her face, Scott noticed the tears spilling from her lashes.
“Mommy, why are you crying?”
With the weight of an uncertain future crushing her chest, she carelessly wiped her nose with the back of her hand. Clutching Scott like a life preserver, she kneeled and plopped his helmet on top of her head. As the crowd began to clap, she gazed into his eyes and quipped, “Because God gave me you!”
*Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the Lord. (Psalm 31:24 NIV)
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