“Jim, I’m scared” Denise said. Lifting her feet sideways onto the sofa, she tucked a soft throw around her legs. She snuggled against her husband’s chest and he hugged her. Tears glistened on her cheeks.
“Honey, just because your mother and sister had cancer, doesn’t mean you do. I know you don’t feel well but ---“
“Mother died when she was 50. Rosalind was 49.” Denise sobbed, “I’m almost 48, Jim.”
“I know, Honey. Remember that Hawaiian cruise we’re planning on our Thirtieth Anniversary? You’re going with me – you’ll see.”
Denise smiled. “That’s my guy – always Mr. Positive. I hate I’m a worry-wart. I just lost it when Dr. Crawford asked if there was a history of cancer in my family. I boo-hooed so much he had to leave and let me calm down.”
“Nothing he hasn’t seen before, Love. Don’t worry about it.”
“I’ll say this – he sure gave me a thorough physical exam. And he told me you were overdue for one and to call for an appointment. He wants to see you.”
“I’m not getting a physical, Denise.” Jim removed his arm from Denise and stood up. “I’m getting some coffee. Do you want anything? Carrot juice, maybe?”
“Forget it, Buster. Now, if you want to make me a coke float, I can go for that.”
“No, don’t do it. It wouldn’t stay down.” Denise pulled the blanket over her face, scrubbing her eyes. “I want you with me when I get the test results Jim. I can’t handle it by myself.”
“Tomorrow morning at ten, right?” Getting a nod he said, “I need to swing by my office first but I won’t be late.”
“Jim, if it’s cancer, I’m not taking radiation. I’m not taking any chemo either. Just let me go quickly.”
“Denise, the only place you’re going is Hawaii. So stow that negative stuff. We’ll deal with whatever happens but let’s not cross bridges before we have to.” Jim placed his steaming java cup on the coffee table and was about to sit down. “I’ll bet that quack prescribes high dollar antacids.”
“I’m sorry, I should have asked sooner. If you don’t mind, would you bring me a chocolate chip cookie? No --- make it two.”
The next morning they were in Doctor Crawford’s waiting room. It didn’t help Denise’s fragile emotions that he was running behind schedule. The nurse apologized, saying a little boy had broken his arm and the doctor would be with them as soon as he finished setting it.
“Jim, I’m letting everybody down.” She looked at the clock above the receptionist’s window for the umpteenth time. “The Silver Belles are singing right now at the Happy Hills Nursing Home.”
“Trust me, Denise. A trio will be just as welcome there as a quartet. Ow! That hurts.” Jim removed Denise’s clenched hand from his arm.
“Promise me Jim – you’ve got to promise me right now that you will never put me in Happy Hills.”
The damp lace handkerchief Denise clutched was twisted almost apart before they were ushered into the doctor’s office. Looking up from a folder, frowning at Jim, Dr. Crawford gestured with his left hand toward the plush chairs in front of his desk.
“Before we talk about Denise’s test results, I want to remind you Jim that you are overdue for a check-up. On your way out, I hope you will schedule an appointment. Your cholesterol was slightly elevated the last time and we want to keep on top of that. We need to keep you as healthy as possible.”
“Okay. But, let’s take care of Denise first. What did her tests show?”
Dr. Crawford didn’t mince words. “Denise,you have a growth in your abdomen.”
Denise threw her head back against the upholstered chair, banging it repeatedly, squeezing Jim’s forearm until he winced. Tears flowed from her eyes. “I knew it! I knew it. Mama and Rosalind – now me.”
“Whoa, Denise” Dr. Crawford said. “It’s not what you think.”
“Huh? You mean I don’t have canc…” She squinted at the doctor through teary eyes, sniffing to gain composure. “What do ...”
“I said you have a growth in your abdomen and you do. Jim, Denise told me about a cruise you are planning two years from now. You might want to cancel that.”
A big smile lit Dr. Crawford’s face. “Well, maybe not. But pushing a baby-stroller on board can be a little tricky.”
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