I’m at it again! A challenge to write short stories based on the ideas and inspirations of my readers! We had 30 stories in September (find links to those stories here). Well, that was so popular (and insanely fun for me) that I decided to do it for December and January! Tune in on Monday, Wednesday and Friday to read the stories and vote on Saturday, Sunday and Mondays. Weekly winners will be announced on the Tuesday after the vote.
Today’s story idea comes from the lovely Kristi West. She was the first contributor in September with her story idea for Good-bye George. She also shared her creativity for Being Found and Broken and Empty. She is very creative. I admire her so much. (I really do, Kristi…). Here’s her idea…
Character: Jane. After having several miscarriages, is finally through the first trimester of a healthy pregnancy.
Setting: At home after a doctor’s appointment
Conflict: Jane was just diagnosed with cancer
Jane was surprised how differently her living room looked. Only a few hours ago, everything had looked clean. Friendly. Welcoming. But, as she turned to close the front door, she felt cold. Not a chilly, need a sweater cold. Rather, a deep, ice in the blood cold. A disbelieving cold. A giving up kind of cold.
She touched the tiny bump of stomach that barely popped out under her blouse. The small avocado sized baby that grew in her stomach was fine. The ultrasound showed two arms, two legs, a strong heartbeat. Seventeen weeks she’d been pregnant. The longest pregnancy she’d ever had.
She and her husband, Rob, bounced with excitement for this baby.
So sure of joy. That this time all would be well. Before Halloween they would hold a baby. And that baby would be their own. They had hoped for this child. Prayed. Begged. This should have been what would heal her pain. Five miscarriages. Five deaths. She felt the injustice, the darkness in each loss.
But this time was different. The baby was healthy. But, Jane. Jane was not.
She hadn’t told Rob about the irregular PAP smear. She kept the doctor’s discovery to herself. Lesions on her cervix. The doctor had been concerned. Ordered a biopsy. That was ten days ago. Jane pushed the possibilities out of her mind. Didn’t allow the fear to sink into her gut.
Until her appointment that morning.
She sat on the other side of an oak desk from her doctor. Doctor Zachary. He was young. Wore trendy glasses. Shaggy hair.
“Jane, are you sure you don’t want Rob here for this?” Doctor Zachary asked.
“No. I’m fine.” She crossed her legs. “The baby’s okay, right?”
“Well, yes.” He cleared his throat, averted his eyes. “At this point.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You have cancer,” he said. “Stage 2 cervical cancer.”
She heard him, but couldn’t understand his words. “I’m sorry. What did you say?”
“Cervical cancer has spread. For now, the womb is unaffected. Which is good for the fetus…”
“Baby,” she interrupted. “It’s a baby. A small human. That word, fetus, is so harsh. Like it’s just a flap of skin.”
“Right. Baby.” He opened her file. “The baby is okay for now. I’m concerned about your health, though.”
“Can’t we treat the cancer later?”
“Well, that’s an option. But it isn’t the best option.”
She looked out the window. One dark cloud drifted among several puffy white ones.
“Jane, we don’t know how this cancer will progress in the next 23 weeks. My concern is that, by then, it will be too late.”
“Too late for what?”
Doctor Zachary stood. “I think it would be best if we called your husband. You shouldn’t be alone right now.”
“No. Just tell me. I need to know.”
“Jane, this cancer isn’t something to play with. It’s spreading. I don’t know how fast it will move. I don’t know what the prognosis is for you.”
“What do you think I should do?”
He walked to the window, leaned on the ledge. “This isn’t easy for me to say.”
“The best chance you have is a combination of chemotherapy and radiation.”
“Wouldn’t that hurt the baby?”
Doctor Zachary folded his arms across his chest. He slumped his shoulders. “We’d also need to perform a hysterectomy.”
“But how could you do that? I’m pregnant.”
“Yes. I know.” He used a skinny finger to push up his glasses. “We’d need to terminate the pregnancy.”
“No. I won’t. I can’t.”
“It might be the only chance we have to beat this cancer.”
“Will I die? If I don’t do that, will I die?”
“I don’t know.”
“What happens if I won’t let you kill my baby?”
“Jane. That’s harsh.”
“But this is my baby.”
“You’re right.” He moved back to his desk, sat in his chair. “Listen, Jane. You get to decide what happens. That’s your right.”
“If I let you take out my womb, I’ll never have another baby.”
“So, you want to take this baby and every other baby I could ever have.”
“If you carry this baby to term, you might be risking your life.” He rubbed his forehead. “Or you could be fine for treatment later. I don’t know. It’s a gamble.”
“What should I do?”
“Talk to your husband. See what he wants.” He took off his glasses. “I’ll want to see both of you tomorrow.”
And so Jane had driven home. Completely aware of the sunshine and the beauty of the day. Beauty that seemed hard-edged to her. The day seemed to say “Look at this wonderful world that you will never fully enjoy”.
At home, curled up on the couch, Jane felt neither the budding life or the deadly scourge within her. But she was fully aware of both.
Thunder sounded. Lightening blasted. That one dark cloud had overtaken the fluffy ones.
“Jane?” Rob called as he walked in through the back door. “Honey? Where are you?”
She didn’t answer. Just opened her eyes, surprised by how dark her home was. She could hear the rain dropping on the roof.
“Janie?” He came into the living room, turned on a light. “Are you alright?”
“Is it the baby?”
“This time it’s me.” She looked directly at her husband. “I’m the one who’s dying this time.”
Rob sat on the floor next to the couch. He held Jane’s hands. “So, what do we do?”
Jane closed her eyes, shook her head. “We go to bed. Then tomorrow we tell the doctor that we’re going to wait. This baby will be healthy.”
“But what about you?”
“I don’t know.”
Jane felt the smallest flutter inside. Like a bubble moving gently, tickling every so slightly. The feeling left. Then came again. She opened her eyes. So wide.
“Are you okay?” Rob asked.
All Jane could manage with a giggle. She caressed her stomach.
“Honey, what’s going on?” Rob got up, touched her face.
“I think I just felt the baby.” She smiled.
“Isn’t it too early?”
“The book said I would be able to feel the baby around this time.” Jane sat up. “This is incredible.”
“What does it feel like?”
“Give me your hand.”
Jane ran her knuckle softly across the palm of Rob’s hand. Just barely touching him.
“That must be so strange.”
“It’s the best thing.” She looked at him, still holding his hand. “The baby is real.”
Rob couldn’t help it. He let the tears come. He didn’t fight them. This emotion had nothing to do with masculinity or strength. The pain and the joy pulled and pushed and throttled him.
“I don’t know what the right choice is, Jane.”
“But I can’t lose you.”
“We can’t lose this baby.”
Jane put her hand on his cheek. He sobbed. Grief that was his gift to her, telling her how much she was loved. Treasured. Needed.
“Rob, I’m scared.”
“Me too, Babe.”
“Not for me. For this baby. God gave this child to us for a reason. I’m just so scared to push that blessing away.”
He looked at his wife. Regained his breathing. Tried to trust.
“Okay.” Rob pulled Jane to her feet. Kissed her forehead. Put his hand on her tummy. “Let’s go to bed.”
The next morning, as Rob drove Jane to Doctor Zachary’s office, they were in awe of how clear blue the sky was.