I couldn't quite believe this was happening to me. Two months ago, I was sitting on top of the world. I had just received a promotion to project manager and my salary had increased accordingly. I could now afford that truck I wanted, leaving the car for my wife. My debts were decreasing and there was definite light at the end of that particular tunnel. The work I was doing was making a difference in the lives of millions. Things were going great.
Then came the morning that I found the funny spot on my side.
Doctors are not my favorite people. Granted, as people, many of them are decent. However, as a profession, I think they've left something to be desired. They seem to get paid an awful lot for nothing in particular. Often, I can self-diagnose my problems and find going to them a waste of time and money. The only time I'd ever go to a doctor was when I knew I needed a prescription for medication to fight something that wasn't going to go away easily on its own.
At first, the spot didn't bother me too much. I have spots on my skin, anyway, and they've never seemed all that problematic. This one seemingly changed from day to day, though, which was rare. I'd done enough reading to learn that changing spots are the ones you need to worry about. When this spot got to the point that it looked to be inflamed, I knew I needed to see a specialist.
Insurance companies have got to be one of the worst bureaucracies in the world, aside from the federal government. They've done all kinds of wonderful things to make sure they don't have to pay for much of anything and everyone ends up mad at everyone else. They've got a policy at my insurance company that says I can not go straight to a specialist, but have to get a referral from a general practitioner first. Of course, they'll only cover work by certain general practitioners, who are always overbooked. It took me three days before I could get an appointment with my GP. After waiting in his waiting room for an hour, then sitting in the examining room for thirty minutes, he finally came in and gave permission for his nurse to write my referral to the specialist. Of course, I was supposed to pay for this lovely experience.
The specialist was less busy while he was at work, but he also didn't work nearly as often as my GP. The earliest opening I could get to see the specialist was three weeks later.
When I finally got in to see the specialist, I had the lovely experience of another hour wait in the waiting room and half hour wait in the examining room before he came in to actually see me. The difference between the specialist and my GP was huge and immediate. He actually looked me in the eye and spoke to me as if I mattered. We discussed what I'd found and even how I felt about it. After he had a good sense for what was going on with me, he asked to see the spot. He took a look and decided it had a few potential causes and presented my options. The best seemed to be to take a biopsy and have that tested so we knew for sure exactly what was going on with my body. Once we knew that, we could figure out how best to fight it.
That's when the waiting began. Tom Petty was right. The waiting is the hardest part.
I was told the biopsy test results would be in between a week and ten days away. Normally, I could just wait without worries, but with my family history of cancer, I started to get more worried. I could envision all kinds of terrible things happening to my body.
I did my best not to let my worries show. I wanted to present a solid front to my wife and coworkers so they wouldn't worry too much about me, or, even worse, pity me. I wouldn't have been able to stand it if they pitied me.
A week went by and I knew it was time for me to get the call, but no call came. They did give me a window during which they'd call, so I decided to give them that time. Each day seemed to drag, every phone call making my heart race until I found out it wasn't the doctor's office. I couldn't eat much, my appetite having succombed to the stress. I couldn't sleep well at night, lying there thinking about my failing body and what would happen to my wife after I was gone.
We'd had a good marriage. Of course, there were some tough times as we learned to get along, but learn we did. The last few years had been blissful. We couldn't seem to have children, for some reason, so we spent our time together, growing and learning together. We had a passion for the outdoors and spent many weekends out camping or hiking. We learned much about our local plants and animals and would quiz each other as we wandered through the woods, holding hands and absorbing as much of nature's energy as we could. We seemed to have more fun together and seemed to share more love than most of the couples we knew through work. It really did feel like we were soulmates.
How could I leave her? Shouldn't soulmates grow old together and live long, fulfilling lives with each other? This just wasn't fair!
After the tenth day, I'd still received no word. I couldn't wait any longer and called the doctor's office. They couldn't find the paperwork and asked for some time to search their records and make some phone calls to find out what had happened. Two days later, I still hadn't received any information so I called again. They said they'd talked to the lab and there'd been a mix-up there and that the test hadn't been performed, yet. They apologized for any inconvenience and promised to rush through the job. I'd know in five days, a week at the most.
That made me feel so much better. Nothing quite like competent help, is there?
Five days later, I still hadn't received word so I called the doctor's office. They said they'd talk to the lab again and see what they could learn. They'd call me the next day with results. The next day came and went.
Needless to say, I was getting frustrated and my stress levels were going through the roof.
Finally, this morning, I got the call. The doctor's office said the results were finally in and that it didn't look good. They described a very rare form of cancer that was inoperable and suggested I do my best to get my affairs in order. I was flabbergasted. I asked them to double-check to make sure it was my file they were reading. I found it hard to believe they could ascertain all of that from a single biopsy of my skin. It didn't make sense to me, but they assured me it was my file.
I went in to tell my boss that I needed the rest of the day to myself. I must not have been very good at hiding my stress from my coworkers because he very quickly agreed that was a good idea. Thinking back on it, I did have a rather short fuse of late. I probably yelled a lot more than I normally do and was probably raising the stress level of everyone in the office. I apologized for my short fuse and thanked him for his understanding.
As I walked out of the office, I looked up at the sky and realized it was the first time I'd done so in weeks. The sky was a brilliant blue and the cumulus clouds looked so full and inviting. I've always wanted to lie down in a room of clouds, knowing that it wasn't possible, but imagining how fluffy and comforting it would be. The science doesn't hold that up, but fantasy will go anywhere.
I drove to a store near my house and bought some cheeses that we liked to eat, as well as some strawberries and bananas, and the crackers and bread that my wife enjoys. I bought several other snacks, our favorites.
When I pulled into the driveway, I noticed that our flowers were blooming. We'd picked them out together, choosing flowers we liked seeing. Their colors were just as we'd hoped and I found them extra invigorating today. Tears actually came to my eyes when I remembered all we'd done to get those flowers and then to have them blossom and grin back at me as I walked towards the house was almost too much. It was as if they were giving me my last hurrah. The lawn was even greener than I remembered.
Our house looked perfect. We'd painted it together and had decorated it just the way we liked and it seemed to be welcoming me home.
I walked inside and heard my wife call out to me with a question in her voice. I answered that it was me and that I'd taken a personal day. I walked into the kitchen where she was preparing a dessert for the anniversary party we were holding tomorrow at our house. Every year, we'd celebrate the anniversary of our home purchase by inviting our friends over. I'd forgotten, in the whole medical mess, that our home anniversary was coming up.
She put the final touches on the dessert and set it aside as I started to pull things from the grocery bags in my hands. When she saw what I'd bought, I think she figured out about the phone call. She didn't press, knowing that I would tell her all when the time was right. She did, however, get plates out to help me set up lunch. We stood side by side, our hips occasionally touching, as we cut up the cheese and fruits and arranged the plates. She got out the crystal and poured us some sparkling cider, our favorite for celebrating.
We carried our plates and glasses into the dining area and sat in the bay window overlooking our garden. The sun shone on us, warming us as we ate. Our lunch was a little quieter than they often are, but it was a comfortable silence. We shared with looks and touches how much we meant to each other.
I was struck by just how incredibly beautiful my wife is. The sun shining on her face made her look like an angel. The sparkle in her eyes flashed at me with a million colors, radiating all she had inside. Each sparkle sent waves of love my direction.
Sliding from the bench at the window, I knelt at her side and took her face in my hands. I looked deeply into her eyes and tried my best to flash a million colors right back at her.
"I love you so much," I whispered, then leaned forward and kissed her.
All of the stress and emotion I'd been feeling welled up inside of me and I held her tightly to me, pressing my lips against hers with more force than usual. This was not a usual kiss, however. This was my attempt to let her know how much she meant to me and how sorry I was that I wasn't going to be able to finish our dream life together.