“It’s almost warm enough to put the top down,” Brandon said, hanging his arm out the car window on the way to the hospital in Petoskey. “You should have perfect weather for your track meet on Tuesday.”
“Mom won’t be there,” I said. “Nothing about it will be perfect.”
“I’ll come.” Brandon shifted his gaze away from the road to glance at me.
“You’re going to stay that long?” I asked.
“I don’t have class on Tuesday, and I’ll skip tomorrow.” He shrugged. “I have to go back for my classes on Wednesday and Thursday, but I’ve only got one 8:00 a.m. class on Friday morning and then I’ll drive right back up here.”
“Really? You’d do that for me?”
“We’re a family, right Sis?” He winked and punched me lightly on the arm.
Yeah… family. We were back to the ‘love ya like a sister’ role. I knew this couldn’t last. I forced my gaze out the passenger window. I had to remind myself that Brandon was here and was helping me. I appreciated any bit of love I could get right now, even if he only thought of me as his sister. I forced myself to choke back my tears and turned to smile at him. “Yeah, we’re a family.”
We pulled into the hospital parking lot with a little less urgency than the night before. We knew where to find my mom, and we’d hopefully get some answers today.
Mom was sitting in a chair by the window when we got to her room.
“Well, you look a little better,” Brandon said.
“Hi Mamma, how are you feeling?” I walked all the way into the room and pulled up an extra chair next to her. Her smile told me everything I needed to know. It didn’t reach her eyes. She was going to tell me she was feeling better even if she wasn’t. She was going to lie to keep me from hurting. I braced myself.
“Much better,” she said, and squeezed my hand. She reached out her other hand for Brandon’s. He crouched down next to her, so she didn’t have to crane her neck. “You’re still here? Don’t you have to get back to college?”
“I don’t have to be back until Wednesday.” He was lying but I wasn’t going to call him out. I was going to treasure every moment I had with both him and my mom, however few there were. “Did your roommate get released?”
I glanced up at the other bed, which was now empty. Mom nodded, and I couldn’t help asking. “Did the doctors say if they were going to release you today?”
“They ran a bunch of tests this morning, and the oncologist should be here soon.”
“I’m glad we got here in time.” Brandon stood and stretched his legs, shaking out the stiffness from crouching.
He sat on the edge of the extra bed and he and I regaled Mom with all the events from the morning, minus us sleeping in the same bed and him taking a shower in my bathroom.
Mom was brought to tears, as I had been, about how our house guests had stepped up to the plate and cleaned their own bedding and made their own breakfast.
She was also impressed by how the twins had stayed to help welcome the arriving guests this afternoon and how everyone was working to hold things together while she focused on healing.
A knock on the doorframe halted our conversation and a beautiful dark-haired woman came walking in the door with a file in her hands. “Mrs. Walton? I’m Dr. Avula. How are you feeling?”
“I’m much better today,” Mom said, standing from her chair to shake the doctor’s hand.
“Oh, no need to get up. I’ll come to you.” The doctor shook Mom’s hand then leaned against the extra bed next to Brandon. She reached over and shook his hand, and then mine. She had a soft smile that helped me relax. “It must feel good to be out of bed.”
“It does, thank you.”
“If we send you home tomorrow, will you promise not to overdo it?”
“I promise.” Mom reached for my hand and I grasped it.
“There are a lot of details we’ll need to work out, and you’re probably not going to like any of the options.” Dr. Avula’s smile shifted to sympathetic. I didn’t like that smile quite as well.
“Are you the oncologist?” Brandon asked. His eyes were wide, and his forehead raised.
“I am.” She nodded to him and then turned back to mom. “I’ve looked over your test results and scans…”
“And?” I held my breath, waiting for her to answer.
“Things don’t look good.” The doctor pressed her lips together and then gave Mom her full attention again. “You’ve been sick for a while, haven’t you?”
Mom raised her chin and straightened her back. “I’m just fine, thank you.”
Dr. Avula fidgeted with the file in her hands and took a long breath. “Can I be frank, Mrs. Walton?”
“Please, call me Renae.”
“Okay, Renae. Do you want the bad news or the worse news?”
Mom shifted her gaze out the window again. The doctor didn’t wait for her to answer.
“Your cancer has metastasized, which means it has spread from your ovaries to other parts of your body.”
“I know what metastasized means,” Mom snapped at her.
“Mom, she’s just trying to help.” I squeezed her hand gently.
“I’m not recommending chemotherapy as an option,” Dr. Avula said, very straightforward that time.
“Why not?” Brandon’s brow creased, and his voice raised.
“It would not postpone the inevitable and would only make her miserable. I would suggest she enjoy the time she has.”
“Are you saying my mom’s going to die?” I already knew what the doctor’s answer would be, but I needed to hear it confirmed.
Instead, her silence spoke on her behalf.
“Oh phooey,” Mom said, tears welling in her eyes. “We’re all going to die eventually. Right?” She waved a hand in the air, dismissing the negativity. I appreciated her optimism, but like the doctor had said, it wouldn’t postpone the inevitable.
“It’s good that you have your adult children close by.” Dr. Avula smiled at me and then Brandon. “Will one of you be able to stay with your mom for a while to help out? Or should we arrange for some outside assistance?”
“I’m only seventeen.”
“I’m not her son.” Brandon and I spoke almost at the same time.
“Oh…” Dr. Avula opened the chart and made a note with her pen then clicked it closed and tucked it into her pocket. “I’ll arrange for some help right away, then. Let’s keep you improving today, and we’ll see if we can get you released tomorrow or the next day.”
The doctor stood and reached a hand out to all of us again. I felt numb shaking her hand and couldn’t say a word. Thankfully, Brandon could.
“Thank you for everything,” he said.
She smiled that sympathetic smile again and left us to a quiet room.
“Well… that was fun,” Mom said with a smile.
“Mom! This isn’t fun at all. She basically just said you’re going to die soon!”
“Just think, if I don’t have to have chemo, I won’t lose my hair.” She patted her rumpled curls and spoke with a straight face but then winked at Brandon.
“And you won’t have to wear one of those pink scarfs around your head,” he added, and winked back at her.
“Nah, pink is for breast cancer anyway. What color do you think goes with ovarian cancer?” She rubbed her chin like she was trying to think.
I was horrified. “Mom, this isn’t funny.”
“Oh, lighten up, Sammy.” Mom pushed my knee playfully. “Live a little!” She tried to hold in laughter but ended up snorting.
That made Brandon laugh, and he reached over to give her a high-five.
I felt my lip quiver and then I lost it. My tears were accompanied by sobs that wracked my whole body. Brandon came over and knelt in front of my chair, pulling me into his arms.
“Nobody’s invincible, Samantha.” Mom squeezed my hand again.
“But I’m not ready for you to die.” I choked on the words through my sobs.
“Well, that makes two of us.” Mom looked out the window and pursed her lips. “Unfortunately, no on asked our opinion first.”
“I would have said, ‘No!’ if they’d asked.” That made me snicker even through the tears and Mom turned back to me and grinned.
“Me too!” She snorted then reached her arms out. I pulled away from Brandon and practically climbed on her lap, sobbing onto her shoulder. She just held me and held me until I’d cried all my tears onto her hospital gown. She seemed to understand that I needed my momma right then.
Running To You
Click here to read the next chapter in my work-in-progress!