She sat in the bare room vaguely scented with wet dog. Waiting on old chairs, staring at a busy picture that looked like something from Romania in the 15th century.
Her Doctor was from the Balkans, but she’d never had the courage to ask her from which part exactly. She loved the way the doctor would announce her diagnosis, heavily accented, like she was pulling a rabbit out of a hat and looking very pleased with herself. “aha, Seasonal Bronchitis!”, “ho, ho, (nodding) Shingles, ha!”
They’d been through everything together, from coughs and colds to pap smears. This time she was waiting on results from a biopsy. She was suddenly overwhelmed with fatigue. She vowed not to work so hard, she’d already rescheduled this appointment twice due to conflicting work commitments.
A child played in the corner with some old toys. A car that had seen better days and a wiry tangle of beads. The parent reading an old Woman’s Day. She felt annoyed at her own lack of fertility. Three failed IVF attempts. Why not her, was it because she was unsuitable in the eyes of some higher being? There were plenty of unsuitable parents around, procreating without any problem. Why not her? She was entirely suitable.
Finally the doctor peered around the corner and with unusual gravity called her name. “Aaah Karen (pronounced, Car Ren), I haf been dreading this moment…” Her eyes looked through the bifocals and settled on her patient’s face. “It’s cancer”
There was a moment where the world just did not make sense. The familiar surroundings, the kindly expression behind the bifocals all looked strangely foreign.
What kind of a reaction is that? She stepped outside of herself and observed. She should be heaving and sobbing onto the desk, but why did she feel nothing. “Of course you’ll need to see the specialist about surgery and chemotherapy, I know a good one, he’s the best actually”
And then it arrived with a force like she’d been caught in a hit and run. The anxiety swelled her belly and she felt vomit in the back of her throat. Adrenaline raced and made her heart rate multiply.
“What?” was all she could say.
And held within that one stupid word was all she felt and thought. That this could not possibly be, chemo would rob her of her hope for children, she would have to take time off work, she would have to look after herself.
“Most women survive these days. We’ve got it early”. Words floating in a smog of rising panic and despair.
On the way home in the car everything looked wrong. The colours too sharp. The world continuing, people in cars going about their end of work day routines. Why was there no somber music, no storm, no lightning, just a lazy autumn day, where the leaves caught the sun in their last attempt to hang on, before becoming a compost of brown and yellow and gold.
And the silence, broken only by the deafening frown now creasing her husband’s brow. Scared. Uncertain. But most of all furious, she looked up at him and all that came out from her throat was not even a why, just a useless croaked “what?”