“I am sorry.” The man told her. Cheryl Drummond looked at the white-haired man not hearing him. There was such a loud buzzing in her head, she could hear nothing. What had he said? She frowned. She could not remember his words. After a moment of struggle, she leaned forward in the straight back chair.
“What did you say?” She whispered. Maybe if she whispered, the answer would be different that she thought she had heard at first.
“Cheryl, the tests show advanced stage cancer. This cancer is the cause of your extreme headaches. The cancer is quite advanced, Cheryl. From all we can tell from our testing, I am afraid your time is very limited at this point.”
“Cancer? What do you mean, limited? What does that mean?” Cheryl continued to whisper.
“It means that..” The doctor took a deep breath, his breath betraying a tremble. “It means that you probably have about 6 months to one year left. I am so sorry, Cheryl. Perhaps if we had detected the tumor sooner, there may have been a better chance, but I can’t be sure. I am so very sorry, Cheryl.”
“But.. I came in when I started feeing..off. It can’t have been too late. I don’t understand.” Cheryl said more to the universe at large than to the doctor.
” I know, but you see, you didn’t realize that your headaches this time were any different than those you have dealt with most of your life. You wouldn’t have known to come in sooner.” Doctor Perry made his way around the desk to sit next to the young woman. She sat with one hand in the other, palms up. She was staring at the front of his desk and swaying slightly. She jerked slightly when Dr. Perry put his hand on her shoulder.
“Were my headaches always because of this..this..thing?” She wondered.
“We can’t be sure, but they may have. Our observations show that the tumor started some time ago but only recently began to grow at an alarming rate. We don’t know why.”
The doctor jerked back as Cheryl sprang from the chair and turned toward the doctor.
“WHY didn’t you know? I came to you two years ago complaining of headaches! I came to you for help! Why didn’t you see this? Why didn’t you DO something?” The woman’s voice had risen to a scream.
Dr. Perry’s eyes betrayed his inner pain. He hated this part of his work. He was constantly confused and frustrated at the lack of results from research, leaving him and his colleagues to face those being sentenced to death through no fault of their own. He told himself at that moment he didn’t think he could do this again.
“Cheryl, I can only say that my heart breaks for you. This tumor was in such a position that when we did the initial scans two years ago, we simply could not see it. It was not large enough and it was positioned in such a way that it was hidden. We did everything we knew to do, but the tumor took over. At this point, we can do everything possible to help you control the pain and try to make your time as comfortable as possible.”
Cheryl stood for a moment facing the window. Out that window, she could see people going about their normal lives as though that life had just taken an irreversible turn. None of those people seemed to realize things would never be the same. Cheryl suddenly felt a bone chilling hatred for every person she saw. How dare they walk along in their peaceful existence! How dare these people have no more concern that she was going to die far sooner than necessary than they did for their next step.
Cheryl turned toward Dr. Perry. She could not see the sheen that came over his eyes. She only saw the messenger. She only saw the man who had been destined to deliver her news.
“Cheryl, is your sister waiting outside?” He said softly. The woman absently nodded her head. The doctor went to the door and beckoned the sister, Becky, to come in.
“Becky, I think she truly needs you right now. The news is not good.” He motioned for her to sit, but Becky moved to her sister’s side.
“Cheryl?” She whispered.
Cheryl turned slowly to see her sister next to her. She seemed surprised.
“Cheryl, sit down with me, Honey. Come on.” Becky urged. Blankly, Cheryl followed the instructions. Becky wrapped her arm around her younger sister and turned to Dr. Perry.
“What is it?” She asked in a shaky voice.
“I’m afraid the tests show a tumor in her brain. It is very advanced, Becky, and there is nothing we can do. It seems to have developed extremely fast and has wrapped itself around and around until surgery would not help. I have told Cheryl that 6 months to a year is our estimate. I am so very sorry.”
Becky stared. She could feel the normal heat of her body leave her. Her head threatened to spin out of control. She looked quickly to Cheryl who gazed blankly at the floor.
“Well, ” Becky sputtered. “What do we do now?”
“I have told Cheryl that we can do everything possible to make her as comfortable as we can, but other than that, there really is nothing to be done. I couldn’t be more sorry.” Again the doctor’s voice trembled.
Becky nodded vaguely.
Finally, Dr. Perry stood. “Please stay here as long as you need to. I will be in the outer office. Please come for me if you need me.” He placed a hand on Becky’s shoulder and left the room.
Several silent unsteady moments passed before Cheryl turned to her sister as though only just realizing she was there on the seat next to her.
“Becky, I am going to die.” Cheryl stated in a flat voice.
“I know.” Becky didn’t know what else to say.
“I think I knew. Somehow, I think I knew. I can’t stop thinking about the things I always thought I would have time for, you know?”
Becky could only nod her understanding.
Cheryl reached for the necklace that hung around her neck. It was a small clear marble in a gold setting. Inside the marble was a mustard seed. Becky looked from the necklace to Cheryl’s face. Something was different.
“Cheryl? What is it?”
Slowly, Cheryl turned to her sister. There was a light in her eyes that took Becky by surprise.
“What is it?” Becky leaned back.
“Do you remember what Grandma Susie used to tell us? Remember when we stayed with her and she would sing that song? What was the name? Trust and Obey. Yes, that’s it. I can remember her saying that if you kept your faith, all things were possible. She would say that faith would get you through anything that life brought to you. She believed that with all her heart, Becky. Do you remember?” Cheryl turned to face Becky straight on. Her face was bright.
“Yes, Honey, I remember.” Becky’s voice cracked.
“She was right. I don’t think I ever really thought about it before, but just now, I had this vision of her. Remember how she would wear that blue apron with the bird embroidered on it? Remember her standing at the counter and singing that song? ‘Trust and Obey, for there’s no other way. To be happy in Jesus, but to Trust and Obey.” Cheryl stood and lifted her purse from the doctor’s desk.
“We need to be going, Becky. I have a lot to do while I still can.”
Becky followed her sister from the office and from the building. When the pair reached Becky’s car, Cheryl looked at her and smiled.
“Do you realize I will be with our Mama soon? How can that be a bad thing?”
Becky took a moment to pray that Grandma Susie’s undying faith would carry them all to the end.