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Life Is More Than Getting By
I sat in that plastic seat for only about a half hour, and it suddenly felt oddly hard. My eyes were open, but I wasn’t seeing anything. My hands were sweaty, and all I could hear was my heart beat and my quickening breath. Slowly my mother’s voice, a faint cry, and the doctor’s comforting voice were filling my mind. Reality was going to hit; wonderful. Until I was handed a box of tissues, I didn’t feel the tears that were now flowing heavily from my eyes, blurring my sight.
“There are options,” continued the doctor in a soft voice, “we can possibly cure this. It was caught early, so there’s a good chance for a better end.” My mother was too busy sobbing and snorting, gasping for air hysterically, so I nodded in response to the doctor’s words. She reached over her little desk and touched my arm, “This is fixable, honey. Being diagnosed with lung cancer is hard to swallow, but this isn’t the end of it.” She looked at me with hurtful eyes. I nodded again, and went to reach for my bag on the floor, trembling. My mother and I left not speaking to each other. As we walked down the halls of the doctor’s office, the hallways seemed too much like a hospital, like they were closing in on me.
I shook the thought from my head that I would soon be walking in the halls of a hospital, sick. I took a long deep breath and concentrated on walking, and looking at my feet. I followed behind my mother to the car, tears streaming down my face, as I watched them drip one by one on the corner of my shirt. I sighed and raised my head and wiped my tears. We were now in the car, just sitting in silence. My mother had stopped her weeping and before she started the car she looked at me.
“It’s no one’s fault. Your seventeen, you’re beautiful, I know it’s hard to believe dear, but it will go away. Lung cancer runs on my side of the family, so I knew this was a possibility. I just couldn’t imagine it this early, or even at all.” She shook her head. The way she spat each word at me, she talked to me like this cancer was no more than a cold and a sniffle. I rolled my eyes at my mother’s pathetic attempt to comfort me. I was never close with my mother, and I really only had had one best friend, but she moved last year, unfortunately. Now all I had was my older brother, who is now in college, my father who likes disappearing in his office room at home for days and nights, and my loving love of my life, Mark. Mark and I had been together for almost two years now, and we are both now juniors in high school. He would be the one I could run to, but for this I knew I couldn’t. It would scare him, and I know he’d die inside. I could imagine his face, scrunching his nose, and his eyebrows joining together as he furrowed them, and his cheeks flushing to a bright red his eyes would be stretched to even bigger than they already are, and he’d say something perfect like, “it’s okay baby, we’ll get through this. Me and you, one step at a time.” But I couldn’t hurt him like that, as much as he talked and tried comforting me, the hurt and pain I felt would be the same for him, but worse. I sighed unable to think of someone to rely on for assistance and help. I could tell some school friends, but they would tell everyone; I don’t want anyone to treat me different. I looked out the car window as my mother began our long drive home. Mark and I had some recent troubles with honesty. He told me that if I didn’t tell him every little secret, it would be the end of us. This was caused because I was stupid enough to hide the secret of my grandpa dying from him, I was so upset by it that I pushed him away for several weeks. When we eventually got it out of me, he comforted me and helped me get over the fact that Pop wasn’t there for me anymore either, he got upset and disappointed that I didn’t tell him at first. He gave me the consequence of leaving me if that happens again. Even though I know Mark would never do that over something as silly as a secret about a dying grandparent, it still killed me inside if I tried to tell him. So then I realized, I had nobody to tell. I had to get through this on my own. I couldn’t tell Mark, it would hurt him too much; I couldn’t tell anyone else because that would be keeping a secret from Mark. Just thinking of the consequence of keeping a secret from Mark makes me want to curl up in a ball and cry forever, even though I know it wouldn’t happen. Okay, I thought to myself, I can do this. I’m Jennifer Smith I’m seventeen, and I am diagnosed with lung cancer, reason: unknown. Although I do have my assumptions; my brother, Jack was always a heavy smoker in high school and I’d always be dragged around by him and his friends to all their little parties and shin digs. I’m guessing the second hand smoke is what had caused it, on top of my horrible asthma. I guess after the years of Jack being a freshman, till a senior in high school I was surrounded by smoke all the time. Even if Jack wasn’t at a party, he’d smoke in the house, in his room, which he shared with me before he went off to college, and throughout the rest of the house. Of course, my parents would scream and yell at him; they would threaten him, and ground him for weeks but he wouldn’t care. Jack was always a rebel, and he was always a strong kid, even if he was on his own the majority of his high school career smoking his life away. I looked up to him for that bravery and that courage that raced inside him, to pick the choice of having the strength on his own, over friends and being a follower. I missed Jack, and maybe I could tell him about it. We were about ten minutes away from home, so I decided to text Jack.
“I need to talk to you.” I sent immediately.
“I went to the doctor’s today. Idk if mom told ya bout whats been happening lately. Can I drive up to the college?”
“Sure we’ll meet at Brewed Awakening.”
“Be there in 20”
The minute we got home I went inside without saying a word to my mother got my keys and stalked back out to my car.
“Where are you going Jennifer? It’s 6 o’clock and you have school tomorrow. Don’t you have homework?”
“What’s it matter? I’m going to see Jack. I’ll be back by nine.” I got in my car without hearing what she had replied, I saw she rolled her eyes and stomped back into the house, alone. I pulled out of the drive way and started on my way to see Jack and tell him about the cancer. I wondered how would he react?
I got to Brewed Awakening and Jack welcomed me warmly at the door. We sat down and spoke, and cried and reminisced of our good times. Almost too quickly it was half past eight and I had to get home.
“Don’t worry Jenny girl, I’ll come home on weekends and as much during the week as possible to spend time with you. In this time, do everything you can with your life and live it to the fullest. Life is short, lil’ sis’ and you have to make it worth it.”
I trembled in his arms, feeling the love from my brother passed on to me as we hugged. I cried, shaking in his arms outside that little coffee shop, hoping more than anything that my life would be consisted of quality not quantity. My life was possibly going to be cut short, and I had to make the “quality” of my life advance. I thought of Mark and cried harder. He finally let me go and give me a kiss on my for head. Never has my brother been so hospitable, he’s always been an amazing big brother, one like no other, but he was never this sympathetic. I nodded at him a goodbye because I was too scared for the words to come out, that I would soon possibly may have to say to everyone in my life. I got in my little car and started my drive home.
A Year Later..
A year has passed. I’d definitely say I’ve made my life the best of it. I’ve hid my secret from Mark, and now when my death was soon coming, and very noticeable, I decided today I would tell him.
“Jack, I’m going to have to tell him, today.” I texted as I laid on my bed waiting for Mark to come over.
“Go for it sis, be careful and be good. I’ll be leaving the college in an hour so I can come home to see you before you go out to stay in the hospital. Love you.”
I sighed at his words of hospital, ugh. “love you too.” I replied.
Just as I put my phone to the side, and closed my weak eyes the doorbell rang. I heard my mom answer it, and tell Mark I was upstairs and he was welcome to come into my room. I sat up and prepared myself. I stood on my weakening legs and ran over to my mirror. My hair, was falling out, my skin was pale and drained of life, my joints were weak, and breathing was the hardest thing to do. Mark knocked on my door and slowly entered with the grin that I adored. His face just made me want to melt in his arms and just want to curl up and die there rather than anywhere else, alone. I ran to him and he held me close and my eyes began to water. We sat on my bed still holding on to each other’s hands and he looked at me.
“What is it Jen?”
“Mark, have you noticed anything different about my lately?”
“Well yeah, your appearance over all, and you not doing any more physical activities but whenever I asked about the sports you dropped the subject I figured you’d tell me when you’re ready. I’m guessing that’s now?” he stroked a piece of my hair behind my ear, and my eyes burned with tears waiting to come out. I looked down at our hands to say it because I couldn’t look into this eyes, to see him hurt.
“Mark, a little longer than a year ago I was diagnosed” I swallowed hard and the tears came down, “with lung cancer.” I didn’t look at him, and he didn’t say anything, but I felt him freeze in terror. Then his hands began shake and pull away from mine that’s when I couldn’t take him to leave me so I looked at him after what felt like ten minutes. He was crying, with his eyes shut and nodding his head back and forth like he was saying no. He couldn’t accept it, he wouldn’t accept it. I cupped my hands around his face, and he pulled me to him much more fragile then he used to. He cried there on my shoulder for quite some time, and I cried too.
“Why didn’t you tell me Jen?” he finally said I leaned away to see his face, still holding on to him for dear life.
“I couldn’t hurt you, I thought it would go away.”
“Jen! I had to help you, I didn’t help you! I made you go out, you wanted to go all these places when you should have been resting! Why! You can’t!”
“Mark, it’s what had to be done I wanted to enjoy my time while I could because there is no getting better.” I whispered. His face softened and he cried in my arms. “Mark, its 9 I have to pack my bag and get over to the hospital I’ll be staying there now, and Jack it probably here by now waiting downstairs. Plus you have school tomorrow.”
“I’m not going to school, I’m staying with you every second for the rest of your life.”
“Mark..” I wanted to object but I hesitated, all I wanted more than anything was for Mark to be there with me for the rest of my time.
“No, Jen, I’m staying with you.” I nodded and turned away to prevent a fresh new batch of tears to explode out of me, instead I quickly packed my things and went downstairs to see Jack, my mother, and father and the foot of the stairs waiting for me, all with hurt faces. Mark squeezed my hand in assurance and helped me get down the stairs. All the people I hurt, it thought to myself, life, it’s so much more than just getting by. Because all the love I felt in that room made my dizzy and I could suddenly hear my heart beat in my ears, pounding, harder, and harder. Louder and louder. My head shook “no” and all I remember was my knees gave out from under me and I saw black.
I awoke with the beeping sound of my heart beat from the machines that surrounded me in the dim light room of a hospital. I blinked several times and then started gasping for air quicker, when I saw Mark and Jack stand immediately and come to either side of my I relaxed.
“Its okay baby, your fine. You just fainted. The breather is going to help you, leave it on for now you can take it off later to talk to us, love.” Mark smiled at me and touched my small trembling cold hand.
“Don’t worry Jenny girl, you’ll be out of your pain soon. They gave you pain killers, you’re going to feel drowsy and want to sleep, so sleep Jenny girl, sleep.” The sound of Jack’s voice and Mark’s warm fingers around my helpless hand is all I wanted and needed as I drifted off into a sleep.
I woke up again, after what felt like a life time, and blinked several times. This time there was a nurse in the room, messing with the machines. She smiled at me and clicked off a machine then took the breathing mask off of me.
“Try breathing and talking on your own dear, nod your head yes if you can, if not nod no and ill put it back on.”
I took a little breath on my own, and I felt my lungs ache and burn when I did, but I didn’t tell her that, I had things to say to my loved ones, is all I thought.
“I’m fine.” I answered in a raspy little more than a whisper as I winced back the pain and smiled.
“Are you sure honey? Its very dangerous to leave it off when your lungs need it, and by the look of it, your lungs need it.”
I felt like I needed air more than anything so all I said was honesty, “tell everyone for me here to come in one by one I’d like to speak to each of them then one of them will get you to put back on the breather.” I yearned for her to allow this, “please?”
She saw the pain it caused and the dangerousness of this task, but she nodded and left the room with hurt in her eyes, which I now noticed way to well. She turned on the breather and let it blow air gently as it laid on bed at my thigh. I could pick it up and use it until someone came in or after. I put it to my mouth to give me some breath to talk to whoever was now entering my room, first was mom and dad I sighed and put the mask down.
They were both crying, “Mom, dad I know what’s happening I can feel it physically and mentally and that’s why I’m doing this now because it’s not at the point where I can fight it anymore.” My mother gasped at the realization of what I was saying. She bawled, her and my father, each was on either side of me comforting me, I told them I loved them a thousand times, and how much of good parents they were to me and Jack, we both cried and laughed and my body ached for way too man y reasons possible to breath I dismissed them from the room before they could see me faint for air and I put the mask to my mouth with a little relief of the cool quiet blowing, plastic tasting air that was the only thing filling my lungs. I said goodbye to my parents, forever I thought. I sucked in the tears because my body hurt too much to cry and I still had people to say goodbye to. Next came in my loving brother Jack, when he came in the room he was crying. I removed my mask and he talked first. “We don’t have to talk about how you know you’re weak and what’s coming, because I see it Jenny girl I see it in your eyes. I want you to know I love you, and I’ll always be there for you. And I hope you’ll wait for me up there, and say hi grandpa for me.” He smiled behind his tears.
I blinked away my tears and spoke with total difficultness. “You’re a good person Jack, and I’m not going anywhere I’ll be right here with you forever, your little Jenny girl isn’t going anywhere. I love you, thank you.” I whispered. He held me like I was the most fragile thing on earth and I kissed every part of him that I could. His warm body gave me love, hope, life and energy. I smiled at the little things in life. He held on to me like he could never let go, and he never did let go, even when he left the room, and I saw Mark enter, Jack was still there, his embrace remained. Mark was a mess, his little baby face was all red and irritated from crying and his arms were big and warm, when he touched me it made me feel like I could live forever.
“Jen, I hope you know you can’t leave me. Don’t think this baby, you can fight it.”
I was too weak to even explain how weak I was, all I could say without crying was, “Mark, trust me, and stay with me till the end.”
All he could answer was, “of course baby.” He laid next to me, and I let all the wires pull at my arms and veins because I knew I was going to die anyway, so I let it be so I could live and die the next however many minutes of my life in his arms. He kissed my hair and my kissed my tears away from my face and I held on to him with all my might, as if he was the last thing holding me down to the earth. I knew I couldn’t talk, so I pulled the mask to me for one more moment to say my last words to the world, “I love you Mark, forever. And tell Jack that too, I’ll always be with you two, remember me and do good Mark, my love.” I whispered. I couldn’t hold my tears so I dropped the mask and let the tears come I spat every time they burned in my throat and it made me cough and made my lungs feel like they were bleeding. Once again all I felt was the warm softness of Mark’s chest and his heartbeat in my ears. I felt mine slow down, and then almost as if my body was swallowed whole by darkness I felt as if I was falling then picked up and brought into comfort, that is when I realized I couldn’t hear Mark’s heart any longer, and I was dead.
A Year Later, Jack’s Point of View
“Hey Mark, how ya’ doin’ kiddo?” I asked as I stepped out of the car in my black suit and into the graveyard’s too-soft grass.
Mark was a young kid still, graduated from high school and a mess about his long gone, high school sweet heart, my sister. Poor kid, I thought, he hasn’t seen another girl ever since, and he was a wreck, still. I sent a silent little prayer to Jenny girl to watch over him and make him feel loved, suddenly he opened his eyes as if Jenny girl was right there beside him holding him and he finally answered me.
“Good.” He smiled behind his tears. As brothers almost, we walked over to my little Jenny girl’s gravestone and placed down bouquets of flowers. Today has been a year ever since my sister died, and I can’t tell you how much of the world she meant to me. Both Mark and I took it hard, especially my parents. We both stood there for quite some time feeling the presence of my little sister’s love and prayed and hoped she was actually still there with us. I couldn’t do anything but cry now, even though before I’d get down on my knees and want to dig her back up and just hold her. The gulp in my throat worsened, and I had to close my eyes. I felt her, my little Jenny girl, and I knew Mark did too because he smiled too. Jenny girl taught us things, that life is short, and love helps and mends people. That, that love cannot be separated, even between worlds. She taught us the meaning of life, the meaning of love, the meaning to live. Thank you Jenny girl, we’ll love you forever.