“Please, take a seat, Ms. Vedras.”
“The doctor will be right with you.”
The old woman sank into the chair before she could fall over. The room’s lights were blinding, and she felt dizzy. She reached into her purse and grabbed some old Portuguese coins. She turned them over and held the purse to her chest with her swollen, arthritic hands, and sighed.
Closing her eyes, she blocked out the room. She droned out the bustling noise from the hallway. The beeping of equipment faded, and she remembered a place far away. She felt the warm sand under her feet. The ocean called to her. She remembered the thrill of running into the crashing waves, surfboard in hand. She heard herself laugh as she tumbled into the surf. The salty Portuguese air filled her nose. But that was the last time she had ever breathed that air. Those times were long gone. Those memories were interrupted by the disinfectant smell of the hospital. The old woman heard someone walking down the hallway.
Her eyes widened and she gripped the coins tighter now. Her nails dug into her palms as the footsteps got closer. She squeezed her eyes shut, accentuating her wrinkles, and curled her toes in her shoes. She waited for a second, frozen. But the footsteps passed by and she relaxed her body, exhaling. She closed her eyes again and leaned back in the chair.
She was now in a hospital, but a different one. Instead of the soft shuffling, it was filled with the screeches of newborn babies. She remembered the day she first heard the wails of her own babies. The day she held them. Those precious few hours.
She also remembered the day that all stopped.
Now was not the time. The old woman pushed those thoughts out of her head. Except now she held the scraps of a baby blanket that lay in her pocket.
The old woman closed her eyes again. She heard sirens go by, and her headache worsened. Forced into her consciousness was the memory of the last time she heard sirens like that. She winced. Good memories, good memories, she repeated to herself. She pictured the long days spent on the porch after retirement. The sound of the rocking chair, and the carefree banter she had with him. She tried to focus on that memory, preserve it forever. But the sirens came back now. She furrowed her brow, reaching for that time, but it faded. She now remembered that day. That week. That month. All the time since that fateful minute.
She remembered the tears. And the pain. But also the people. The stranger in the waiting room. The old woman recalled her words.
“Will it get better?”
“How do you know?”
“I’ve lived it.”
“How long will it take?”
“It will never fully heal.”
“Then why should I try?”
“There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Now, in this moment, the old woman repeated that to herself. It will get better. It will get better. Always.
The old woman looked down at her hands. They held nothing now. She flexed her fingers and watched as the door swung open.
“Hello, Ms. Vedras.”
“Hello, Dr. Locklear.”
“You are here today for the results of the MRI and biopsy, correct?”
“Ms. Vedras, it appears that the tumor is malignant.” The old woman took a deep breath, and leaned over the desk. The doctor watched her. “I know this news is a shock. Are you okay?”
“Not now, but later.”
“Are you sure?”
“Okay, Ms. Vedras. You have a few different options. Would you like to start the discussion?”