There I was, just minding my own business
Doing all the things I thought I was supposed to do.
I ate fruits and vegetables,
Even juiced and detoxed sometimes.
Four laps around the lake, or three miles on the treadmill
To no avail.
And every summer I went to the clinic
So that cold machine
Could squish my ninnies
In unfathomable pain.
You know it, the mammogram slam.
So relieved when it let go
And I could breathe again.
I gave up everything
That was supposed to be a threat:
Barbecue on the grill,
Even bologna sandwiches.
I sold my car
So the smog wouldn’t get me.
I gave up my summer tan.
I gave up smoking, too, all kinds,
Paid money for a newer house
Less chance of asbestos poisoning.
I run from gamma rays and alpha particles. I read labels 24/7.
But still. . .
On that last check-up,
A pattern they couldn’t make out.
“Why me, Lord?” I asked Him.
“Does it run in the family?” he said.
Two aunts, dead, two years apart.
He nodded but didn’t say a word.
So here we are.
“What next?” was my first question.
“Where do we go from here?”
“The usual paths, chemo and surgery.”
“No.” I said, before he could get it all out.
“Early detection is half the fight.”
“No!” I yelled louder this time.
He cocked his head and looked at me strange,
Unaccustomed to being challenged.
“No,” I said, softer this time.
“I won’t. I’ve seen what that can do.”
“But your life. . . “
“My life is determined by a Higher Power.
I won’t have it taken from me.
I’ve seen the effects of chemo. . .
Sick. Pain. Wasting away. No energy. No hair.”
“But if it can save your life. . .”
“It can’t. Only He can.”
“Does this mean you’re rejecting treatment?”
No. It means I’m rejecting YOUR treatment.”
And I went home and cried.
I thought about it, long and hard.
I don’t want the life or death my aunts had,
Life oozing out of my pores for months.
Unliving life, not living it.
I want to be me.
All of me, preferred,
But most of me if that’s not possible.
I could stand to lose some weight anyway.
And who doesn’t like to shop?
And if he doesn’t love me without them,
He didn’t deserve me in the first place.
So I called the office and made an appointment.
He was glad I called.
He started his campaign again.
I cut him off.
“The protocol,” I said, “is research.
Find out what’s best for me.
In the meantime, I’ll do my own due diligence.
There are survivors all over the world
Who don’t depend on hospital policies,
Or big drug companies building up their profits.
There are doctors taking chances,
Really trying to find a cure.
So you do your thing, and I’ll do mine.
And if my way doesn’t work,
I’ll meet you in the OR.”
So I did. My own research, that is.
Everything from mushrooms to peroxide.
Naturopaths with great track records,
And waiting lists four miles long.
It would take weeks, months even
Just to get in for an exam.
And I didn’t have that kind of time.
And don’t even think about insurance.
What little I had wouldn’t cover experiments,
Not to mention a pre-existing condition.
So I lifted my eyes again and said,
“Why me, Lord?”. And He smiled.
And the words I heard but did not see were
“This will only make you stronger.”
So I gathered my strength, my faith,
And my determination to live and go on loving.
I walked to the mirror
And took a good, hard look.
“I’ll miss you guys,” I said to my image.
“We had some great times, you and me.
But the time has come to part our ways.
I want to live.
And I don’t want my life compromised
With worry, pain, or weakness.”
“I want to live!” is the last thing I said
Before counting to ten and I was out.
Not down for the count, but out for the moment.
I’d come to terms with who I am
And who I would become.
I want. . .
Author Bio: Ernestine Rose grew up on the west side of Chicago during the turbulent 50’s and 60’s. Adopted by an older couple, she spent a great deal of time as a child reading and participating in dance and drama club activities in school. Bradley University and the University of Dallas prepared her for a successful career as a teacher of English, speech and theater in Peoria and Fort Worth, where she earned numerous educator awards.
As a retired public school teacher and mother of four sons, she made her debut as an author with the publication of three books: 7 Tips for A Successful Marriage, Raising the Roses, and Tales from the Family Tree, all in 2012. She later produced a romance novel, Monday Morning Blues. Her most recent work reflects her experience as a caretaker and widow, Seasons: My Journey through Grief. Inspired by Toni Morrison and Alice Walker, her focus in both writing and theater is on the power of language, love, and family. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and her website.
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