From the book
Miranda Sweeney's white paper gown rustled as she shifted her weight on the exam table and pulled the edges together to cover herself. "Just like that, it's over?"
Dr. Turabian closed the metal-covered chart with a decisive snap. "Well," he said, "if you want to call twenty-five rounds of radiation, nine months of chemo and two surgeries 'just like that.'" He took off his glasses and slid them into the pocket of his lab coat."I couldn't be happier with your tests. Everything's where we'd hoped and planned for it to be, right on schedule. Other than taking your immunotoxin every day, there's nothing more you have to do."
Miranda blinked, overwhelmed by the news. "I'm...I don't know what to say." Was there a rule of etiquette in this situation? Thank you, Doctor? I love you?
"You don't have to say anything. I think you'll find getting better is a lot easier than being sick." He grinned. "Go. Grow your hair. Come back in three months and tell me you feel like a million bucks."
He left her alone, the heavy door of the exam room closing with a sigh. Miranda went through the motions of getting dressed, all the while mulling over her conversation with the doctor.
Stick a fork in her, she's done.
After a year of this, Miranda didn't believe you could ever really be done with cancer. It could be done with you, though, as you lay on the medical examiner's table like a waxy victim in a crime show.
Snap out of it, she told herself. For once, the doctor's advice didn't make her skin crawl--no precautions about nausea meds and gels and post-op limitations. Nothing like that. His advice was so simple it was scary. Get dressed and get on with your life.
She tore off the crinkly paper smock and wadded it up, crunching it into a small, tight ball between the palms of her hands and then making a rim shot to the wastebasket. Take that.
As she reached up to pull her bra off a hook, a familiar, unpleasant twinge shot up her right arm. The post-op sensations never seemed to end, although her doctor and surgeon assured her the tingling and numbness would eventually go away.
Which was--as of a few minutes ago--over.
She told herself she ought to be laughing aloud, singing "I Will Survive" at the top of her lungs, dancing down the corridors of the clinic and kissing everyone she passed. Unfortunately, that was the last thing she felt like doing. Maybe the news hadn't quite sunk in, because at the moment, she simply felt hollow and exhausted, like a shipwreck victim who'd had to swim ashore. She was alive, but the fight for survival had taken everything from her. It had changed her from the inside out, and this new woman, this gritty survivor, didn't quite know what to make of herself.
She turned to face the mirror,studying a body that didn't feel like her own anymore. A year ago, she'd been a reasonably attractive thirty-eight-year-old, comfortable in her size-10 body and--all right, she might as well admit it--downright vain about her long, auburn hair. During the months of treatment, however, she had learned to avoid mirrors. Despite the earnest reassurances of her friends, family, treatment team and support group, she never did learn to love what she saw there.
Some would say she'd lost her right breast and all her hair, but Miranda considered the term lost to be a misnomer. She knew exactly where her hair had gone--all over the bed pillows, down the drain of the shower, in the teeth of her comb, all over the car and the sofa. Shedding hair had followed in her wake wherever she went. Her husband, Jacob, had actually woken up one day with strands of her wavy...