This story is by JoJo Jones and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
What started out to be a little joint pain here, and a little swelling there, turned out to be more than a disease to Nicole Steele’s reality. She had more of a relationship with the doctors and nurses at North Carolina Cancer Hospital then she did with many of her friends, classmates, and even her family; or at least that is what it felt like to her for the last eight months. Osteosarcoma is all she knew and was her only friend that visited her every waking day and every sleepless night since being diagnosed and admitted. But as she lied in bed, Nicole just couldn’t be angry at the people who lived on the outside world. It wasn’t their fault that she has cancer. Nevertheless, Nicole wished that the cancer would just eat whatever was left of her bones. She closed her eyes, and began to imagine the cancer being like a vulture continuously circling her body waiting for its meal. Only 25 years old, Nicole felt that she had more to offer to the world then what the world was allowing her to offer. She just got the hang of being a law student. She was almost done with her studies. She wanted to protect the rights for the elderly and the disabled. But who was going to protect her during this time of desperate need, love and hope?
Nicole’s eyes popped wide open due to the startling and unsuspected voice of Dr. Gilbert. He entered the room. “I’m so sorry if I came at a bad time.”
“These last eight months has been nothing but a one big ‘bad time’”, Nicole said.
“Well I can understand that after all the treatment and radiation you have been going through ever since you’ve been here,” the doctor added.
“Am I improving at all?”
The doctor sighed.
“You don’t have to say anything else. Is it really too late for me?”
“Unless you believe in the power of prayer,” the doctor paused, and pushed his glasses on his nose. “God is the only one who knows how much time you have left. By the looks of the chart you may have a week. I’m sorry, but the Osteosarcoma has infected 70 percent of your body. We can still continue the radiation if you like.”
“If I don’t…?”
“All I can do is give you something for the pain and send you home.”
“Is there any way I can go home and still do the treatment and radiation? I really want to use whatever time I have to spend it with my family and my friends.”
“I’m sorry Nicole but you really need to understand the intensity of your condition. The fact of the matter is that your bones are just too fragile to travel back and forward for your treatment. Just a simple task can easily break your bones. It would be best if you would just stay here and let the nurses assist and comfort you in any way they can.”
Nicole let the doctor’s words sink in, hoping it will drown her cancer away, or at least giving her more time. Before Dr. Gilbert could make his exit, Nicole ask,” Would you mind making a phone call for me since I really have a limited time?”
“I wish to call a friend. Michael. He doesn’t know about my cancer, nor does he know that I have feelings for him. So, if I must die I want to at least die with him knowing how much I really love him. That is one thing I can get off my chest before the cancer eats it.”
“I would be very happy to make that phone call for you personally. I’ll send the nurse right in to give you your medications, give her the number, and give me a couple of hours and let me see what I can do.
A couple of hours felt like an eternity, but the doctor returned. “Well I got ahold of Michael for you, but unfortunately he went out of town and won’t be back up until Wednesday. He said that he will be here Thursday morning.”
With the little bit of energy that Nicole did have she was able to jolt her head up from her pillow. “That six days away!” Nicole cried out, “This was my one chance!”
“This opportunity can still be yours, just keep the faith.”
“It’s kinda hard to keep any kind of faith. My parents are too hysterical to come visit me as often as I would like them to. I am an only child. I had to drop out of school because of this cancer. My friends are living their lives with their boyfriends and gonna get their degrees and I’m just stuck here waiting to die. Do you really know how that feels?”
“Unfortunately, I cannot even come close to imagine how that feels. If it makes you feel any better I didn’t mention anything about the cancer. I told him you would just under the weather and just wanted a friendly face to be in the room with you. I gave Michael the phone number to your room so he can call you at any time or maybe you can call him.”
“No, he deserves so much more than just a phone call. This matter has to be face-to-face.”
Whatever it was worth Nicole did whatever she could to stay alive at least until she was able to see Michael one last time. She was there and prompt to every radiation session and clinical trials. Whatever she could do to slow down the cancer she did it. If she wasn’t doing that then she was certainly praying to God to give her this final wish that she so desperately wanted to have with Michael, but never got the opportunity until now. It was just too unfortunate for her that this opportunity has an expiration date. Her parents still visited, and her friends did too if they weren’t too “busy”, or “studying”, but that wasn’t enough.
It was Wednesday and Nicole just couldn’t wait until it was Thursday morning. She couldn’t help herself but to ask the doctor one last time to call Michael again to reinsure her that he was coming straight to the hospital tomorrow morning as she was told.
“You’ve been talking about Michael all day. I called, but it went straight to voicemail. How about we talk about you for change?”
“I’m fine. I don’t feel as weak as I usually do after finishing my treatment. I hope he didn’t forget.”
“He’s probably on his way now. But I’m very happy to hear that.”
“So that means I get to go home? I can go home and see Michael instead of staying here and let Michael see me like this?!” Nicole said as she could feel the smile grow on her face.
“That might be the case. You never mentioned his last name. I could tell the nurses to look out for him and let him come straight in without him being stop by security or the front desk.”
“His name is Michael Belle.”
“Michael Belle?” the doctor repeated, followed by a concern look.
“Yes. What’s the matter? What’s wrong?”
“His body was sent to the morgue last night.”
“Morgue? What do you mean?! He’s not dead! He can’t be dead!”
“He was in a car crash….”
“I DON’T BELIEVE YOU!”
“Ms. Steele –“
Nicole used the remainder of her strength to pick up the room’s telephone and begin to push down on the numbers in sequence to Michael’s phone number. No answer. She tried desperately over and over again; getting the same results. Nicole can still feel Dr. Gilbert’s presence in room. Nicole’s voice grew dark like her skin. “The only way you can prove to me and make me believe he’s dead is by taking me to the morgue.”
“I really shouldn’t be doing that, but I will have the nurse bring a wheelchair and I will personally escort you.”
The nurse came down and 10 minutes later, both Nicole and Dr. Gilbert made their way to the elevator down to the morgue. The two bodies entered the lifeless room. The doctor carefully searched each individual body until he came across the label that said “Belle, M.” “Is this him, Nicole?”
Nicole carefully made her way through the narrow space and was able to pull herself up from the chair and grab onto the frigid steel table. She carefully pulled off the white sheet and revealed the face and body of her love; letting the sheet fall to the floor. She propped herself up as much as she can before running her fingers through Michael’s hair, nodding, “That’s him,” she said as it began to rain on Michael’s face.
The doctor nodded, making his way out. “Take your time.”
Dr. Gilbert came back only minutes later to discover the two lifeless bodies holding hand in hand.