Long Cold Winter: Chapter Thirty-One

2002. Juanita seemed to be getting better. She was now able to do some things around the house, but still could not do anything that required long distance travel. The sparkle had returned to her eyes so Matt had begun to relax. He began to feel as if he was winning this battle.

Egypt and Sahara still remained to help with the children. They had taken a year or so off just to be home to help their father. Such wonderful daughters. Matt would have to do something to show them he appreciated their sacrifice.

Juanita knew, though, that this was just a reprieve from whatever she had been suffering from. It wasn’t permanent. She still felt as if something was wrong. She still had very little energy.

It had stolen everything from her. Her desire. Her strength. Her ability to concentrate.

It saddened her to know that she was no longer able to stand beside Matt. He had saved her life ten years ago. She knew he had. If she had stayed with Tim, she would have been the one they had buried with him. But Matt had prevented it.

God, she loved that man! He stopped working just to be there with her. Tend her. Take care of her.

He had basically given everything he loved up just to help her get well. That touched her deeply. No other man would have done so. She was sure of it.

And the girls had given up a year of their schooling to help with the babies. She could only imagine what sort of question Tawny and Lynne were asking. Not to mention little Solomon. That little boy was smart.

God, he was smart! And wise beyond his years! He knew something was going on. He knew she was ill. Nothing could be hidden from him.

He could even see the hurt his father tried so desperately to hide. And the sadness. And the Frustration. Poor little man. He had to witness the worst, and at such a young age.

But he was so brave. He came in and laid down with her in her hospital bed where she could read him stories. Or simply tell him stories from her own imagination. Just spending time with him and the girls was a treasure. She loved the kids. She only felt guilty about not being able to hold little Tariq.

But Matt had not let a single one of her stories go unrecorded. He didn’t record when she was reading from a book, no, but only when she told her own stories. He wanted to save them for the children. Just in case she didn’t make it.

But he missed taking walks with her. Going to the beach and sharing a family day. Doing things together out on the town. All the things they were used to doing.

He missed holding her. Cuddling with her. Making love to her. Showing her how much he adored her.

Alone in the room they once shared, it was so cold and dark. She wasn’t there to give her radiance to the night. She wasn’t there to hold and kiss. All that was long past.

But it had not been their choice. When she fell ill, she felt it better that they set up a bed in the living room where she could sleep and not risk getting Matt sick. Without knowing what she suffered from, she was unwilling to take chances. She wanted her man to remain as healthy as a horse.

And so, they did as she desired. She went to the living room to sleep and he remained in their bedroom. Both longed for each other’s embrace, but knew they couldn’t share that intimacy anymore. Not until they knew what was going on with her health.

And so Matt, out of desperation, called in a few favors. He called in specialists to find out what was going on. On the day they arrived, he took her in for the first appointment. An introduction to the new doctors, if you will. And they scheduled a series of appointments to re-test. This time, they would dig deeper and search harder.

Appointment after appointment, they ruled something out. Immediately, they knew it wasn’t contagious. None of the children had come down with it. And Matt was still in good health.

Each appointment narrowed down the search. One by one, the specialists left as their special field was eliminated. Until the only doctor left was a cancer specialist. It was then that Matt’s heart sank.

Suddenly, he knew that the respite was nearly over. Soon, it would hit her again. Possibly harder than it had the first time. If that happened, she may not survive. And if she didn’t survive, his life as he knew it would be over.

It was nearly six months into testing when they were called into the specialist’s office. Matt knew it was bad news. So did Juanita. But neither wanted to admit it.

They sat across from the doctor. Matt looked him in the eye. “How bad is it, Doc?”

The doctor shook his head. “It’s bad.” He looked over at Juanita. “Juanita, you have a very rare form of cancer. One that is nearly impossible to treat.” He looked at Matt, then back at Juanita. “The odds aren’t great. One out of one hundred thousand survive. It is beatable, but I don’t think we caught it in time.”

Matt was suddenly desperate. “Is there anything you can try to help? I know you say it isn’t easy to treat, but you have to have something.”

The doctor shook his head. “Conventional chemo is useless on this kind of cancer. It spreads rapidly and eats away at you on a daily basis. We have a few experimental treatments, but they are untested. Unproven.”

Matt pressed. “Could we, at least, try them?”

The doctor looked at Juanita. “That is up to Juanita. I must warn you that we do not know the full extent of the side effects, or even how her body will react. And radiation is not an option.”

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