|BWS Stories - Contest Winners|
Contest Winners - Diagnosis - 2nd Runner Up of the Sue Silverman Writing Contest
Meredith Karen Laskow has been the Poet Laureate of Placentia (California)
Library District since 2003. Her poetry and essays appear in numerous
publications, the most recent of which are Descant, a Canadian literary
journal, and Sometimes in the Open, an anthology of California Poets
Laureate. She is also the winner of several past NABBW writing contests. Her
writing website is www.meredithlaskow.com. Meredith is also a
full-time jewelry artist www.meredithbead.com
Diagnosis - 2nd Runner Up of the Sue Silverman Writing Contest
The lump looks suspicious. My husband Les accompanies me to a breast cancer
specialist who seems too young to be a doctor. “Neither sonogram nor
manual exam indicates cancer. Your lump is perfectly symmetrical; cancers
rarely are. We can watch it for six months.” She flicks back a tuft of light
brown hair fallen from her barrette. I inhale deeply and spit a staccato
“Take it out, as soon as possible.” The vehemence surprises
my husband, who knows my aversion to all things medical.
The doctor hesitates,
then shuffles through a small sheaf of papers. “We can schedule a biopsy
in three days.”
“I’ll be there.”
Les grasps my hand.
The doctor smiles. “I’m sure you’ll be fine.”
* * *
follow-up appointment is one week later. Les stays home, confident the lump is
The doctor asks me to sit. Her demeanor is more contained, and
she doesn’t smile. She slowly explains the procedures and results.
“...cancer...” The words roar and rush around my head. I’m
drowning. I forget almost everything that happens next, except the
following: I remember repeatedly thinking, “I need to sit down. I’m
going to faint.”
I remember the rational voice inside my head, the one
that seems to know everything and has never abandoned me, cooing to my
subconscious the way a mother comforts a frightened child, “You are sitting
down.” I remember the word “you,” as if the calm came from someplace or
someone that was not me.
The atmosphere oozes with faraway sound. A spectral bagpipe encapsulates the doctor’s office, causing walls to
expand and contract and turn an odd shade of gray. I sit on a leatherette chair
trapped inside the membranes of the bellows. All around me, rainbow flecks
dance. The bagpipe sucks the air from the room. I become its
long moaning note, bleeding into the molecules of
* * *
leave the doctor’s office and drive home. Les greets me, ready to smile at the
good news. “It’s cancer.” His smile crashes. The walls of the
house ululate. Colors fade and then become annoyingly bright. We are
both in shock. His arms encircle me and guide my head to the hollow of
his collarbone. For uncounted moments, the bagpipe’s shrill is obliterated by
the melody of my husband’s steady lilting heartbeat. He asks how he can
help, and I have no answer. I trudge into my bead room and sit on the floor.
The bagpipe seeps from the corners of the room and shrouds the particle
board with mist, as if to protect me from the outside world. The whine drowns
out the birds in the avocado tree past my window. A pen and pad of paper
appear on my lap. The bellows hiss, then hush. Pages fill up with
“The Mountain,” the first piece I‘ve written in twelve years. Over the next two
days, I reread the poem and cry.
I don’t remember anything else about
those days except the color of my carpet — faded vanilla, and fading.