The wretchedness wrought by the cloud with the icy heart left Storm burdened with responsibilities. She hobbled about them with her injured foot. Every day, she pushed her grief for her mother aside. The River Deity watched its child from the shadows and mourned on her behalf. Storm couldn’t return to her career anytime soon. Her dad needed her. She helped him to finalise her mum’s affairs and to tidy up the family house for sale. Her dad decided he’d spend some time at his fishing shack at Tin Can Bay. Though, he thought the house with its acreage and numerous sheds wouldn’t sell quickly. Storm prayed otherwise. Her heart and body were exhausted. She wanted time by herself, just a few weeks, to fly away into the blue yonder. Then, she’d contemplate surgery on her foot.
Six months had elapsed since Storm’s mother’s passing yet that cruel cloud still hovered nearby, hidden by summer haze. The family house gleamed with Storm’s elbow grease. A crowd of nosy parkers and a few potential buyers had strolled through it, the day before. The date was Sunday, 15th January 2017. Storm was grateful for a couple precious hours of peace. It being a hot day, she stood under a cold shower longer than normal. In a split second, her life splintered for a second time. By chance, she felt a hard spot in her right breast and thought this was odd. She kept her discovery to herself and hoped the lump was a benign cyst.
The next day, the real estate agent arrived with a cash offer, too good to refuse, but with one condition, vacant possession in thirty days. Storm’s dad was beside himself. He couldn’t move all his things in that time. Storm, with her cool head and her mother’s ingrained optimism, said firmly, ‘Dad, you should accept this offer. We’ll make whatever is necessary happen.’
Two days later, Storm saw her doctor, who arranged immediate scans at the Wesley Hospital. She had a mammogram, an ultrasound scan and biopsies of the lump and the lymph nodes under her armpit. The following day, the Wesley’s doctor telephoned her with the initial results of the biopsies. The lump was a malignant tumour. The biopsy results for the lymph nodes were yet to come. Carter’s Curse, which afflicted women in her father’s family, had caught Storm in its grip. She had breast cancer! She politely finished the call then swore loudly. The River Deity overheard her and shook its metaphoric fist at the cruel cloud.
How could Storm tell her father? He wasn’t ready for his life to shatter again and would handle the news badly. She sat him down and spoke calmly. ‘Dad, this is probably the worst moment in my life. What I have to say to you as my father is worse than a teenager confessing a pregnancy.’
Her father became upset and angry. He thought she was having a micky fit over his moving plans. ‘Storm, stop overreacting.’ He wouldn’t let her speak.
Storm lost control of her emotions, stood up and shouted at him, ‘I have breast cancer!’ She wasn’t proud of herself. She had never shouted at her father before.
He stared at her as though she were a ghost, already dead. He crumbled into himself in the chair, bereft. He questioned nobody in particular, ‘Why? Don’t take my daughter too!’
Fortunately, the Wesley’s doctor telephoned at that moment. Storm’s lymph nodes were clear of cancer. She should survive. The River Deity had called in a favour.
A week later, Storm lay on a gurney outside the operating theatre. Her long hair had been chopped off. She was scared. She wanted to jump off the gurney and escape. She didn’t really believe she had cancer. She wasn’t sick. Yet, she was about to have a major operation. She wouldn’t have minded if her foot was fixed instead. She worried about how much of her flesh the surgeon would take to excise the tumour. A surgical nurse with a kind face squeezed her hand. Then an orderly rolled her gurney into the operating theatre busy with doctors and nurses. An oxygen mask was placed over her face. She couldn’t run away now. In seconds, she was asleep.
She awoke from her anaesthetic stupor to find a girlfriend by her side. Her friend said, ‘Storm, let’s see the damage. You should confront your fear before those happy drugs wear off.’ Storm didn’t want to look at her scarred breast though she rearranged her hospital gown for her friend to peep. She watched her friend’s eyes expecting them to be sad or horrified. Instead, they smiled. Her friend commented, ‘You still have your breast. Your surgeon has done an amazing job. Take a look; you’ll be pleased.’ So, she looked and thought, this short but horrid chapter of her life might be over.
A week later, Storm sat opposite her surgeon. Her pathology results from the surgery were spread on the desk. These confirmed the surgeon had excised the cancer with clear margins, meaning all of it. This was the best news. The cancerous mass had been bigger, at forty-two millimetres, than the biopsies indicated. Behind the small tumour initially biopsied was a much larger tumour. The worst news was the cancer’s pathology. Every cancer was a unique monster with its own characteristics. This one had been aggressive and fast growing. Storm now needed equally aggressive medical treatment to fight its return: chemotherapy, radiotherapy and antibody therapy. As she listened to the surgeon, Storm didn’t comprehend the traumatic impact this medical battle would have on herself and on her loved ones. However, she vowed she’d keep dodging the lightning bolts sent by the ugly cloud. The River Deity knew its child had a strong will.
When bad luck erases your smile, laughter and dreams, toughen up. It is the badass people who survive.