As I soaked in the comforting warm water, I inhaled the strong soothing scent of Jasmine, and started to allow myself to daydream in my bubble bath. A delicious luxury I would never tire of nor take for granted, especially now. It had been a year.
I took a sip of my Merlot watching the wine’s legs travel down the side of the glass. The fruity taste was jammy just as the label had promised. Satisfied and satiated from our grilled salmon dinner, I enjoyed the heavenly silence that now enveloped me. Todd had put the kids to bed just minutes before, and it was time to cherish my little reprieve and restore some semblance of sanity.
I looked down at the cascade of iridescent bubbles that had billowed around me where the water had once poured. One freckled leg remained partially exposed. This brought a smile to my face, as I thought of how Todd had lovingly traced these freckles with the tip of his index finger several years ago.
“Elizabeth,” he had said. “I always knew you were out of this world, but do you realize that nature put the constellations on your leg?”
“What on earth are you talking about?” I had laughed shooing away his hand.
“The Big Dipper. See, right here,” he said, pointing at a set of spread out freckles on the upper part of my left leg. He traced the amazingly accurate outline, which tickled me.
“That’s too funny.” I remember laughing at his conclusion. “You’ve been watching the astronomy channel again, haven’t you?”
“Maybe …” He paused briefly. “But wait, there’s more.” Todd excitedly continued, mimicking an infomercial. “For a limited time when you order The Big Dipper, we will throw in The Little Dipper for free!” he exclaimed, tracing a smaller, denser set of deep brown freckles just above my knee.
We had laughed at his epiphany that night and my constellations thereafter became our private little joke. Until last summer.
“How long have you had that?” Becky had asked, interrupting my slothful dozing.
I didn’t know what my friend was talking about. It was a hot lazy afternoon and we were enjoying the day, sunbathing by the pool with a cold pitcher of freshly squeezed lemonade sweetened with a splash of Lemoncello when she had queried me. I shaded my eyes with my hand to look over at her, and in response to my puzzled face she continued.
“That really large black freckle,” she pointed out. “How long have you had that? It doesn’t look right.”
“Oh, I don’t know. A little while I guess.” I waived her off dismissing it. I knew that it wasn’t there when I was a child, but how long it had been there exactly and when did it start growing, well that I did not know for sure.
“No, I’m serious, Liz. You need to get that checked out immediately. Immediately,” she repeated. “I don’t want to scare you, but that looks cancerous,” my pre-med friend stated with concern.
I admit that I noticed that it had changed appearance sometime during the year, but with all the kids’ events and life in general, I chose to ignore a harmless little freckle. “Just a star gleaming brighter,” I answered Todd when he also noticed its increased size the previous month.
“I want you to see my dermatologist,” Becky said now dialing her cell phone. “I’m making you an appointment because I know you won’t do it yourself.”
“Becky —” I started to protest. But she held up a hand to silence me, sternly staring back at me shaking her head and frowning. I recognized that solid determination, and could tell there would be no stopping her.
“Okay, okay, Dr. Mom,” I fondly admonished, but I knew she was right after all, on both counts. And what a blessing she had been.
After my initial doctor’s appointment, a whirlwind couple of months quickly followed. What started off as suspected skin cancer had turned into the discovery of a malignant tumor, and after more tests, body scans and eventually surgery, radiation treatments soon followed. It had certainly been a lesson in self-awareness and a medical education so say the least. I knew I had distant aunts and uncles with various cancers and maladies, but I guess I never thought seriously about having a predisposition to cancer myself. Scared, I had followed all of the doctors’ instructions to the letter, determined to get healthy for my children, my husband and myself.
And now all this time later, still shell-shocked and feeling fragile, I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of panic develop at every new freckle I noticed and every new ache and pain I had felt. I guess I would always question whether these things would be cancer too. But my latest scan the previous week had been negative, and for now, all was well.
“How’s my mermaid?” Todd asked startling me out of my thoughts. He was leaning against the sink counter top smiling at me.
“She’s swimmingly good.” I smiled back up at him wondering how long he had been standing there. I snuggled down deeper in the warm water allowing it to wash over my shoulders.
“Kids are finally asleep, and I’m going to take out the trash now. Enjoy yourself,” he said toasting my glass with one of his own. He was well aware of the date on the calendar. One year cancer free was definitely something worth celebrating.
“Oh, and try not to shrivel up like a prune.” He grinned back at me as I threw a handful of bubbles in his direction.
Life was good, and I was resolved to pay better mind to all of my family’s lives and health.
These days nothing below a 75 SPF graced my cabinets, healthy foods lined the pantry and fridge despite the kids’ protests, mammograms became a new yearly routine of mine and lumps and bumps were no longer pushed aside and ignored. I’m sure some would call it overcautious; however I liked to call it peace of mind.
As for Becky? Yeah, she went on to graduate from med school this summer and is still my dearest friend in addition to being my guardian angel.
Oh, and as for the large circular scar that has replaced my Big Dipper? Well, Todd has just simply renamed it.
He now calls my former constellation, The Supernova.