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Second Chances by Beth Ritter

September 11, 2015

For a good decade I have wanted to write professionally. Whether I doubted my ability or felt insecure about my subject matter, whether I was too busy or had too much time on my hands, something always kept me from pursuing my dream, until now. About 4 years ago I wrote  a book. A whole book, with a beginning, a middle and an end. With a conflict, a climax and a conclusion. But it needed editing, so it had been shelved yet again. I have let insecurities and excuses keep me from making the editing corrections that needed to be done. Having never completed college and being uncertain about proper writing techniques also weighed heavily on me. Until now. I’ve decided to share my book in a different way then I originally intended. The dream was to have it published, but it has evolved into just wanting it to be read. So each week I will be releasing, a few pages, a chapter or two, whatever I get edited and feel good about sharing, eventually, the whole story. My hope is that you’ll read along as I share my story. It is a fictional story inspired by some of my own experiences and some of my creative imagination. I want it to be liked but mostly I am choosing to be grateful for making it happen and completing the journey. Thanks for following and sharing!

Justine couldn’t decide which was louder, the crinkling of the paper table runner underneath her or her heart pounding like a bass drum in her ears. She had looked through every issue of People magazine, counted all the holes in the ceiling tile, studied the strange charts on the wall and played two games of solitaire on her phone. She wondered at length, “Why is it when they bring you into the exam room, they don’t let you stay in your own clothes until the Doctor is ready? You’re already feeling anxious, then they sit you in a stark, bright, sterile room, turn the air down to 40 degrees, and tell you to make yourself comfortable. Twenty minutes later, you’re still sitting there, cold, alone, and in a sheer cotton gown. This must be the reason blood pressure readings were always higher when you were at the Doctors office. White coat syndrome? More like naked, cold and sitting on a paper table –runner syndrome.”

Through the window Justine could see the rain was still falling heavily. It was so heavy on the ride in, she had viewed it as a bad sign, she thought, even heaven is crying for me today. Recalling a phone call from 11years ago, she could still hear her sister’s voice, “Justine, I have breast cancer.” By far the worst 4 words she had ever heard. “How could it be? There was no family history, she was a non-smoker and had no children, she was in the lowest risk category there was, and yet, there she was, at just 31. Her thoughts are scattered as she hears a light tapping on the door as her Doctor walks into the room. Justine can’t tell by looking at her face what the news is going to be. Her Doctor always wore a gentle expression and now Justine was looking pleadingly into her warm brown eyes for an answer. Then she speaks, “Justine, its good news. We’ve caught it in time.” she feels her body collapse inwardly with relief. Her breath catches in her throat and she feels as though her heart is going to explode. As her eyes well with tears of gratitude, she is sure she has misunderstood what she hears the doctor say next.

“What did you say?” “I said you’ll only need a mastectomy and possibly some chemotherapy.” Justine blinks at her; as if that will affect what she has just heard. Her mouth has gone completely dry, so dry she can barely speak, she tries to swallow but it feels like her throat is coated in chalk. Finally she manages. “How is that good news? How is that catching it early? How is that possible?” She can feel the tears pooling in the corner of her eyes. Her throat is closing in around the lump rising in it and now it feels as though she has swallowed a whole piece of chalk. She pushes it back; forces the tears down, forces the lump down, forces the fear away. Far, far away. She grasps the sides of her gown, pulling it tightly around her, somehow thinking that she’s got to protect her breasts now. I’ve got to keep them safe, I’ve got to get a mastectomy. I’ve got to call my sister. The doctor pats Justine’s hand, “take a few minutes and then meet me in my office, I’m sure you have a lot of questions.” Somehow she manages to dress herself, and head into the doctor’s office. They sit for a moment. She has no questions and she has a million questions. As her doctor reviews all the test results the only thing Justine hears is that surgery needs to be scheduled, she replies numbly, “as soon as possible.” Her doctor nods, and says “I’ll call you.”

Like a stunned moth that has flown into a bug catcher, Justine walks in a daze to her car. It’s still raining and Justine hates it. She hates the smell of it, the feel of it even the sound of it. She never used to feel that way. As a kid she loved everything about it. Hearing the drops hit the rain spout right outside her bedroom window tinkling and pinging, almost like one of those expensive rain chimes they make now and sell in the Skymall magazine. Smelling the rain mingled with the salt air from the bay behind her home was almost intoxicating to her. Sometimes she would run down to the shoreline and watch the raindrops dance on the surface of the water. She loved it, but not anymore. Now it felt like a wall of despair crushing down on her, it smelled musty and acrid, filling her nostrils with disdain. The added weight of her wet clothes further cemented her feelings of despair. As she sits in her car to gather herself Justine finally crashes, putting her head back and breathing a ragged sigh, she can’t contain the tears any longer. Mingling with the rain outside, tears stream down her face, she begins to sob in an eerie harmony with the thunder outside. She will forever hate the rain from this day forward. Driving home Justine decides, today will just be hers, tomorrow she’ll face it and the rest of the world, but not today.

Justine’s hands are shaking as she dials her sister’s number. It had just been a few days earlier that Ginny had told Justine to get the MRI. “You have to take the test Tine, you can’t choose not to get this done, and you need to know. I need to know!” When Ginny’s husband answers the phone, she is relieved. “Hey Robert, how are you? “Hey Justine, I’m good, what’s up?”

“Um, not much, is my sister there?”

“No, actually she’s in Vegas, for that soccer tournament.”

Rubbing her chin warily with the side of her finger she says, “Oh that’s right, I forgot.”

“Hey, by the way, how did the MRI go?”

“Um, not too good actually. That’s why I’m calling.”

As Justine fills him in he tries to be reassuring. She can hear the heaviness in his voice through the phone. Having gone through this with her sister, he knows how hard it’s going to be.

“I’m so sorry Justine, but it will be okay. I just know it’ll be okay.”

“Should I call her in Vegas? I really think I should wait.”

“No, she would want to know. You need to call her.”

Justine thanks him and tells him she loves him. He says the same as he sighs heavily and hangs up the phone.

As she dials Ginny’s number she can feel the nerves creeping up again. “Hey sister!” Ginny bellows. Before Justine can even get a word out Ginny is on a roll, which is the opposite of how things usually are. Ginny; always the listener, Justine; always the talker.

“We won our first tournament! We’re in between games right now and I am getting creamed on the slot machines but it’s all so much fun and I wish you were here!”

“I wish I was too. Um, I’m so sorry to bother you while you’re away. I don’t mean to intrude, but I talked with Robert and he said that I should call you. And I just didn’t really know what to do. I knew you would want to know what the doctor said and I felt like I could wait till you got home.” Justine pauses to catch her breath and collect herself for a moment when she hears Ginny say, “stop it Tine! Just tell me!”

Justine takes a deep breath and says, “I have to have a mastectomy, it is cancer.”

Silence “Ginny, are you there?”

”Yes, I’m here. I just would never have believed that this was going to happen to you too. I thought it was a fluke that I had gotten it. Oh honey, I’m so sorry. Are they sure?”

Yes, as sure as they can be I guess. That’s what they tell me, I have cancer. I have to believe them. We’re hoping to have the surgery scheduled in the next 2 weeks. I know it all seems so fast but I want it out of me as soon as possible.”

“Well I’m coming out there, don’t even try to discourage me. I can be there for at least 10 days.”

“That would be wonderful”, Justine answers feebly and thanks her, and she knows what a comfort and huge help it will be to have Ginny there, especially after going through all of it herself.

“How soon can you be here?”

“As soon as you need me to be.”

Justine starts to sob, her voice raises as she tries to keep it from cracking, “Can you be here by tomorrow?”

Ginny promises to book her flight as soon as she gets home. “It’s going to be alright”, she reassures her. Before they hang up Ginny says, I’ll be praying for you and I love you. Justine echo’s the same.

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7 Comments
  1. Carol permalink

    Whew! So happy you writing!!!

  2. Carol permalink

    Yay! Love that you are finally writing again! Best of luck!

  3. Wow, I wanted to keep reading. You are so talented Beth.

  4. Debbie permalink

    There you go…well done. I await the rest of your book. I’m proud of you. Hugs

    • Thank you. Please share for me. I’m thinking of changing the other characters name. You’ll see down the road.

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