Rosalind Worthy sits in the waiting room at the Granger Cancer Facility, in Seattle, where she’s been receiving treatment for more than six months. Her mother, Abigail, sits beside her, and her little sister, Rhiannon is across from her, looking through a copy of Highlights magazine. Rosalind is wearing a large, floppy hat to conceal her hair loss, and dark glasses to protect her eyes from the sun, but nothing can disguise the weight loss. Her clothes hang off her like she’s a stick figure. Regan got out easy, she thinks, and immediately regrets thinking it.
Rosalind was diagnosed with ovarian cancer just a few months after her sister, Regan, twenty-two, and two years Rosalind’s senior, had been laid to rest in the family’s plot, beside their father who had lost his battle with lung cancer several years before. Rosalind’s doctor found the cancer during her yearly checkup, when she complained of stomach cramps and general listlessness, which seemed more than she normally experienced as a driven college sophomore. Regan’s death had hit Rosalind hard, but rather than take time to deal with it, she had returned to MIT and dived right back into her studies relentlessly, hoping this would give her little time to contemplate life without Regan. There was, still, Rhiannon, the surprise child, who came along when Rosalind was fourteen, but Rosalind had little time for a baby in the house. Besides, she’d had enough trouble on her hands trying to keep her older sister out of trouble as Regan’s schizophrenia worsened. Receiving her diagnosis, and the news that the cancer had spread to her uterus, Rosalind wondered if, perhaps, she’d soon be reunited with her sister.
Rosalind sits up in her chair and fidgets with the gold watch on her left wrist. She isn’t used to wearing jewelry, but this was the only thing Regan left behind for her, and Rosalind hasn’t taken it off since Regan’s funeral. Today, she’s here to learn the results of her latest course of chemotherapy. Early in her treatment, she underwent a hysterectomy and removal of the cancerous ovaries, as well as quite a bit of surrounding tissue. This was followed by several months of chemotherapy, administered twice a month. She’s hoping today she’ll learn that’s no longer necessary.
“Rosie, look,” Rhiannon says, holding up her magazine showing a crossword puzzle. “Let’s do the puzzle together.”
“They’re going to be calling me back, shortly,” Rosalind says. “I’ll help you with it when we get home.”
In the months since Regan’s death, particularly since she’s been receiving treatment, Rosalind has used the time to forge a relationship with her remaining sister. Now the only big sister Rhiannon has left, Rosalind is determined to be as good a sister to Rhiannon as Regan had been to her, before Regan’s schizophrenia put a strain on their relationship.
Naomi, a young black woman in a nurse’s uniform, appears from the direction of the treatment rooms. Rosalind has gotten to know her well over the months she’s been here receiving treatment from Dr. Renshaw, the oncologist. “Miss Worthy?”
Rosalind acknowledges her and struggles to get to her feet. Abigail starts to get up, and Naomi moves to help, but Rosalind waves her off. “I’m fine”. She gets to her feet unaided and slowly follows Naomi back to an exam room.
“How are you today, Miss Worthy?” the nurse says as they walk.
“Other than probably dying, I’m doing okay,” Rosalind says, then catches herself. “Sorry. That just kind of slipped out.”
“Totally understandable,” Naomi says. “Hopefully, the doctor will have some good news today.”
As Naomi takes Rosalind’s vital signs, Rosalind notes that the name on Naomi’s badge has changed from “Naomi Grant” to “Naomi Caine”.
“Did you get married, finally?” Rosalind asks.
“Yes, ma’am,” Naomi says. “Just after your last visit.”
“No, ma’am,” Naomi says. “Neither of us can afford to be away right now. We’re going to take some time when Gerald finishes his degree in a few months.”
“Well, congratulations,” Rosalind says. “I never thought I’d be around to see you married.”
“You promised, Miss Worthy,” Naomi says. “When I told you I was getting married, you said you’d stick around long enough to congratulate me, and here you are.”
“I guess miracles happen after all,” Rosalind says.
“You’re a fighter,” Naomi says. “I’m always rooting for you.”
“That’s very kind of you to say, Naomi,” Rosalind says.
Naomi leaves and Rosalind leans on her hands on the exam table. She looks at herself in the mirror over the sink. Her hair has grown back to the consistency of a crew cut, and she’s pleased to see it’s still her usual dark brown. She also notes she’s gained a bit of weight and hopes the doctor won’t tell her she needs any more chemo, which makes her sick for days.
Dr. Renshaw enters with Rosalind’s chart in his hand, closes the door behind him, and looks her over.
“Vitals look good, Rosalind,” he says, “and I’m pleased to report, your cancer appears to be in remission.”
These are the words she’s wanted to hear since her initial diagnosis. “Really? Does this mean I’m cancer-free?”
“I’m not ready to make that call just yet,” he says. “For now, I’m cautiously optimistic, but I’m not scheduling another round of chemo just now.”
“That’s almost as good to hear,” Rosalind says.
“I want to see you back here in two weeks,” he says, “then we’ll monitor you for a few more months, just to be sure. If you keep doing this well, I don’t think we’ll be seeing each other much longer.”
“We’ll always have Granger,” she says.