A Cup of Hope
It was the lump that every woman dreads finding. Gail was doing her monthly breast self-exam one morning when she felt the small, hard spot, something so small she was convinced it couldn’t possibly be cancer. Still, all her friends who’d had breast cancer insisted that early detection saved lives, and Gail knew better than to let the spot go unchecked. She was sure it would be nothing, so she called her doctor and scheduled an appointment.
It wasn’t nothing. It was something. Along with the shock of learning she had cancer came the shock of learning she would need to have a lumpectomy followed by radiation. Gail loved to quote the popular saying “Ain’t nobody got time for that,” but she quickly saw that she would have to make time for that. Because she hadn’t worked outside the home since her children, now in their late twenties, were little, she knew she had it much easier than those women who worked full-time outside the home. And single women. And poor women.
But Gail loved being a volunteer in her community—with Friends of the Library, with Meals on Wheels—and it bothered her that those activities would have to be put on hold for a while.
Her friend Bonnie, a breast cancer survivor herself, said, “Gail, aren’t you mad that you got cancer?”
Gail told her that, in all honesty, she was not. Annoyed? Yes. Frightened? She’d be lying if she said she wasn’t. But mad? What would be the point? Lots of people got cancer, Gail told Bonnie, and until they found a cure for the horrible disease, she knew people were going to get it. She considered herself fortunate that her cancer was spotted early, and the doctor had given her the reassuring news that her chance of a full recovery was excellent.
Week two of radiation was going pretty well. Gail had even written about her treatment on Facebook, asking all her friends—the real ones and the ones she hadn’t laid eyes on in thirty years—to keep her in their thoughts and prayers.
Her neighbor Pam had been a big help, even preparing dinner for Gail and her husband, Wayne, one night. Wayne was no cook, but he would have happily picked up dinner every night of the week if Gail had asked him to. She enjoyed cooking, but the daily trips for radiation seemed to suck the life out of her.
So Gail was especially happy when she got home from a round of radiation late one afternoon and had a text from Pam: “Call me when you get home. Got a drop-off.”
The “drop-off” was a freshly made salad, a pan of Pam’s famous mac ’n cheese, a roasted chicken, and some of her fresh-from-the-garden green beans. For dessert, she included a half-dozen red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese icing and raspberries on top.
Gail never realized a gift of food could make her so happy.
It had rained almost every day for two weeks, and today, after Wayne drove her home from radiation, she took a nap. When she woke up, she decided to have the last of those red velvet cupcakes with her afternoon cup of Earl Grey. Instead of using her customary brown pottery mug, though, Gail chose to have tea using one of her aunt’s Royal Winton Welbeck teacups. Her aunt had always loved that cheerful yellow pattern, and truthfully, Gail did, too. It made her happy just to look at the pretty yellow colors.
Once her tea steeped, she inhaled the strong, fragrant aroma. Earl Grey always perked her up, and today, the tea was quite a needed pick-me-up.
Gail was genuinely trying to eat the healthiest food she could get her hands on—organic juices and fruits and vegetables, for starters—but she wasn’t about to let one of Pam’s red velvet cupcakes go to waste. After grabbing a napkin from the kitchen, she headed to the living room with her cupcake and her sunny yellow teacup and settled in.
Just three more weeks and Gail would be finished with radiation. Wayne had offered to take her to Las Vegas to celebrate after it was all over, but she simply wanted life to get back to normal. She wanted to help coordinate the fall book sale at the library, and she especially wanted to see that all the local shut-ins were equipped with a turkey and trimmings in time for Thanksgiving.
Gail turned on the TV in the living room just in time to see a commercial for the Promise of Pink, a benefit luncheon raising funds for breast cancer research. The luncheon was being held at the community center later in October. Maybe she would go this year.
Pink wasn’t Gail’s favorite color, but it represented what was fast becoming a new favorite cause. She raised her teacup in a silent toast to all those along the way who’d helped make it possible for her to have such a good prognosis. Then, she offered a prayer for all those facing a similar challenge and all those who would come behind her.
And then, just as any hope-filled woman would do, she ate her cupcake.