( Advanced Level )
Mary and Joe returned home from their yearly physical, with their family doctor, stunned. Their family doctor gave them the news that they were not prepared to hear.
As usual, the week before their scheduled appointment, they went in for bloodwork and chest x-rays. This was the routine for several years and all results were normal until now.
“Joe, something has shown on your chest x-ray. It could be nothing or it could be something. I would be negligent if I didn’t look further into this,” Dr. Monahan said.
Mary quickly spoke, ” What do you think? What do you see?” Dr. Monahan saw the worry on her face, ” Joe has never been a smoker but this doesn’t mean much. Due to the work he has done in the past and the materials he was exposed to, I want to be certain either way.”
Joe was a construction worker back in the seventies to early eighties. It was quite common to be exposed to asbestos without having knowledge of its danger.
Before it was discovered how harmful this material was it was used in many homes. It was especially used in insulation products in the attics or walls.
Now there are safeguards when a home is remodeled special hazmat suits are used to avoid inhalation, especially when the home is older.
“Mary, don’t worry. I took care when I worked on remodels. I wore a mask because of the dust. The doctor’s office will reschedule another x-ray and we will see. Until then let’s not worry too much.” As he kissed her hand he knew he would have to be strong for her.
Joe’s words to Mary fell of deaf ears. Joe was her life and if anything would happen to him she doesn’t know what she would do.
Joe was shaken but he couldn’t let Mary know. He had so many plans now that he retired. This year they planned a month-long trip to Italy then another two weeks in Spain then off to Greece for another two weeks.
They would be traveling a full two months and made all arrangements with their accommodations, plane tickets and travel while in these countries.
When they married twenty seven years ago, they always talked about traveling the world once they retired. Joe retired two years ago but Mary had to work another two years until she reached retirement age.
“Should we cancel our plans for this year? May asked her husband. “Absolutely not. We’ve waited for this moment in our lives so canceling is out of the question.”
Joe decided not to tell Mary when his repeat procedure will be done. Keeping her in the dark would be better for both of them. He knew she would fret constantly over him and he didn’t want this.
Within the month the follow-up x-ray was scheduled. Joe had made the arrangements without Mary’s knowledge. He then scheduled a follow up to see Dr. Monahan to discuss the results.
If the results were good he would tell Mary and if they weren’t he would keep this information to himself. Either way he knew he would be in the hot seat and he smiled at that thought.
” Joe the results are the same as the prior. I can say with certainty we need to perform a biopsy bypassing any further investigation. ”
“With all due respect Doctor, My wife and I have plans for this summer. Let’s be honest. There isn’t a cure for mesothelioma. just treatment. A few months will not matter one way or another.”
“You are one hundred percent correct if this is what I suspect then it will not make a difference but if it is not then time is lost.”
” What time will I lose? I have done my homework. Most patients once diagnosed, have twelve months or less. I don’t want to spend this time going to doctors.”
“My wife and I planned on traveling the world when we married all those years ago. If this summer’s trip is all I can give her then that is what I want to do. Please understand.”
“Joe, I do understand. I have a wife also. But, as your Doctor I will advise you differently. Just promise me once you return you make an appointment immediately or if you run into any problems with your health while you are abroad go to the nearest hospital.”
“And my wife is not to know about any of this. She will be furious and I will handle her wrath. I want this getaway, a trip she will remember.” They shook hands and Joe left the doctor’s office.
On the way home he was deep in thought deciding what fib to tell his beloved wife. He chose to tell her everything looked much better and not to worry.
Actually, it wasn’t too far off from the truth. He had a clearer picture of what was most important to him in life. It was Mary. Why cause her to worry?
“I saw Dr. Monahan today,” he said to his wife as he entered his home. Mary was sitting on the sofa watching her favorite afternoon show.
“Joe, why didn’t you tell me? I wanted to go with you!” “I knew you did but I wanted to go by myself. He said everything looked clearer this time.” Mary let out a huge sigh of relief.
She stood up and gave him a kiss on the cheek as she headed to the kitchen to prepare their dinner.
Over dinner they discussed the vacation trip. Mary made a long itinerary of what she wanted to do and see. Joe laughed saying they didn’t have that much time. “You shush, Joe!” she said as she cleared off the table.
Late summer arrived and Joe’s health was doing well. They were packed and ready to go. Joe was surprised at how much Mary packed. He told her they were allowed one carry-on and one piece of luggage under the plane.
She quickly exchanged a few things and compacted one piece of full luggage into the existing ones giving them the proper allowance of suitcases.
Their flight was on schedule and they arrived at their bed and breakfast in a villa outside of Rome. It was cozy and near places Mary wanted to see.
Joe found himself a little tired blaming it on jetlag. He wasn’t thinking of his medical condition. He slept in while Mary went on a venture in the villa. She brought home fresh brewed coffee hoping Joe was up by then.
Neither of them was up for breakfast. Their internal clocks were still set to American time. They would get something to eat later if they felt hungry.
The two ended up not eating until dinnertime. They chose a small place that offered outside seating so they could watch the sunset over a glass of red wine.
They listened to music offered by a man playing his guitar in the town center near their restaurant. Mary was well beyond happy. She sang to Joe on their walk back to their room.
The remaining days in Italy were just as memorable as the day before. They would soon be heading to Spain and then to Greece.
Mary used up seven thirty four exposure disposable cameras in Italy alone. When they returned to America she would have them developed. She thought it wasn’t worth waiting for her pictures to be developed. She didn’t want to waste one minute.
When they arrived in Spain Joe spent most of his time in their hotel. He blamed it on his wife keeping him out all night while they were in Italy. He reassured her that he was feeling well.
The two weeks, in Spain, went by fast. Joe managed to go out for a couple of days with Mary. She showed her concern and again he reassured her everything was fine.
On their last night in Spain, Joe managed to go out with his wife for the entire day. They had a delightful late afternoon lunch at a small mom-and- pop place where every dish was made from scratch, including the wine.
“Mary, I have enjoyed every minute of our vacation. I hope you have too?” He looked at Mary with so much love in his eyes.
“Oh Joe, I waited our entire marriage for us to do this. Just think this is the beginning of many more to come. I could not ask for a better person to share this with.”
They headed to Greece early the next morning. Another ten disposable cameras were used in Spain. Joe joked with her that they would need a separate suitcase just for the cameras.
“Shush! I want to remember these moments forever.” Little did she know these pictures would mean so much more to her in the near future.
Their time in Greece was a blur for Joe. His shortness of breath and fatigue was more pronounced now. “This old body isn’t used to this jet-setting lifestyle, Mary.” He said this to her several times to squash her concerns.
When they arrived back in the states, Joe was completely exhausted. Mary wanted him to go to the hospital thinking he may have caught something while they were abroad.
“I’ll make an appointment at the clinic with Doctor Monahan. It will be cheaper.” Mary scoffed saying money doesn’t mean anything when it comes to his health.
The news wasn’t good. The doctor ordered blood work and a CT scan to be done immediately. In two months Joe’s linings of his lungs were almost fully encapsulated by this disease.
“Joe, I think it’s time to tell Mary. There is never a perfect time but she needs to know.” This was something Joe wanted to avoid but hearing the importance in Dr. Monahan’s voice made him realize he had to. ” I can say this is progressively getting worse.”
After dinner, as he and his wife sat outside on the deck enjoying the sunsetting, Joe told Mary everything and why he chose to hide it from her.
“How dare you keep this from me,” she said through tears. “I know you all too well, Mary. I don’t want you to treat me like I am an invalid. We would not have enjoyed our trip if I did.”
“However long I have it will be alright and I know you will be alright.”
Joe passed away four months later. Mary treasures all the photos she took on their vacation. Remembering the food, the music, and the sunsets. Knowing her and Joe spent those precious last few months doing what was his life long dream.
Joe was correct in saying, “It will be alright.” Everything is. Sure, she misses Joe every day. Not a day goes by that she doesn’t think of his courage and the vacation of his lifetime.
She keeps herself busy with spreading awareness of asbestos, mesothelioma and its effects on people. She started an online support site, in her husband’s name, to help those who need guidance and resources.
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Meta Business Suite: Angel’s Thoughts to Pen
Thoughts From Angel:
When is the right time for someone to know? Does it depend on the circumstances?
If You Appreciate What I do and Would Like to Support Me:
stunned – adjective: shocked
negligent – adjective: failing to take proper care
exposed – adjective: not sheltered or protected from
asbestos – noun: a group of fibrous minerals used to strengthen and fireproof materials.
insulation – noun: put into the walls of a house and into the attic in order to keep warm air in and cold air out during the winter months
safeguards – noun: a measure taken to protect someone or something
hazmat suits – noun: a special suit that protects a person’s body when they are dealing with dangerous substances
remodels – noun: name of the building that changes structure or appearance
fell of deaf ear – idiom: to fail to be heard
in the dark – idiom: a state of ignorance about something
fret – verb: worried or anxious
(to be in) hot water – idiom: difficult situation
( with all ) due respect – phrase: politely disagree
mesothelioma – noun: a type of cancer that occurs in the thin layer of tissue that covers the majority of your internal organs
one way or another – phrase: taking consideration
done my homework – idiom: researched
wrath – noun: extreme anger
deep in thought – adjective: absorbed in thought
fib – noun: a small lie
beloved – adjective: deeply loved
sigh of relief – idiom: to relax because something one has been worrying about is not a problem or danger anymore
itinerary – noun: document recording a route or journey
jetlag – noun: tiredness felt by a person after a long flight across several time zones
internal clocks – noun: a system in the body that controls when a person needs to sleep, eat, etc.
disposable – adjective: intended to be used once
reassured – verb: say or do something to remove the doubts or fears
mom-and- pop place -colloquial term: describes a small, family-owned, or independent business
made from scratch – idiom: not cooked or prepared ahead of time
jet setting – adjective: travels widely and frequently for pleasure
( to) squash – transitive verb: to stop or put worries aside
scoffed– verb: scornful disapproval
encapsulated – verb: enclose (something) in or as if in a capsule
progressively – adverb: increasing
invalid – noun: weak or disabled by illness or injury
Question ( s ):
Had you heard about asbestos before? and its effects on people?
Was it ok for Joe to keep this information from his wife?