Life Blood: Cora's Choice Book 1 (Chapter One, page 1 of 3)


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"No response," I repeated, staring numbly at the upside-down chart on the doctor's desk. "None."

"I am sorry," Dr. Robeson said. "There is really no point in keeping you on the alemtuzumab any longer."

"But you said that it's the only thing that could help," I protested. "It has to work."

"Cora, I have your latest lab results right here." She tapped the open folder. "Your lymphocytes are continuing to climb. Right now, the only thing the alemtuzumab is doing is decreasing your quality of life."

I could see my name at the top of the chart: Cora Ann Shaw. There I was, summed up in black and white. My height-a little less than average. My date of birth. My weight, which had fallen from I'd-like-to-lose-10-pounds to terrifying double digits. And, of course, my diagnosis: T-cell prolymphocytic leukemia.

Cancer. To me, it had meant pink ribbons, surgical scars, and middle-aged women without hair. I hadn't even heard of T-cell leukemia then. I hadn't realized how the cancer could steal all my strength, burn through my fat and then consume even my muscle to feed itself as I wasted away.

"There must be other things to try," I pushed. "Some other chemotherapy."

"I'm very sorry," the oncologist said again. "The older therapies were ineffective. That's why their use has been discontinued. They simply don't prolong life-in fact, on average, they shortened it. Alemtuzumab was our only realistic shot."

I should get a second opinion, I thought. Except Dr. Robeson was my second opinion. I'm at Johns Hopkins, for godssake, I thought bleakly. Where else can I go?

"So," I said. "Five months, then."

"It could be that long," Dr. Robeson said carefully.

I felt the tears burning my eyes, and I blinked them away. "You promised me seven months. That wasn't even two months ago."

Dr. Robeson had a bulletin board on her office wall. It was full of the happy pictures and notes from those she'd cured and even a few grateful letters from those she hadn't. Mine wasn't going to go there. I wouldn't know what to say. Thanks for trying didn't seem quite generous enough. Anything more would have been fake.

"Cora, cancer has a different rate of progression for everyone-"

"I know," I said, cutting her off. I was being unfair. I knew it, and it made me squirm inside.

But I don't want to be fair. Damn it, I just want to live!

"I'm turning twenty-two in two months," I continued. "I'm graduating-supposed to be graduating-from the University of Maryland in six months. I've applied to grad school."

"I know, Cora." And there was genuine sympathy there, behind the professional wall that kept her insulated from all the people she couldn't save.

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