In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and at the urging of one of the smartest writer-ladies I know–{*cough* Last name rhymes with Pan–First name rhymes with Oozin’.}  I’m going to share a few words today about surprises… (ps- and I’m gonna TRY to pay more attention to my poor, abandoned blog.. sorry, old chap)

Surprises—by definition—are events which catch you unaware and off guard. When we hear the word, it normally conjures pleasant or downright joyful occasions.  Those which end in memories you carry throughout your life. A birthday celebration. An unexpected new life. A miracle you’d given up hoping for.

But when I thought back to the most significant surprise in my recent life, I kept returning to the day I learned my forty-year-old little sister had breast cancer.

The unendurable part of this surprise was that she didn’t know…And I couldn’t tell her.

I work in Radiology, you see, and when she called me about some concerns the physician at another facility had about her very first mammogram, I scoffed.

“That other hospital is always over-diagnosing mammos,” I told her. “Bring yours over here and let our doctors take a look, I know it’s nothing.”

Of course it was nothing. My sister was barely forty. She had three little girls, and her life was in that whirlwind stage of cheerleading practices and soccer games. Besides, our entire extended family—all eleven of us—were leaving the next day for a long-anticipated trip to Disneyworld. The happiest place on earth. So, nothing could possibly be wrong. Not really, really wrong.

Two hours after I dropped off the disc, the radiologist, who was a friend of mine, called me. When he asked me to sit down, an uneasy stir began in the center of my gut.

“I hate so much to have to tell you,” he said, “but this is definitely cancer. Even without a biopsy, I can tell that for certain.”

Now…here was a surprise. And now I had a decision to make. Did I hold that surprise inside my chest–and ruin my vacation and mine alone? Or did I spring the surprise—and ruin everyone else’s?

Naturally I didn’t tell. How could I?

It wasn’t until we were packing to come home that I finally let her in on the big surprise. And though I thought I’d kept it hidden pretty well…my sister is no dummy. She saw it lurking in my eyes the whole time.

I was NOT surprised—by the way—by my sister’s courage, strength and unbelievable ability to keep her sense of humor during that long, grueling year. But we did have one more huge surprise waiting for us at the end of it. The news that my sister is now cancer-free. IT was a surprise of the most joyful variety. And one, my friends, that I’ll hold in my heart until the day I die.


This post is my contribution to my writing group’s new weekly topic challenge. Author Susan Spann, author of the forthcoming ninja detective novel CLAWS OF THE CAT (Thomas Dunne, 2013), will propose a topic on her blog each Monday and we each of us will respond. Marci Jefferson (author of THE DUCHESS OF RICHMOND, St. Martins, 2014) posted her response on Susan’s blog. Amanda Orr, working on a novel set in New Orleans, “the poor man’s Paris,” posts about a surprise 9-months-in-the-makingand its effects on her writing. Julianne Douglas posted her response–A December Surprise— and is currently working on her delectable novel of 16th century France.

Feel free to join in and post your link in the comments below!

About Janet

I'm one of those girls who love books so much, I couldn't stand it till I wrote one of my own. I'm dreaming of the day when someone a LOT smarter than me will invent a real time machine. I have a wonderful hubby and two amazing boys, who--over the years--have ruined me forever for sappy chick-flicks. Now, I'm all about the fantasy-action. Thor...mmm... And GoT double mmm! I'm also an author with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt...INTO THE DIM & SPARKS OF LIGHT (coming 8/1/2017). I am repped by the phenomenal Mollie Glick of Creative Artists Agency (CAA).
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