Joan

Leaving the doctor’s office today, I was thinking of what I needed from the grocery store. Taco seasoning, milk and a few other odds and ends. The grocery store is one mile from the doctor’s office but when I put the key in the ignition of my truck and heard the words to a good song, I decided I would take a little drive. I’d go to another store. One that would allow me to sing with the wind in my face. I needed some think time. I just received the good news that I was two years breast cancer free. I was smiling and thankful.
The parking lot was scattered with fifteen to twenty cars. It was nearing the lunch hour. This was an opportune time to get in and out of the store. I grabbed a mini cart, the kind they make for a lite load of groceries. I pushed my way up to the main entrance and as the automatic doors opened, the cool air rushed my body. The chill was like a warm hug from a snowman. I welcomed it.
I’m a creature of habit and I like my own grocery store but I really needed that drive. I was now standing in a store that I’m not quite familiar with. The layout is not the same although they are in the same chain. I made my way to what would be the dairy section in my store but I found myself staring at Swedish fish, Reese cups and ring pops. I threw some Reese cups in the cart. I was off to a bad start. I stared at granola bars and fruit snacks. I was in no rush. I added more selections to the little cart. Going through the aisles, I was scanning the inventory of my own pantry in my head. What else could I pick up to make a full meal? Kielbasa. That’s what I wanted. Now I had the task of finding it. Birthday cake Oreos jumped in my cart along the way, as well as ham steaks. So much for just a few items. I was almost there. Kielbasa and sausage had to be up there with bacon. And that’s when I saw her. The lady in the black, gray and red floral print shirt. She was marking off her grocery list with a short #2 pencil. Her hair was salt and pepper gray and she stood with a slight hunch. Her red flats caught my eye as the lighting from the store danced off the patent leather. I was drawn to her. I know this feeling well and I never ignore it.
“Hello there! I came in here for three things and look at this cart!” I said. “I’m thinking I should have gotten the full size one!”
“I don’t need much. It’s just me.” She said.
“Yum! I love that brand of hash browns.” I said as I grabbed two packs for my own stash.
She smiled. She had something under her nose and at the corner of her lips. It looked like toothpaste but I certainly wasn’t going to mention it.
“Can I share some happy news with you?” I asked.
“Please do.” She said.
“I just left the doctor and I’m two years breast cancer free.”
Her eyes got big and she wiped the corner of her mouth. “I’m sorry, I just had a new tooth screwed into my jaw and I cant stop this spit from leaking out.”
“No worries at all! Are you feeling ok?” I asked.
“Oh yes Dear, I’m well. I’m glad I have the means to provide myself a new tooth. Times are expensive.” She explained.
I agreed as I looked at the groceries in our carts. I thought about how fortunate we both were. She dropped her list and her #2 pencil in the baby seat section of her cart right next to a bag of peppermint lifesavers. She scanned the surrounding area and when she felt safe, she moved in very close to me.
“Did you say two years breast cancer free?” She asked.
“Yes Mam, that’s why I think these birthday cake Oreos just happened to jump in my cart. They wanted to celebrate.” I laughed.
She reached her arms out and placed them on my elbows. Her diamond wedding band was loose and dangled close to her knuckle. “Honey, I’ve got you beat. I’m 85 years old and I’m a twenty three year ovarian cancer survivor. How do you like that?” She winked and smiled. Her new tooth seemed to twinkle.
“This is amazing. I’m so glad I had this time to talk to you. It’s always wonderful to talk to another survivor.” I said.
“My name is Joan. I come here several times a month. Do you live right around here?”
“No. I just wanted to drive for a little bit. I go to the other market most of the time.” I said.
“Let me give you some advice from an old lady and tell this to your friends as well.” She said. “Your smile will keep you alive longer than your frown. And always go with that feeling in your gut. The one that tells you to go somewhere you are not familiar with. Just like you did today.”

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