Amelia’s Hope by Candis Vargo
Publisher & Release: Fifth Ink Publishing, LLC, November 13, 2016
Genre: Women's Fiction
“Even though I was decaying, Amelia was growing. It was like some beautiful symphony the way both things were happening at once.”
Sacrificing your life for your child is one of the greatest ways a mother can show her love... For Cara Michaels, that sacrifice was made.
At ten weeks pregnant, Cara was diagnosed with a fast-acting cancer and was faced with the ultimate decision… That decision, was to forgo life-saving treatment to ensure her child would come into this world unharmed.
Cara shares with us the last months of her life as she prepared to give birth to her child, and for her husband, Joel, to parent without her.
But a husband can only handle so much before he breaks…
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01N3VS1OC
Amazon UK: http://amzn.eu/5d5NSeG
Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B01N3VS1OC
Amazon UK: http://amzn.eu/5d5NSeG
Amazon CA: https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B01N3VS1OC
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Everyone has a story, I know that. Just like everyone has that moment, or for some, moments, in their life that changed them forever. I don’t mean the moment where you realize your career sucks and you want to do something different, or the sudden urge to get covered in tattoos - not that there’s anything wrong with that. No, I mean the change that happens deep inside of you. The one that comes from within the core of your being—the one that is no choice of your own; it just happens. It’s uncontrollable and irrevocable. Suddenly the person you see in the mirror has a depth within their eyes. A depth that has been born from inconceivable pain.
It’s a moment that, for the rest of your life, you try to make sense out of. Whether you try to figure out why it happened or why it changed you so much, you search for some sort of reasoning. But there isn’t any. It just is.
Well, my name is Cara Michaels, and this is my story…
I thought the moment that changed my life happened when I found out I was pregnant. I guess in a way, it did, because if I wasn’t pregnant, I would have had a fighting chance…
But my real life-changing moment came several weeks later. The day I’m talking about is March, 10th and it was a beautiful spring morning. The sun was shining brightly in the softest blue sky as a gentle breeze danced through my hair. It was abnormally warm for the beginning of March but I loved it. Life couldn’t have been better as my devilishly handsome husband, Joel, drove us to our new home. I’m sure you think I’m joking when I say he’s devilishly handsome, but boy was he. His lips were luscious and pink, and always seemed to be begging to be kissed, and behind his chocolate brown eyes was a depth of passion that came straight from his soul. The way he would look at me with such love, it was like something from the movies. A love that most women only dream of. And there was just something delicious about the five o’clock shadow that covered his chiseled jawline. His muscles weren’t like a body builder, but they were large enough that his tee shirts hugged him tightly. And he always smelled like Old Spice. I loved that about him…
Joel had always promised that before we started our family, we would buy our own house. And he was keeping his promise.
“Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go,” I said as I smacked my hand on the dash. “Can’t you drive any faster?”
Joel glanced over at me, smiling, before returning his eyes to the road and shaking his head. “We’re a block away. You’ve survived this long; I’m sure another two minutes won’t kill you.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t be so sure of that. If people can die from heartache, I’m sure excitement can kill too.”
Joel laughed. “Those two things aren’t even remotely comparable.”
“That’s not the point…” I perked my head up and moved it at different angles, trying to look around objects that obstructed my view. We were driving through a suburban neighborhood so it was only trees and vehicles in my way.
The first time we drove through that area we got lost…and again the second time. It would take anyone a while to be comfortable navigating the maze of cookie cutter houses in the subdivision. I had made Joel drive by the house often enough that he now had no problem finding it.
“Sometimes I don’t know what I’m going to do with you,” he sighed in mock exasperation.
I squealed with delight as we pulled into the paved driveway that sat on the right side of the tan house. I unbuckled my seatbelt and had my hand on the door handle, waiting to open it. The moment the car was in park, I jumped out and ran across the walkway that curved through the front yard. I slid my hand along the wooden railing as I made my way up the brick steps that led to the porch, then turned to look at Joel.
“Ugh, come on,” I complained as I peeked through the windows, anxious to get inside.
I had been waiting for this day since we closed on the house a month ago. Much to my dismay, Joel and I had agreed to give the previous owners an extra thirty days to move out. If it were up to me, we would have moved in the same day we signed the paperwork. That wait was excruciating, just so you know.
“Calm down, Killer,” Joel joked as he joined me on the porch and teased me by dangling the key in front of my face. “Ready?”
“Yes, yes, now come on!”
After he unlocked the door, Joel held it open for me. As I walked inside he said, “Welcome home.”
Two words never sounded so nice.
My cheeks started to hurt from smiling so widely as I danced from room to room, talking about how I could decorate and lay out the furniture. I’m sure Joel couldn’t make out a word of what I said because I was talking so fast. The main level had a decently large galley kitchen that was down the hall from the living room, though they were close enough that you could see one if you stood in the other. There was a large dining room that would require us to buy a new table; the one we had was way too small. At the end of the hall was the bathroom, which also had the washer and dryer in it, and an office sat beside it. The first time I toured the house, I decided I was going to turn that office in to a laundry room and I was starting to think that I would make that one of our first projects. I made my way back to the entry room where Joel still stood and stopped in my tracks.
“When do the movers come?” I paused to catch my breath. I hadn’t realized how winded I was. “We need to get everything done as soon as we can so we can start working on the baby’s room.”
Joel walked up and placed one hand on my stomach and the other around my back as he gave me a quick kiss.
“Don’t you worry, the van comes in a few hours and I will make sure everything gets done.” He looked down towards my belly as he spoke, “you just need to tell your mommy not to stress over anything. We have seven more months to get everything ready.”
“I know stress isn’t good,” I sighed. “There’s just so much to do and…we have a home now! Our own house to raise our little family! How exciting is that?”
“Very.” Joel laughed as he started to massage my shoulders.
Pain shot through me and I inhaled sharply as I tried to wiggle out from Joel’s grasp.
He narrowed his gaze. “What’s wrong?”
“I just got this bruise,” I moved the sleeve of my shirt down off of my shoulder so I could show him.
“Christ, Cara! What the hell did you do?”
The bruise sat next to my collar bone and was bigger than I remembered, stretching nearly to my armpit. The outer edge was a light blue but the majority of the bruise was deep purple, certainly not a pretty sight.
“Lord only knows. You know me—I could have walked into a wall or something.” Which was the truth. I couldn’t remember how I got the bruise but I’m also the type of woman who bends down to plug in a lamp and hits my head on the wall.
“That doesn’t look like something you’d get just from bumping into a doorway, Cara.” Joel placed his hands on the edge of the bruise, careful not to hurt me, and leaned in as if to get a better look.
Wiggling free, I pulled my sleeve back up, careful not to hit my shoulder. “It’s just a bruise Joel. I’m not going to die,” I laughed. He seriously had a tendency to worry too much. “Really, have you not seen where they took blood from me the other day? I look like I shoot up.” I held my arm out to show him the puncture wound. The scab was still visible from where the needle went in and that too, was bruised.
“Alright, well just-” his words were cut off as the moving van pulled up. “That was fast. I’ll have to text Ryan and let him know the van is already here. He wanted to come over and help out.”
Ryan was Joel’s best friend. They first met in middle school but went separate ways after high school. Someway, somehow, life had brought them together again and they now worked together at the same company. Ryan had always had a touch of a rebel side to him and as soon as he was able to legally get a tattoo without parental consent, he did. Now he had full sleeves that covered both arms. When he ran out of room there, he started to get some down his chest and a few on his legs. It suited him well, though. He was still getting a tattoo whenever he could but for the time being he was making it his life’s mission to get a Harley. No, he never wore leather or a bandanna to try to fit the typical biker guy stereotype. That’s something we loved about him; he was always just him. He never wanted to fit in to any stereotype.
Anyway, Joel was able to get the day off for the move but Ryan had promised to come by after work to help out.
“Ok, wait, he isn’t going to bring Jenn, is he?”
It’s not that I hated the woman, she was just way too needy. She was the type that practically begged for constant attention and it drove me crazy sometimes. She was pretty, I’ll give her that. I mean she was tall and skinny with long red hair, so I guess you could say we were complete opposites. I’m a little on the short side—okay a lot on the short side. I was never overweight, but my body was definitely curvy, which was only enhancing thanks to the pregnancy, and I had shoulder length black hair and green eyes. Jenn was the typical blue eyed beauty. Maybe a part of me was jealous—maybe. But Joel’s grimace told me all I needed to know.
My shoulders fell as I leaned my head back. “Oh my God,” I groaned. “Fine. But that girl is seriously annoying.”
“Put her to work,” Joel suggested.
I stared into his eyes as I pointed my finger at him. “Seriously, that’s a genius idea. Or we can just ‘accidently’ lock her in the basement. Just saying.”
As Joel was about to respond, my cell phone rang. I looked down at the screen and saw that it was the hospital. “Kidding,” I whispered to Joel as I stepped into the other room and answered my phone.
The only time the hospital ever called was to remind me of an upcoming appointment or if I’ve missed one. I had just had an appointment a few days ago and wasn’t due to go back for another month. For all I knew, maybe midwives called their patients randomly throughout the pregnancy. This is my first one so I was clueless.
After I answered the phone, my body went cold. They didn’t give me bad news…they just didn’t give me any news at all really. It was the receptionist at the doctor’s office that called me and all she said was that Pam, my midwife, wanted to see me to go over the results of my bloodwork. I didn’t know if that was normal or not, but I was confused nonetheless, and a horrible feeling sank to the pit of my stomach. Especially when she said that Pam wanted me to come in now.
When I hung up the phone, I walked out to the front porch where Joel was talking to the van driver. I didn’t plan on interrupting their conversation but Joel saw the worry on my face and immediately turned his attention to me. I’ve always loved that about him, how he cares so much.
“Hey, what’s going on?” He rubbed his hands down my arms.
“That was the hospital. Um, they said we need to go back in, that Pam needs to talk about the results of my blood work.”
“What? Why?” Now his expression resembled what I’m sure mine looked like. Confused. Lost. Worried…
“I—I don’t know. But they want us to go in now and I’m trying to stay positive but I’m scared and I don’t know why they would want me to go all the way in right now instead of waiting for my next appointment.” My words were rushed and mushed together and my hands were flinging around as I used them to accentuate my speech, something I only did when I was upset.
Joel pulled me in for a hug. “Hey, hey—it’ll be okay. Ryan will be here any minute so try not to think too much. It’ll be okay.”
After Ryan and Jenn arrived, Joel drove me to the hospital, leaving Ryan in charge of getting everything off of the moving van. I sat in the waiting room, anxious to see what Pam so desperately needed to talk to me about. Whenever I was sitting, at least one of my legs was in constant motion and I chewed on my nails. When I was walking, I was sprinting. The nurse finally called my name and I jumped right up. Usually the nurses would make me pee in a cup and take my weight but this time Joel and I followed the petite blonde in pink scrubs straight into the exam room.
“Pam will be with you in a minute,” the nurse said as she typed something into the computer that was in the room. I scooted up on the bed and swore I saw something in the nurse’s eyes when she glanced at me. I didn’t know what it was, but I knew it wasn’t good. The nurse left the room and though we only waited a few minutes, it felt like eternity to me. I came up with a million questions in my head and I prayed I wouldn’t have to ask any of them.
“Cara, how are you feeling?” Pam asked as she walked into the room.
“I don’t know. I felt great but now I’m pretty nervous.”
She pressed her lips together before saying, “I’m going to be straight with you here. There were some things that came back in your bloodwork that set off a red flag.”
I glanced at Joel before quickly turning my attention back to Pam. My heart clenched in my chest before it began racing. I tried not to worry but apparently that’s easier said than done.
“What’s that mean?” Joel asked. I was grateful that he spoke up because I didn’t trust my voice.
“Well nothing is certain yet.” Pam leaned against the wall. “Cara, I have a few quick questions for you. Have you felt dizzy or maybe extremely tired lately?”
“Well, yeah. Isn’t that normal though?” My heart pounded in my chest. I thought those were normal pregnancy woes, weren’t they?
“Yes, it is to an extent. What about shortness of breath or maybe some bruising?”
“Yeah,” I dragged the word out. “You’re really starting to scare me.” My palms were sweaty so I wiped them along my pants to dry them.
“May I see?” Her eyes widened and she raised her brows, making it less of a question and more of an order.
“Yeah.” I stood up and turned my back to her as I lifted up the back of my shirt. The sting of her cold hands on my flesh made jerk away from her a little bit. I think she mistook that for pain because she immediately backed away. As I let my shirt fall back down she continued to speak.
“Well, I’d like to get some more tests done,” Pam paused. “Specifically a bone marrow test.”
“A what?” Joel snapped.
“What for?” I grabbed Joel’s hand.
“Well nothing is certain-”
“Pam, what are you testing me for? What’s wrong with the baby?” I felt the blood drain out of my face. Not my baby. Anything but my baby.
“No, the baby is okay and growing well.”
I was relieved that my baby was okay, but me? What in the world could be wrong with me? “Then it’s me? What is it?”
“Why don’t we get that bone marrow test and go from there, okay? We’ll get you sent over for the testing right away and then back here in my office on Monday if that’s alright?”
“I—yeah…” My head was filled with questions but I was too confused to get any of them out. I probably should have asked some of them, but what would I ask? Even with all of the questions in my head, none of them would have given me the definitive answer I wanted right then.
I was nervous about the bone marrow test. I thought I would be in excruciating pain and would be sore for a long time. I don’t know why I thought that, but it didn’t hurt too badly. It was more of an annoying pain, kind of like when the dentist pulls a tooth after giving you Novocain. You don’t really feel the pain of tooth being pulled, you really just feel the pressure. Does that make sense?
I tried not to worry, but that proved to be nearly impossible. Joel did his best to comfort me as I did my best to be strong for him. I’ve always known how much he loved me, and I never wanted him to go through the pain of seeing me hurt in any way. I always said that I wanted him to die before me, so I could keep him from feeling that type of pain, so I pretended to be strong.
We worked on unpacking over the next several days, and when Monday finally rolled around, I was a nervous wreck. I kept telling myself that whatever it was I would be fine and my baby would be fine because I wouldn’t let anything happen to my baby. I couldn’t.
When Pam walked in, a sad smile crossed her face and I knew the news wasn’t good. My body went cold as I tried to prepare myself for whatever it was she had to say.
“What is it?” I croaked and Joel wrapped his arm around me and kissed my head.
Pam slid her stool over in front of my chair as she sat down and placed a hand on my knee. “I’m afraid there’s no easy way to say this, Cara. You have acute myeloid leukemia.”
Growing up on an old dirt road in the middle of nowhere, as a child Candis used her love for books as a way to escape reality (and her brother constantly trying to kill her--literally). She blames her love of all things Horror on being born on Friday the 13th and will always find joy in scaring her friends.
You will find a little piece of her in every book she writes. She loves a good happy ending but isn’t afraid to keep her stories real, even if that means telling the side of a story most people are afraid to tell.
Never caring for the norms or boundaries, Candis has written several genres from Horror to Erotica.
When she's not writing or reading, she can usually be found chasing her children around or binge watching Netflix. She currently lives in Rome, Pennsylvania with her husband and three children.