Lara Coast. Her name was Lara, she had been raised in a nuclear family in Panama City, Florida, with a widow mother and an older brother-Ryan. Her brother was studying at a university a few miles away and would return only for the holidays because when he was not studying he was working. Although he returned home only a few times a year, he still made sure to call up and check on his sister and mom, he also made sure to let them know that he cared for and loved them no matter what. After losing their father to cancer he had assumed the role of the man of the house and he seemed to be living up to it. Their mother worked as a surgeon at a hospital close by and she had long working hours so she left early and returned late, spending very little time at home which left Lara alone.
Lara was strikingly beautiful with her dark brown hair, lightly tanned skin and eyes that were blue like the sky. She was seventeen and she had absolutely no idea of how talented or beautiful she was. There were multiple things that Lara could do but she liked painting the best. Her paintings held so much emotion, they conveyed complete stories without using any words at all but she never showed them to too many people, only to her best friends-the twins, Amyra and Liam who lived across the street-and her brother and they all believed that she was gifted.
The twins even tried to convince her to put up and exhibition, to showcase her art and maybe sell it but Lara straight up refused and said that she would wait for someone who truly understood and appreciated her art instead of putting it up for the world to pick apart.
There was a time-about two years ago, when Lara was only fifteen and Ryan was eighteen-Lara used to be a chirpy and talkative girl and her paintings? Her paintings held so much joy and happiness back in the days when her father was alive and undiagnosed but after his cancer was confirmed incurable and his death inevitable, things began to change. Lara began talking less, her paintings held little to no emotion and she lost her usual happy demeanour.
About ten months after the diagnosis, the Coast siblings lost their dearly beloved father to cancer and the house became silent. It seemed as if Mr. Coast had taken their happiness with him and left them with only grief and pain. Things were changing.
A few months after his death, Mrs. Coast went back to work and put up a strong exterior for the sake of her children and then she drowned herself in work to escape the pain of her husband’s loss and has been like that ever since. Ryan, too, was forced to recover quickly and assume the position of the man in the house and get ready for university. Both Ryan and Mrs. Coast went on with life and focused on other things to keep themselves together in spite of the pain and grief but Lara couldn’t. Lara didn’t heal. Two years and multiple therapist sessions later Lara was still not okay but she had learned to cover it up. She had learned to cover her puffy red eyes after hours of crying, she had learned to mask her pain and she had learned to smile even when she was hurting. She never once told the therapist about the battles that she fought with her own self every single day and neither did she open up to anyone, except the twins and Ryan, her conversations with people were very superficial, never including her true emotions or the pain and grief that she dealt with every day.
Somewhere in the middle of sessions with her therapist, battling depression and getting through high school Lara finally graduated, exactly three years after her father’s death. Even on the day of her graduation she could not help but feel the stinging pain in her chest when she noticed the hall filled with fathers showering their little ones with love. All fathers but hers.
After graduation Lara moved to an apartment in the residential part of her university campus. She had gotten into New York University, just like her father had always wanted but he was not here to celebrate with her anymore. Her mom moved into a smaller apartment, back home, her brother moved back to look after his mother and worked somewhere close by. The twins too moved to university. Lara used to video call them at least once a week. She even found a roommate, Sabrina. They became good friends. Lara found a few other friends that she talked too but she never opened up about her past. Her friends knew it was a touchy subject and so they never pushed. She was slightly better but it was like she had lost a part of her that she didn’t know how to get back. She was with people but she still felt lonely. She had occasional nightmares and episodes when she would not be able to breathe properly due to being in an extremely crowded room and other times she’d just get numb, like she would feel nothing at all, no pain, no fear, no loss, no joy, nothing. There were times when desperation would kick in and she would begin to feel the need, the need to feel something course through her veins, even if it was just pain and so she would do things like punch a wall or run a blade on her wrist lightly enough for it to bleed but not to cause death, all this to be able to feel anything at all. These episodes were rare but they were still there, when she was desperate, when she needed to feel something, to feel alive. But no one knew about this not even her brother or the twins because she didn’t want them to worry, especially when they were far away and would not be able to anything about it. And Besides Lara was not suicidal, no, she wanted to live. All this she did to be able to feel, to be able to feel human and like those around her.
Three years after the day of her graduation and about the same amount of time into the university that she had joined, she felt a sharp pain in her lower abdominal region. Luckily enough, she was not alone and her roommate helped her to the clinic in the residential part of the university campus.
After arriving at the clinic, the doctors conducted a few tests and asked Lara a few questions. One out of the many questions was if she had ever experienced such pain in the same region before and that’s when Lara recalled mentioning it to her therapist and the twins a few times but they all-including Lara herself-thought that it was nothing and that it would go away. The doctors put everything down on paper and then said that there were a few possibilities but they were not absolutely certain and so they would advise a complete medical check-up.
About a week after her check-up at the campus clinic she made an appointment for a full body medical check-up at a hospital and medical research centre close by. Sabrina, Lara’s roommate, offered to accompany her but Lara refused and said that she didn’t want Sabrina missing classes and that she would be fine on her own.
But little did Lara known that when she made an appointment for the health check-up, she practically signed up for running around from one room to another, in a building that smelled strongly of disinfectant and was packed up with large machines that she had absolutely no knowledge of, apart from the basics of course, like the x-ray machine.
She had conducted so many tests that she was absolutely and utterly exhausted but she was also glad to be finally seating in the doctor’s cabin waiting for her reports, glad that this was finally ending and she’d be out of this place before she knew it, out, about and healthy. She was sure that everything was fine and that the pain she had faced earlier was just some harmless stomach cramps.
Just a few minutes later the doctor walked in and asked Lara to follow him because they had one last test to do. Lara kept asking him questions while they walked down the lobby to the lab and the doctor kept saying that he had to be absolutely sure before they told her because they did not want her to panic to without a reason which simply caused her to worry more. He led her to a lab and his team let her know that she would have to lay absolutely still and since she had no choice left, she complied. She lay there for some time while they continued with their task and then once they were done she was sent back to the cabin. The doctor then came in to tell her that she would have to return two days later and collect her reports and she left quietly. Once she was back in her bed she couldn’t help but think about the medical tests and all the things that could possibly go wrong until she finally fell asleep.
The two days before the arrival of the reports were just a blur and then suddenly she was back in the same cabin. About ten minutes later the doctor arrived.
“Lara”, he said, “the last test that we had conducted the other day was a pap smear followed by a biopsy and I know this is going to be hard for you but you have to understand that we were able to detect it early enough to prevent serious damage and you can get it treated as soon as you are ready.”
All this while Lara sat there, blankly staring at his face, expecting the worst.
“You have been diagnosed with cervical cancer, Lara.”
And the worst it was.Just like that her world was turned upside down. She didn’t know what to say, she didn’t know what to do. She just sat there feeling numb while her world came crashing down, for the second time. She was in a daze until the doctor’s voice brought her back.
“Lara? Are you alright?”
“Yes” and she rose from her seat and gave him a forced smile, “I believe the medical expenses were all settled the day I came here for the tests so I will leave now and perhaps revisit once I have talked with my family. Thank you for your help.” And just like that she left his cabin. She returned back to her room, booked tickets for the earliest flights, packed her bags and left to go home. She also wrote a note to her roommate, Delilah and stuck it on the fridge.
It said, “Hey D.I got my medical reports today and I’m heading home for a few days, I will let you know what happened once I’m back. Take care. Bye.-Lara.”
Since the time Lara had returned with her reports, she had not shed a single tear and she did not plan on doing that anytime soon.
She rang the doorbell and was greeted by Ryan who was dressed in sweatpants and a regular t-shirt with an apron around his waist. Once he recovered from the shock of seeing his sister, he quickly hugged her and let her in. She told him that she had something to tell him and mom. “It’s nine pm right now so she should be home in thirty minutes. We’ll eat once she’s here and then we can talk about whatever you want.” Lara simply nodded and headed to her room to shower and change. Once she was ready she decided to walk around the house and look at all the old family photos since it had been a while. Five minutes later she stood there staring at a family photo with Ryan standing next to Mr. Coast, the latter’s arm around Ryan’s shoulder and a little Lara who was in her mother’s arms. Ryan who was about seven back then, in a football jersey and a football in his hands, their father dressed in casuals, while four year old Lara and her mum were dressed in similar sun dresses. They were all grinning at the camera. Her fingers lightly skimmed the photo frame and she couldn’t help but grimace when she remembered that the same wretched cancer that stole her father was now after her. The click of the door brought Lara out of her dazed state. Mrs. Coast was home.
They all sat for dinner and Lara made small talk, all the while worrying about how they would react. Once dinner was over and Lara had helped her mother put away the dishes she told them to sit back down and rushed to her room to grab her reports. Once she was down and they were all settled, she placed her reports on the table and cut right to it, “I have been diagnosed with second stage cervical cancer.” Her hands dropped to her lap and she looked everywhere but at the two silent figures sitting before her.
Her brother was the first to break the silence, “It’s not too late, is it?”
“So it’s settled then, we’ll figure a way out of this,” Ryan said and pulled his sister in for a hug, “now get some sleep, Lara.”
Lara now turned to look at her mom whose eyes were fixed on Lara but she had not spoken a word since Lara’s announcement.
Mrs. Coast got up from her chair, “go to your room Lara,” she said and then headed to her own room slamming its door.
Lara rushed to her room and shut the door. Then for the first time since the diagnosis she let the tears fall and fall they did. She sat and the foot of her bed, hugging her knees close to her chest and resting her head on them. She sobbed. Her eyes were red and puffy, the tears kept falling. Lara felt guilty, she felt like she was to blame for wrecking the peace of their lives, that maybe her mother was blaming her for this, maybe it was Lara’s fault, maybe she could have just dealt with it herself without dragging her family into this.
She was so occupied with her own thoughts that she didn’t hear the door open or notice her mom enter until she felt her arms wrap around her in a comforting hug. She had no idea that she longed for that hug until she felt her mum’s arms come around her and then the tears began to fall all over again.
“I’m so sorry Lara. It’s not your fault and I’m sorry for reacting the way I did. I lost my husband to cancer, I cannot lose my child to it too. I’m sorry.”
And they both cried until Ryan wrapped his arms around them. Once they had both stopped crying they decided Lara would go back to her apartment in New York in two days and they would join her three days later. Her brother promised to check out a few cancer hospitals and get her treatment started as soon as possible.
“You’ll get through this, Lara and we’ll be with you through it all”, Ryan whispered to a now sleeping Lara.
A week later all of the arrangements had been made and Lara was ready to begin her treatment. She was told to take a break from university and that it would be easier to go ahead with the treatment so that’s what she did.
Lara began her treatment two days after all her documents were filled and luckily enough they didn’t have to file for a medical loan because her insurance covered it all and the other expenses were dealt with by her mother who was a well-earning surgeon.
For her treatment Lara was assigned her own room along with a senior doctor that would check up on her once a week and then another doctor who would look after all her treatments and her well-being regularly, throughout the course of her treatment.
Her everyday doctor-Dr. Noah Parks was man of twenty seven. He had jet black hair with olive skin and hazel eyes. He was six feet two inches, huge, compared to Lara’s five feet five inches. But he was good looking with his toned arms and strong but not bulky built and beautiful features. He even had a gorgeous smile that showed his dimple on his left cheek.
“Hello Lara, I’m Dr. Noah Parks and I’ll be right here with you throughout the treatment. You’ll be healthy and back to normal before you know it.”
The way he said it sounded more like a promise that he sealed with one of his gorgeous smiles. Lara nodded and smiled back. Lara’s brother talked with the doctor for a few minutes before he left with his mother to get settled in the apartment that they had rented for the course of Lara’s treatment. He waved a goodbye to Lara and Dr. Noah and he was out the door in a minute.
Noah turned to Lara and smiled.
“So, Lara, since we’ll be spending quite some time with each other, tell me something about you.”
His voice was like nectar to her ears and she just shrugged not trusting herself to speak coherent words.
He shook his head and chuckled.
“Okay, so then let me start by briefing you about your treatment, yes?”
“Okay, so you’ll have chemotherapy twice a week and radiation therapy once every alternate week. A few weeks into the treatment and we might reduce or increase your chemotherapy sessions based on your progress. I’m not going to lie, it’s going to be exhausting and there will be days when you’ll sleep for hours on end after your sessions but it will get better and so will you. You seem like a strong girl.”
Lara did not respond to that but simply looked away feeling guilty, feeling like she had disappointed him because she was not strong. How could she be, after all, she had depression all these years ago and she was still dealing with anxiety?
As if sensing her discomfort and inner battle Noah held her chin between his pointer finger and thumb and gently tilted her head so she was looking into his eyes and said, “Hey ,it’s okay. Whatever you have been through-and I can tell it’s something-has only proved how strong you are because you fought all of that and you are here now. You are strong, don’t ever doubt that, okay?”
Lara nodded and he smiled.
That night Lara fell asleep clinging to the hope that maybe she would be okay and all these years later maybe she could have her own happy ending.
After that day Lara spend weeks with Dr. Noah. There were days when she was too tired to talk so he would just read her a book, then there were days when Lara would force him to watch a sappy romance movie with her, on television. There were even days when Lara would cry and have panic attacks about ever being okay again and he would hold and comfort her, all the while telling her that she was strong and she would be okay very soon. On other days they would walk around the hospital meeting little kids and greeting ever patient that they came across and soon Lara was opening up to him about her past and telling him her deepest darkest secrets. She told him about the depression, the anxiety, the nightmares, the self-harm, the desperation and everything else that she could remember, she seemed to cover all the important parts. Lara was afraid that once he knew about her past he’d run in the other direction but he never did. He just sat there, holding her hand, not even wincing, telling her how brave she was. He then told her things about his past, little details like what he loved doing as a little kid or how much he loved art. Lara asked him why he decided to be a doctor and he simply said, “I wanted to make someone feel better, be the reason someone was healthier and much more joyful. I wanted to make a change.” In that moment Lara wanted to tell him that he was the reason she was now happy and she’d soon be healthy but she didn’t.
They practically did everything together, they even celebrated their birthdays at the hospital, with the patients and the staff and it is safe to say that they both had a great time. They mad each other happy.
About fourteen months into the treatment with fewer chemo and radiation therapy sessions, Lara had finally admitted to herself that she had fallen in love with her doctor. And the fact that a few months later she would be out of this place only seeing him once every few months, naturally, made her very sad. She decided to distance herself from him to save her the heartbreak but three days into the plan and he asked her why she was acting so distant and with the sad look in his eyes Lara could not contain herself. Before she could process what she was doing, she had confessed her love to him and he just stood there grinning at her and of course Lara being Lara, began to cry like a five year old. He asked her what was wrong and she said that she felt stupid for falling in love with someone who would never feel the same for her, his grin was proof of the feelings he would never feel. It was clear as day, she was hurt and she felt foolish and mocked, so she began crying harder.
He then did the unexpected. He gathered her in his arms, placed a gentle kiss on her forehead and said that he loved her too.
Lara stared at him, eyes wide with shock, he just chuckled, shook his head and hugged her again. After that day they were both visibly happier like all these years later they were finally complete.
Lara would show him her paintings and he would get her more paint supplies so she could paint while he watched the old Lara come alive, with a content smile on his face. Her paintings now held emotion and joy and he truly appreciated all her works of art, just like Lara once wanted. They completed each other and they made each other better.
On the last day of Lara’s eighteenth month at the hospital-which was also her last-Lara returned to her room after her session with the senior doctor who congratulated her on her recovery and briefed her about her future visits. She had not seen Noah since that morning and it did not make her happy. When she reached her room to pack her belongings, she came across a note on the bed that said, “Congratulations Lara on finally being free. Like I told you the first day you stepped into this hospital, you are braver than you think and stronger than you know. You are a survivor .And you will always be whether you believe it or not and I want to be with you throughout the journey of life, to stand by your side as you make your way through, to be with you as you make a mark for yourself, to stand by your side and protect you from all that’s evil. To love and cherish you for years to come. I want you to be mine Lara coast and I want to be yours today, tomorrow and forever after.-Noah.”
Lara stood there clutching the note in her hand, eyes brimming with tears of joy, she turned around to go fetch Noah but she was greeted with the sight of him kneeling down with a ring in his hand and a smile etched on his face.
“Will you, Lara Coast, marry me?”
“Yes! Yes, I will!”
And just like that he slid the ring in her finger and hugged her, holding her close.
“But I want to go back to university to complete my course after the wedding”, Lara said pulling away.
“Yes, Lara, we’ll get you back into university as soon as we can”, Noah said chuckling.
About six months later, Lara was walking down the aisle her hand in the twins’ father’s. He had always treated her like her own and now he was walking her down the aisle. At the end of it he blessed her, kissed her forehead and took her hand and placed it in Noah’s who was looking happier than ever in his black tuxedo, standing in front of his soon-to-be-wife who looked gorgeous in her ivory coloured gown. He smiled at her and the priest began. Soon, Noah was done with his vows and it was Lara’s turn.
She began, “Here I stand, before the man who I choose to love and cherish forever, who stood by me through times that were tougher than the others, he supported me when I needed it the most and loved me, even at my worst. The man who accepted me flaws and all. Who loved me when I cried like I a five year old, who accepted me at four am, when I had no makeup on, the man who found me beautiful even when I had lost quite a lot of hair as an after effect of the treatment, the man who loves me without any conditions and the one who, I believe, my father would have chosen for me. I didn’t know him my entire life but I’m glad I did when I did. If I could go back in time and change anything about us and where we stand today, I wouldn’t because we are where we are thanks to everything that happened in the past and I could not be happier as I vow to spend the rest of my life with Noah Parks. We’re not perfect but in spite of all our flaws, we chose each other, on good days and bad, in the face of danger and joy, we chose each other. Here I am, standing before everyone, promising to love this beautiful man, every single day through everything. If I could choose any one else to take his place, I wouldn’t, because he makes me happy, he completes me in every way possible. Today I Lara, swear to love Noah Parks every single day for the rest of my life and for the many more to come.”
And they both stood there, holding hands, eyes brimming with tears, smiling at each other like they were in high school again. They mouthed an ‘I love you’ to each other and then the priest concluded, “Do you take Lara Coast as your lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and cherish until death do you part?”
“Do you take Noah Parks as your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and cherish until death do you part?”
“By the power vested in me by the church, I now pronounce you man and wife.”
And they both stood there grinning at each other, their hands now tighter around the other’s, unwilling to let go.
All these years later, after battling depression anxiety, sorrow, grief, cancer and all, Lara had finally found her joy, her happy ending and she promised to never let it go, to fight for it for the rest of her life, if she had to. She felt like her father was watching her from heaven and she felt like he had blessed her because, now, she had finally gotten her happily ever after. This was the story about a survivor and her companion.