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Chapter 4.

The caterers had stayed ahead of the clean-up mess in the kitchen and they departed too, leaving us a spotless home, before midnight. Sarah, Craig, Eleanor, Megan and I had gathered for a nightcap as the last of the crew said goodnight. I reminisced about some of the parties we'd occasionally hosted in our thirties and forties that didn't stop until the sun had started to come up.
We dispersed to the various bedrooms after kisses, hugs, and handshakes goodnight. Megan and I went into the master bedroom, and I began my nighttime rituals getting ready for bed. As I puttered around putting on what passed for pajamas for me -- running shorts and a t-shirt, I became aware that Megan sat on the edge of the bed watching me.

I looked at her and asked, "You coming to bed or are you in the middle of some hot medical journal?" I smiled.

Megan shook her head and patted the bed beside her. "No. No journals tonight. Just come sit with me for a minute. I have something to share." She sounded serious. I went to her and put my arms around her.

"What's up?" I asked as I sat on the bed and put my arm around her.

"Matt," She started, suddenly in a broken and choked voice, so different from the party voice she'd had for the past six hours, "I'm sick -- very sick -- very very sick." She looked up at me, with tears streaming down her face, and then broke into uncontrollable sobs. This wasn't at all like my professional wife that had seen it all. For years, she'd been the rock of the family with a will of iron and the mental strength of Titan. Now, suddenly, something was very wrong for her to be reacting this way.

I hugged her close and kissed the side of her head. I used my forefinger to wipe the tracks of her tears from her cheeks. "Hey," I said looking into her eyes, "We can work at getting you well. What kind of sick are we talking about? What do we need to do? What's happening?"

"I ... I ... I have a rare kind of leukemia," She sobbed. "It's not good. I found out Tuesday -- part of my annual check-up -- and then a few more lab tests. I've spent a lot of time the past three days verifying the diagnosis and looking at options." She paused and looked up into my face, her eyes red and running, "Oh Matt, I love you so." I hugged her tight.

I said, "I'll stop work. We'll put all our focus on getting you well. We'll do whatever it takes."

Megan shook her head. Her crying slowed, and she spoke in her doctoring voice: "There's no 'getting well' from this; it's fatal."

Her remark hit me so hard I recoiled; my body lurched against here. I was stunned. I was going to lose Megan. "How fatal? How much time ... I mean, what's the prognosis?"

"Five to nine months at this point -- maybe a little longer." Megan put her head in her hands as I rubbed her back and then pulled her into my lap. We cried together for a long time.

She explained she had a complication of chronic lymphocytic leukemia known as Richter's syndrome. I didn't understand a lot of what she told me about the disease, but I did understand that she had it, and it was going to kill her, most likely within a year. There was no cure; there was no mitigating treatment.

We told the children on Saturday morning, amid another round of crying and anguish over the potential loss of my wife and their mother. Practically everywhere I looked that morning, there were tear soaked tissues.

About the only thing positive I saw come out of the weekend was that Eleanor and Craig decided unilaterally to move up the date of their wedding to December -- near Christmas -- to be sure that Megan could attend in a state of reasonably good health.

Monday, I went to the office with Megan, and we met for an hour with her colleague, Richard Creech.

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