An Act of Persuasion - By Stephanie Doyle
Twelve weeks, 3 days ago
DEATH SUCKED. Ben Tyler leaned his head against his office chair and closed his eyes while he considered his fate. The leukemia was winning and it pissed him the hell off. As a man who had control over his thoughts and emotions—typically two difficult things to rein in—losing control over his body wasn’t sitting particularly well with him.
He was angry, he was irritated and, worse...he was scared.
He’d spent four days and nights in a cave halfway up the side of a rock cliff in Afghanistan being ruthlessly hunted by Taliban forces.
Cakewalk compared to this.
Because there he had some control. He could hide his tracks, he could shoot his attackers, he could plan his silent escape. He controlled whether he lived or died, not some damn disease.
That’s why he made this decision. His doctor agreed.
Anna wasn’t going to like it. Of course, he had no intention of telling his executive assistant—the title she preferred to be called rather than a mere assistant—anything until it was too late.
Anna would get emotional. Anna would look up studies then quote medical research and statistics. Anna would call the people who worked for him and tell them to change his mind. But his mind was set. Since she was living in his house now, seeing to both his personal and professional needs, it would be hard to avoid her finding out. However, for a few days he could manage to keep this secret.
He was particularly good at keeping secrets. His CIA training and his ability to endure water boarding proof of that.
At this point, nothing would change his mind. He was done with this disease. Done with letting it control him. It was time for him to take charge. Once that happened, the fear went away.
The sliding wood door opened and a familiar redhead popped in. Anna’s hair was always messy and moving about her face. He couldn’t say why that bothered him but it did. Especially when she told him her hair stylist cut it that way with intent.
“Hey, you want to watch a movie or something tonight?”
He’d made a life or death decision. Something as silly as watching a movie didn’t make the cut on the list of things he wanted to do right now.
Of course it wasn’t her fault. She thought he was only gearing up for a second round of chemotherapy in the coming weeks. She didn’t know that he was ready to bypass that step and go directly...to the end.
Cure it or die. That seemed much simpler to him.
The stem cell transplantation was his secret to hold on to. He knew it was a risk without a genetic match. Anna had already diligently searched for potential matches, finding no one closer than a second cousin who lived in Boston. And while Ben was listed in the donor-matching program, so far there had been no hits close enough.
Turns out his particular DNA was rather unique.
That’s where the risk came in. Without a genetic match the threat of Graft-Versus-Host disease was very high. If contracted, the GVHD could kill him before the cancer had a chance to.
Only, science was always evolving and making new discoveries. An alternative to a match was to use stem cells from a newborn’s umbilical cord. The theory was the host body was less likely to reject the new cells.
After a severe round of chemotherapy to kill all remaining leukemic cells, the stem cells would be injected to help stimulate new cell growth. If his body accepted the foreign cells, it could cure him of the leukemia.
If his body didn’t, it could kill him.
“Okay, no movie. We know how you love the TV shows I like to watch so that’s out. How about I read to you? You like that.”
He did like it when she read to him. The last thing he felt like doing when he was nauseated was reading, and something about the sound of her voice soothed him. But he didn’t feel sick now. Instead he felt edgy.
He rose and walked over to his fireplace. It was early spring and still mostly chilly in Philadelphia. Although it could be a hundred degrees outside and he doubted he would feel warm. His internal thermostat was always off now and he found himself constantly cold. Except when a flash of heat would come over his whole body leaving him drenched in sweat.
Seriously, how did women live with this for years?
“How about Nelson DeMille?” Anna was browsing the bookshelves that encompassed one full wall