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[Excerpt One][Excerpt Two][Excerpt Three][Excerpt Four]

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Excerpt One



He seemed born with the wisdom to know what it took to please a woman.

Portia looked at Dennis and wondered how he would react if it was his mother telling him she had breast cancer -- his mother instead of her. She knew how close he was to his mother, a fighter for unity amongst black families and single African Americans in Chicago, Illinois. Dennis telephoned his mother three to four times a week. He talked about her what seemed to Portia like every day.

Unlike his father, who hadn't telephoned, written or visited since he stomped out of the house when Dennis was only three years old, Dennis told her that his mother never hurt him, never let him down, not once betrayed his trust. She guessed his love for his mother was the reason he paid so much attention to her. He seemed born with the wisdom to know what it took to please a woman. He always gave her a back rub and ran her a tub of hot, bubble bath when she told him she was tired from spending ten grueling hours in court. When his friends rang his house and asked him to go to a game, a concert or to watch a big boxing match on TV with them, if Portia and he already had a scheduled date, he told his friends he'd catch them later. Although not an avid church-goer, he respected Portia's beliefs and spiritual principles. "I believe in God. Don't doubt that for a minute," He assured her. "Guess I'm going through a period where I don't agree with a lot that I see happening in churches. I know I have to deal with it, and I am. I'm dealing with it. I'm trusting God about this."

In the dead of winter, he shoveled Portia's BMW out of her side driveway and warmed the engine before she came outside to drive herself to church. When they socialized in large crowds and he sensed that she was feeling uncomfortable and shy, he moved close to her and told her jokes and funny stories until she laughed hard. He was warm and sincere. Clearly, she knew that he loved her even though he wasn't a man given to saying, "I love you" often.

In so many ways he was like her. He didn't wear his emotions on his sleeve. Until today, she regarded his cagd emotions as a show of strength. He was nothing like Darryl, a man she thought she would never miss . . . until today.


She was the woman who stood in front of her bedroom mirror before the start of her menstrual cycle and vowed, "I'm gonna change.

**********

She was the woman who stood in front of her bedroom mirror before the start of her menstrual cycle and vowed, "I'm gonna change. This spring, I'm gonna grow up." She had much to learn about womens health. She was a growing child in one of Chicago, Illinois' strongest black families.

Denny was walking by. He was carrying his work boots from a corner of the living room to his bedroom closet. His pace slowed when he heard her talking to her reflection in the mirror. He smiled at her back while he entered her bedroom.

When he neared her side, he asked her, "Who are you talking to, Miss?" Then he told her, "You're a good girl. Don't be so serious. Have a little fun. It's okay to be mischievous every now and then. Your mama and I don't make a big deal out of the playful things you do." He grinned. "Although we would appreciate it if you would stop picking those apples off of mean ol' Miss Barnes' tree." Though he tried not to, when he imagined Miss Barnes banging on the front door to tell him, "Portia's done gone and done it again! In a week, she done went and picked my tree clean!" he laughed.




"Don't be in such a hurry to grow up."


He backed away from Portia. "Don't be in such a hurry to grow up," was the last thing he said to her before he crossed the hall and entered his own bedroom.

Portia was ten years old then. That spring, she did change.

She raced to the bathroom to pee one day after school. When she looked inside her panties, she saw sprinkles of blood. She stuck her head out the bathroom door and called for her mother. Two minutes later, her mother called Denny and sent him to the store. It wasn't long before Portia went into her dresser and pulled out a clean pair of cotton panties. She opened the bag Denny brought home from the store and slid a thick sanitary napkin onto the crotch of her underwear.

Four years later, when her hips started spreading and thickening and swinging, she chewed on her bottom lip and told her father, "Just because I'm getting fat doesn't mean I like boys. I never liked a boy, and I never will. I don't need anybody. I'm strong. I can take care of myself." Two years passed before she stopped telling her father that. It was the same day she kissed Jerome Poindexter after he drove her home. They'd gone to a movie. She was a sophomore in high school.

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Encouraging those who have faced challenges and -- like a champion -- have overcome

Excerpt Two

Portia gazed out the window. Not one car headlight brightened the darkness outside her window. She stared into the night and thought about changes her body and her life endured.

The wind shook the tree in her front yard until one of its branches broke. While she watched the branch fall to the ground, she wondered why she fell in love with Darryl. It went against her upbringing. Darryl was abusive. Her father, a man from generations of strong, loving African Americans, never struck or screamed at her mother. She was so much like her father. They both were thinkers.



Inside the suitcases, she was surprised to find newspaper articles and magazine clippings that centered around Chicago's Riot of 1968 and four old history books focusing on African Americans she remembered her parents reading to her and her siblings when she was a little girl.

A hard wind rattled and shook the window. Portia crossed her arms and smiled softly. Despite her "I'm strong. I'm independent" pledges, she was glad her father knew when she needed him. She thought about the stories he told her during the last five months.

At the start of his stories, he was always riding a train that moved North away from Selma, Alabama -- and nightriders, house burnings and America's strange fruit that threatened the life of black families. She still had the two brown, tatter-edged suitcases he climbed off that train with forty years ago.

"Here. Keep these." That's all he said at the end of his hour long visit four months ago while he pushed the two suitcases to the back of her living room closet. As soon as he walked away from her house and scooted behind the steering wheel of his silver Chevy, she hurried to the closet and pulled the suitcases out. She opened them so fast, one of the tarnished clasps broke.

Inside the suitcases, she was surprised to find newspaper articles and magazine clippings that centered around Chicago's Riot of 1968 and four old history books focusing on African Americans she remembered her parents reading to her and her siblings when she was a little girl. That afternoon four months ago, she scanned the newspaper articles and magazine clippings several times. Though the print in the articles said so, she couldn't recall her father being in jail for leading a civil rights march from the South Side to the mayor's house. "It was hard back then." That's all she said, her eyes misty, her brow wide, after she read the articles, their stories so cruel and hard to believe she thought she was reading pages from fiction bestsellers.



It was nothing like the living room her father described in his journal.


She dug deeper inside one of the suitcases and pulled out her father's dusty journal. Its pages were tarnished and turned up at the edges. The first entry read: "I've been here five weeks and every day all I've had to eat is dry toast for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Gotta get a job." She scanned down the journal and saw an asterisk. She smiled when she read the entry next to the asterisk. "October 12, 1945. I finally got a job at Boiling Automotive as an assembly line worker."

She turned her cloaked back to the picture window and looked at her living room. It was nothing like the living room her father described in his journal. She knew she was a long way from the leaky-roof, one room flat he called home in 1945. When she turned her gaze toward her living room's cathedral ceiling, she imagined leaves blowing off trees and dancing to the ground outside her father's one room flat. More than once, he told her the only furniture in the flat was a mildewed sofa that drooped in its middle where too many people sat for too long, and a splintered rocking chair. Yet, when he raised the window and listened to leaves crunch while Chicagoans living on the South Side walked on them, he believed the world pushed success into all his future days, days spent loving people in Chicago. It wasn't three years after he started welding dashboards, radios and horn buttons inside sedans and station wagons that he married her mama, Rebecca Armstrong.

Portia hung her head. She could still hear her father telling her, "Time flew after your mother and I got married at Mount Zion Baptist Church in 1947. Lord, after that, it wasn't long before we stood in front of you kids reading those thick history books on courageous African Americans. Your brothers and sisters begged us not to read those books. We paid them no mind. We read all about Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Crispus Attacks and Hariett Tubman to all seven of you children -- every Wednesday we did. You ate it up. Every word. I could see your eyes begging for more while your mother and I read from those books."

The words older than a decade, Portia still knew her father spoke the truth. She did love to read, especially literature. She guessed the long hours she spent reading to be a reason Darryl and her relationship fell apart. Darryl always did complain that she didn't pay enough attention to him.

She raised then lowered her shoulders with a sigh. Despite her loyalty and affection toward him, she told herself Darryl was right. She told herself she didn't pay enough attention to him. She told herself she didn't know how to love a man. Now here she was standing in front of her living room window trying to decide if she should go to The Chronicle's Christmas party, an annual event she hadn't missed since she bought her house ten years ago.

It was 1982. The leaves that were on the ground when Darryl spit, "I don't love you anymore!" at her didn't show themselves when she looked out the window. It was cold outside. The leaves were covered with snow.

It took her two hours to make up her mind, but she did drive to the Tribune Tower and attend The Chronicle's Christmas party. The party was crowded. She spent the night twirling and refreshing her glass of orange juice until her gaze fell across the ebony skin of a tall, broad shouldered man's smooth face. She learned what the man's name was by being nosy.

"Girl, Dennis is fine," a tall, slender Sista said with a wave of her hand. Her girlfriend, equally as slim, leaned forward and clung to her every word. "He has a nice house out by the Hub. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Biology, and a Master's Degree in Chemistry. In fact, he's teaching a Master's level Chemistry course at Chicago University. And, Girl, " Portia followed the woman's gaze while it crossed over Dennis' face, shoulders and thighs. "He's available."

It was midnight when Portia gathered her courage and introduced herself to Dennis. Her hands shook. Her voice cracked twice. "Hi. I'm Portia. I couldn't help but notice you from across the room."

Dennis smiled at her nervousness.

Twenty minutes into their conversation, Portia learned that Dennis loved children, weight lifting, running in early Saturday morning 10K road races and hiking. She learned that he was an only child, but, he was careful to inform her, "I'm not spoiled. I mean, yes. I was an only child, but my mother was a single parent. She worked forty hours a week as a city college clerk. I don't think she ever made more than eight thousand dollars a year. We didn't have a lot of luxuries."



She couldn't help but smile.

Dennis pushed fire beneath Portia's skin when he looked inside her eyes. While he talked, Portia thought about how not once during the party did she see him fondle a glass of liquor. She couldn't help but smile. A man drinking didn't escape her. Darryl saw to that. After living through six screaming years of his alcohol induced rages, she vowed to never love a man who drank again.

Dennis made her laugh. A deep, rolling chuckle raced out of his chest when he told her, "Two years ago while I was on my way to work at the university, I was in this car accident. Right. A cop rear-ended me. I was laid up in the hospital for two months after that cop ran into me. Goodness, I never thought there were so many lawyers in Chicago pulling for a Brother until that accident. I think every law firm in Chicago contacted me. They wanted to know if I wanted to sue the city. It got so bad at one point, to throw the lawyers off the scent of long money, I thought the hospital's medical staff was going to have to ship me out of the state to some unknown hospital until my back healed and I got on my feet again."

A civil court case attorney with six years experience at Courtney & Sons, a downtown law firm, an attorney who never had fewer than four cases a month, Portia's short Afro was turning grey. Dennis' humor worked like magic to take her thoughts away from work -- to heal her broken heart.

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Encouraging those with or who knows someone who's lived with breast cancer

Excerpt Three

She told the lady working the box office to give her two of the best front row seats the theatre had so Dennis and she could catch "A Raisin In The Sun."

"What do you want for dinner?" Dennis called before he closed the bathroom door. He already knew what she would answer. He knew she would either suggest The Trudor, a steak and ale restaurant, Dales Fish and Chips, or Swanks, a jazz club that served the best Fettuchini this side of heaven.

Portia laid the pick on her dresser and pat the top of her Afro. "Let's go to Swanks."

The following evening, as if good food wasn't enough to season a relationship with, after she backed her BMW out of Courtney & Sons' parking lot at 6:00, Portia drove to the Miriam Theatre. She told the lady working the box office to give her two of the best front row seats the theatre had so Dennis and she could catch "A Raisin In The Sun", one of the nation's early plays that showed black families in a positive light, while it toured Chicago.

That night, Dennis wasn't at her house when she drove her BMW up the side driveway. For that, she was glad. She raced inside her house. After she closed the door, she went straightway to the telephone. She dialed 555-2222 and waited for a familiar voice to answer.

"Hello?" The lady on the other line said.

"Hi Patty!" Portia enthused into the receiver. "It's Portia."

"Hey Girl. I know what you want. You're spoiling that man. It's not even a holiday." Patty clucked her tongue then she chuckled. "What are you going to send that gorgeous man of yours now?"

Portia grinned at the receiver. "Can I get an assortment of tulips, lilacs or yellow carnations? And, oh," she dug through the mouth of her purse for her gold Master Card. "I want the gift card to read -- Dennis, you mean so much to me. I love you with all my heart -- Portia."

Patty, owner of Tiffany's Flowers, a small shop that wired and shipped floral arrangements across the country answered, "You got it."

Portia hung up the telephone and waited for Dennis to come through the front door. She didn't have to wait long. She was sitting at her dining room table sipping hot, apple cinnamon tea when he pushed his key inside the lock in her front door.

"Hey, Baby," he called out before he crossed the living room floor and reached her side.

"Hey," Portia called back. "If you're not too tired, do you want to read some of Countee Cullen's poetry later tonight? I admire his talent. He's a writer who had the talent to author some of finest fiction bestsellers. We can order Chinese and eat while I read."

Dennis kissed her mouth with longing before he answered, "Yes. I'd like that."

The moon shined in the sky. Portia closed the book of poetry, placed it on a corner of her nightstand then told Dennis to 'roll over'. She climbed atop his stomach and reached to the nightstand. She grabbed a bottle of coconut oil. After she kissed Dennis' mouth, she saturated her fingers with the lubricant. She leaned across his long, trim body. She pushed and pulled her fingers over his thighs, stomach, back and chest. His chest hair slid between her fingers. She didn't stop moving her hands over his body until the ends of her fingers tingled, his shoulders and neck were free of tension, and the scent of oil billowed from her bed covers to the ceiling. "I love you," came away from her mouth before she tucked her shoulders into his and fell into a deep sleep.

Outside her bedroom window, the tree in her front yard budded. Tucked inside Dennis' love, she dreamed herself inside a lacy, white wedding gown. She smiled into the night when she dreamed the long aisle of Mount Zion Baptist Church into view. She slept long and peacefully.

The only thing she had left to do before she became Dennis' wife was to visit her physician, Dr. Kirnan. She had to have her blood drawn to complete the medical portion of her wedding license. Since her annual check-up was only one month away, earlier in the day when she telephoned Dr. Kirnan's office, she told Kathy, the receptionist to, "Oh, just go ahead and put me down for a pap and a breast exam too when I come in to have my blood drawn."

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Encouraging those with or who know someone who's lived wit breast cancer!

Excerpt Four

Portia was outside crying when her aunt walked through her parents' front door.

Portia placed her purple straw clutch purse on the bureau. Her Aunt Lillian gave her the purse Thursday for her 28th birthday. She scanned the top of the bureau. She hoped to find a note from Dennis. She smiled when she thought about how she had been her Aunt Lillian's favorite niece since she was two years old.

It was her Aunt Lillian who pulled her atop her lap and sang, in a broken, alto voice, "Hush brown sugar. Don't you cry. Auntie Lillie's gonna buy you a diamond ring. And if the check she buys it with bounces, she's gonna take that ugly ring back to the store and buy you a pack of bubble gum. The kind wrapped in paper with cartoons on it."

If uncertainty weren't filling her thoughts, Portia would laugh at the words to the song her Aunt Lillian sang to her twenty-three years ago. She was visiting Portia's parents' with her gold-toothed boyfriend.

Portia was outside crying when her aunt walked through her parents' front door. She'd fallen and busted her knees. But that wasn't the reason she cried. Tears came away from her eyes and "huh-huh-huh" came away from her heaving breasts because she lost her favorite doll. It was a black china doll. Its hair was shiny and curly -- just like Portia's. Its eyes were dark brown and big -- just like Portia's. Its mouth was small and more pink than red -- just like Portia's. Its face always wore a grin. It was a happy doll just like Portia was a happy little black girl -- happy until she lost her pretty, black china doll.

As soon as she saw her aunt's car, she raced inside the house. She ran to her crying, "I-I-I lost Sister. I-I-I lost my Sister doll." She didn't grin again until her aunt sang her the fixed-up version of Hush Little Baby. Two days later when her aunt drove to her parents' house with a new gold-toothed man at her side, Portia laughed and jumped. Her aunt kissed her forehead and pushed a brand new black china doll inside her arms.

Finished with the search, Portia frowned. The bureau top was bare.

Exhaustion sent one side of her face down when she pushed her left shoe off. She spent too much of her day walking. Hard corns on the outside of her smallest toes caught in her stockings. A raw ache stabbed the sides of her feet. She stopped moving and grimaced.

Her house keys clanged when they hit the top of the bureau. They fell next to her purse. Two tickets she purchased for Dennis and her to attend Saturday evenings Earth, Wind and Fire concert spilled out of the mouth of the purse. She leaned forward and rested her elbows against the top edge of the bureau. The afternoon having sent a crisis into her life, she hoped she hadn't purchased the tickets too soon.

She turned a pink telephone message in her hand. She stared at the numbers scribbled across its front. She didn't stop looking at the numbers until she pulled one of her dining room chairs away from the table and sat down. She picked up the telephone and dialed 555-2244.

"Hello?"

"Yes." She crossed her legs and pulled on her blouse collar. "Is Dr. Kirnan there?"

A long sigh went out of the nurse's mouth. "Who is this?"

"Por--"

"Oh. Portia." The nurse's voice went up. "Portia Fowler!"

"Ye-Yes." Portia pulled the receiver closer to her ear. "Hi, Linda. Ah -- I had tests performed nearly three weeks ago. Dr. Kirnan left me a message at work that my results were in. He said it was very important. I was at lunch when he called."

"Hang on. Let me get your medical record out of the file. Besides Dr. K, I'm here all by myself. Kathy went to get us something to eat."

Portia ran her fingers through her hair. She blinked hard twice. "Late night tonight, huh?"

"Yea. I'm covering the phones while Kathy's away. You know answering telephones isn't my repertoire."

As you know, after we discovered the lump in your left breast approximately three weeks ago, I scheduled you for a mammogram, an ultrasound and a biopsy.

Portia twisted the collar of her blouse and chuckled dryly.

"You home from court already?"

Portia swung her shoeless foot across the floor. "I don't go to court every day. I left the firm early today." She ran her hand back and forth across her brow.

"Aren't you getting married soon?"


After she wiped sweat off her forehead, Portia chuckled. She thought about the time when the firm discussed changing HMO carriers. She refused to switch doctors. If she had to pay monthly health care expenses out of her own pocketbook to keep Dr. Kirnan as her primary physician, she would. After being his patient since the day she was born, she knew no other doctor's office would embrace her with warmth and friendship the way Dr.Kirnan and his staff did.

She cleared her throat. "I'm waiting on my test results."

Linda took Portia's medical record out of the file. She scanned it before she returned her attention to the telephone. Her eyes ballooned. She pulled the receiver against her mouth and said, "Portia. Hold on. Let me get Dr. Kirnan. He's in the back office going through charts."

Portia stiffened her spine and chewed on her bottom lip. "What-does-it-say?"
"Now you know I can't tell you that. But, you know whatever your record says, we're going to take good care of you." She read Dr. Kirnan's scribble hurriedly. "Like you told me, it says here that Dr. Kirnan wants to talk with you today. Let me buzz him and let him know you're on the line."

Portia twirled her blouse collar between two of her fingers until she heard Dr. Kirnan's deep voice cross the wire.
"Portia. Portia?"
Moving to the back of the dining room chair, Portia arched her brow and pulled the receiver closer to her mouth. "Hello, Dr. Kirnan."

After he placed a chart on his desk, Dr. Kirnan smiled. "Hey, kid. I'm glad you returned my call. Thank you. How was work?"
Portia stiffened her upper lip. "Okay."
"Good Well." Dr. Kirnan ran his hand across his brow and sighed. "Portia, I have good news and bad news. What do you say we start with the bad news so we can work steadily up to the good news?"
She cleared her throat before she answered, "Sure."
"As yo--Are you sitting down?"
"Yes."
"Good." He paused and gave Linda a nod of thank you for placing Portia's medical record in front of him on his desk. "As you know, after we discovered the lump in your left breast approximately three weeks ago, I scheduled you for a mammogram, an ultrasound and a biopsy. We've covered a lot of bases. The bad news is, the lump is malignant. It's the size of a bean. The good news is, we can work to heal your body using a local treatment. I'm going to give you some therapies we can use to rid your body of this tumor. Although I'm your physician, this is your body we are talking about. I want you to take at least a week to make a decision. You tell me what form of treatment you prefer. We can talk for as long as you want. I'll answer every question you have. For every question I can't answer, I'll find an answer and get back to you right away. All right?"

She answered with silence.

To which he responded, "Portia? You all right?"

Nodding in quick jerks, she whispered, "Yes. Yes. Yes, I'm all right.

"You don't have to be, especially now. But if you are -- I'll continue."

She nodded again. "Go ahead."

When she returned the receiver to its cradle, she placed her head between her hands. Her face tightened and loosened in spasms. The room felt hot. She thought about opening a window or going outside. As soon as she stood, the front door opened.

Taking long strides, she went into the living room. At the edge of the living room, she chewed on her bottom lip and walked toward the first man in her life outside her father she knew beyond her fears, beyond each of her doubts, loved her -- her.

Dennis smiled across the living room at her. "Hi."

A yellow knit shirt clung to his arms. The pair of loose fitting jeans and the pair of blue and white sneakers he wore told her that he stopped off at home before he came to see her. She smiled hard. "Hi."

"How did everything go today?"

She extended her arms and created a T out of the top portion of her body. "Okay. How was your day? How did your students do on their exams?" She let out a deep breath, dropped her arms to her sides and examined the lines crossing his forehead. "What's wrong?"

He narrowed his brow. "I was going to ask you that."

She stepped back. She cautioned herself to smile. She knew a smile would camouflage her rising anger. "Can't I ask how your students did on the exam without something being wrong with me?"

His gaze traveled above her crossed arms. He looked at her with intent. "I think the results of your biopsy and blood work is more important. I mean. Didn't you tell me Dr. Kirnan was supposed to call you with the results today?"

She threw her head back and worked a scowl all around her mouth. Her arms went against her breasts so hard, it startled her. "I might have said that. I don't remember every thing I say."

He nodded before he let out a deep breath. "Portia, why are you acting like there's nothing to talk about? Why are you putting off facing this?"

Uncrossing her arms and digging the scowl into her face until her brow furrowed, Portia turned her back against his stare. She walked to the right of the house's front door toward her bedroom. Then, with a click of her heel, she jerked her shoulders to the left and stomped toward the kitchen. Dennis followed her.

The saloon-style kitchen door swished on their brackets when she pushed them. Near the edge of her glass top kitchen table, she slowed her steps. She listened to her low-heeled dress shoe click tip-tip-tap across the linoleum floor.

A second later, she pressed her palms down on the kitchen table and turned. She stood gape-eyed while she faced the counter that separated the stove and the refrigerator. She pulled her other low-heeled dress show off. She watched the shoe tumble to its side.

Dennis crossed the floor and shortened the distance that separated them. "There you go chewing on your lip."

She glared at him and slapped the table. "You know I'm angry, don't you?" She clenched her teeth. "You think you know everything about me."

"No. No. I don't think I know everything about you. You're too deep a woman, too interesting a woman, for me or anyone to be able to know everything about you." He shook his head from side to side as if he was trying to cut her rage in half. "I do know you're hurting."

She thought her arms crossed all on their own. "You take pride in knowing me well."

He raised his hand and turned its palm toward her. "No, Portia. Now. Come on."

"No." She stepped back and threw her right hand down to her side. Two warm tears came away from her eyes. They took their time getting down her face.

"Come on. Stop."



Every thing around her moved slow, almost stopped. The confession seemed more a half death than a spoken, a shared, truth.

She dragged her feet across the floor until the crown of her head reached below the bottom of Dennis' chin. "That was Dr. Kirnan's office! My test results are in! You can forget about how special you always say I am because I'm so different from everybody else! How I do and say what I want, not what I think everybody wants me to do or say! Forget it! Forget it! Not even ten minutes ago, I found out that I'm a one in eight American woman." She threw her head back. "That's right. I have breast cancer!" That said, more words came to her than she thought she had room for on her tongue -- angry, loud words -- soaked in pain. "I've had the malignant tumor in my left breast for ten years!"

Dennis stepped back. "Ten years?"

"Most tumors don't grow just-like-that, Dennis! It takes years for a lump to form in a woman's breast." She chewed on her bottom lip. "And I thought I was saving my life all those times I examined my breasts after I took a shower."

Dennis' brow went up. "What?"

"Ten years, Dennis. What! Are you deaf? I said it usually takes years for cancer to grow into the size lump a woman can feel. Most lumps don't even show up on mammograms as soon as they form."

"How do you know all of this?"

She chewed her bottom lip. "Dr. Kirnan just told me." She raised her hands. When they came down, her face washed with tears. Every thing around her moved slow, almost stopped. The confession seemed more a half death than a spoken, a shared, truth. Hearing her voice run, loud and rocky, she cautioned herself not to deliver a jeremiad.

"Dr. Kirnan said I have a lump the size of a bean. Since I've already had a mammogram, an ultrasound and biopsy, I told Dr. Kirnan to go ahead and schedule me for a lumpectomy. He wanted me to wait and think about it, but I said 'no'. Dr. Kirnan thinks the surgery coupled with radiation treatments will rid my body of cancer."

Dennis' eyes ballooned. "What is a lumpectomy?"

Portia talked through clenched teeth. "They remove the tumor, not the entire breast!" She turned her back to him. "Do I have to explain all this to you! I just found out myself!"

Dennis folded his arms and sighed. "I'm asking because I care." Then he narrowed his brow and raised his voice. "Are you sure this lumpectomy will cure you? I mean, what if it doesn't get it all?"

Moving as slowly as a doll on a china stand, she turned and faced him. "Who are you? You're going to tell me what I need? I don't want a doctor cutting my whole breast away from me! Not too many doctors perform lumpectomies, but Dr. Kirnan told me he's fairly certain it'll work." She tossed her hands into the air. "I'm taking the chance." Then she tightened her brow and stared down the bridge of her nose at Dennis. "And cure." She chuckled dryly. "Cure? Cure. Cure! There ain't no cure!" She raised her voice until veins at the sides of her head pumped. "And I'm not going to Atlantic City with you this summer! I'm not walking behind all those pretty women in their little bikinis while they sashay in front of you men." She shook her head. "No. Un-un. Not after I've been cut on."

"Por--"

"And don't you go calling your mother and asking her a bunch of stupid questions. She never had breast cancer. She can't tell you how I feel."

"Now, Por--"

"And don't hang around me pretending that you really love me when all you do is feel sorry for me either. Go on." She shooed him away from her with the side of her hand. "Go on. Go get yourself one of those fine women. Go get yourself a woman who doesn't have to be cut on, a woman who doesn't have to live the rest of her life knowing she has breast cancer."

"Please! Would you--"

"Don't think you have to stay with me. I can manage just fine without you. I don't need a man in my life. You don't have to love me if you don't want to." Her gaze rolled down to her blouse collar, to her hands, to her knees, to her feet, to the floor. When her gaze climbed again to Dennis' brow, tears wetting her face slowed. "What am I crying about? It's always something with me. I get one good thing and lose another. It's always been that way with me." Her throat tightened. She swallowed hard. "Every time I think I'm going to break up, break into a million little pieces, somebody rescues me -- and all that happens is . . ." She spread her hands. Her shoulders heaved. "I get knocked down again."

Dennis' shoulders went up. "Come here. I love you. Let me hold you."

She pushed back, out of the reach of his extended arms. "That's the most you can do? You can't cry? You can't grieve with me?"

"Portia, you know we've talked about this before. We've known about this since you had your annual check-up -- what? Three weeks ago. You'll beat this. We both know that. Early detection can only help. It's better that you found out now rather than two years from now. You've done the right thing. You'll beat this. This isn't going to last forever."

"That changes things?" She took another step backwards. "It's so like you to think knowledge changes every thing!"

He softened his voice. Tears pooled in his eyes. "Come on. Portia, I love you. You know I'm not going anywhere. We belong together. Nothing's gonna change that."

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Portia, a classic African American inspirational book about a book character named Portia has been entertaining African American readers for more than a decade. Portia is the first book author Denise Turney published. Portia, published in August 1998, is an inspirational book about a Chicago Illinois, defense attorney who goes to court on behalf of African Americans living in Chicago Illinois. Growing up on the South Side of Chicago, Portia is from a loving African American family, African Americans who are involved in the community. Portia inspires and motivates book readers. Portia has also been referred to as a classic by African American women who love reading positive African American books.