“X ray,” says the porter. She bundles Nick in a blanket after helping him into a wheel chair. I wait in his room. He returns 45 minutes later and I help him back into bed.
“Ultrasound.” A different porter pushes a wheel chair into the room. Nicholas jumps, he’s just slipped into slumber. “I didn’t know any tests had been ordered,” I say. The porter shrugs.
Crap! I hate it when I’m not told what’s going on. Now that Dr. Kent has left us we’ve gotten tossed around from doctor to doctor. There have been so many unfamiliar faces, and I’m not even sure who our main doctor is.
The angry red rash from the shingles is traveling from Nick’s little butt down his leg. The virus attacks a nerve path. “It feels sharp, like I’m being stabbed with a knife,” he tells me. His blood counts are holding at 0.25. The Ronald McDonald House is concerned that Nick may have been infectious while there on his day pass on Sunday. I fervently hope that no other child has been infected.
Outside this 3rd floor window I see areas of lawn and flower beds, and pathways and road ways meandering around the sprawling complex that make up the children’s and women’s hospitals. Tanned people in shorts and tee shirts are walking, riding bicycles or sitting on benches and the grass enjoying the bright, warm day. I shift from foot to foot. Irritation burns inside my gut. I want what normal looks like, what those people are having. Intense longing for home fills me, then a wave of rage that makes me want to punch something. I have to turn away.
This is Ward 3H, where they put us after evicting Nick from the oncology floor when he became infected with shingles. Nicholas reclines in bed with a stack of pillows behind his back, and the over bed table is pulled next to him with a deck of Uno cards upon it. It was my idea to play a game. Since waking up this morning, he’s been lying quietly, closing his eyes for a few minutes, then opening them and staring at the ceiling. I’ve been wearing a trail from his bed to the window.
He’s been watching me, and picking up on how I’m feeling. He bears more grief and pain than most do in a life time, and I’m feeling sorry for myself?
“C’mon Mom.” He coaxes with a grin. I sit at the foot of his bed, pick up the deck and shuffle. It isn’t long before he giggles and lays his cards down with thin fingers that tremble slightly. “I win,” he says.
“Good job Sweetie.” I chuckle and pick up the deck to shuffle again.
My thoughts drift to home. What I would give to be there with a healthy Nick and this nightmare behind us. I’m feeling really lonely. I’m also worried about Frankie because he has a swollen wrist that hurts. His Dad is going to take him to see the doctor.
Last month on the oncology floor I ran into a volunteer fireman from the same hall at home where FH is a member. His daughter Natalie is outgoing, friendly, the same age as Frankie (14) and rides the school bus into town with both of my boys. Surprised to see D, I called out his name. His smile was small and sad. “Hey!” I touched his arm. “What are you doing here?”
“Natalie has a tumor in her leg,” said D. Then he sighed, a big, shuddering heave of his chest.
My mouth fell open.
A few days later he was cooking breakfast at the big gas stove in the Ronald McDonald House kitchen. What are the chances of two kids from the same area being diagnosed with cancer within months of each other?
Playing Uno with Nick I think of Frankie’s wrist, and Natalie and bone cancer, and realize that stranger things have happened than one family having two children diagnosed with cancer. I might want to shoot myself if that happens.
Thursday, Aug. 12
“No. Don’t use that one. Use this one, the other is for flushing,” says Nick.
“I’m sorry little buddy. We don’t get many of these on this floor.” She’s fiddling with one of the central line tubes hanging outside his chest. The nurses on 3H are not familiar with his procedures. 12 year old Nicholas with his chin on his chest, and a worried little face tries to help as the nurse fumbles.
She leaves the room then comes back later carrying a syringe and alcohol swab. She stands before his bed. “Hey Nick, I saw your blood work.”
I rise from my chair.
On the telephone Frankie tells me his wrist feels better. I’m weak with relief. Our kind doctor at home, Dr. Walton, will run more tests if Frankie’s wrist stills bothers him after Frankie returns from visiting my sister Dori in Airdrie, Alberta.
More puking! Nicholas is weak from it. At least the terrible shingles seem under control as the rash isn’t as fiery and is less painful. Now, a thin brown stream of poop runs from his bum like a faucet turned on, yet he doesn’t eat enough to keep a sparrow alive.
Rosemary and Larry have recently moved to Vancouver Island. I sure do miss them.
I sit by the window looking out at the night. I wish I could see the stars but there are too many city lights. The IV pumps behind me are reflected in the glass. Their faces, made of numerous small, and various shapes of multicolored lights, some blinking, make me think of the cock pit of a space ship. The pumps click, whir and hiss.
“Thanks Mom.” His voice is a breathless whisper.
“What’s that sweet heart?” I swivel around in my seat.
He lays on his side facing me. I wonder how long he’s been awake. The covers are pulled up, and one hand is tucked under his chin. His brown eyes glimmer like moon lit pools. He slowly blinks. “Thanks Mom, for looking after me so good.”
“Oh baby. I’m so darn lucky to be your mom.” I tell him.
Later, when he breathes evenly, and I’m tired of chasing the bad thoughts from my head, I do something I’m not sure of, not accustomed to doing, but now it seems the only thing I should do, the only thing I can do. I look up at the sky and imagine I see stars, and I pray, “God, I have many blessings, but my children are my light. Please don’t take this one from me.”