I’m at the Ronald McDonald House in Vancouver. My trip home was nine days. I needed the break but being at our house without my boys and husband is like spaghetti without the sauce, or, a sailboat without wind.
FH (my husband) and I have called a truce, putting our petty differences aside. Nicholas received chemotherapy infusions through his central catheter for five days as an outpatient. March 19 was the first day – Day 0. Today is Day 6. Through his daily blood work we watch his “counts”: the red cells, the white cells, the platelets, and see the numbers drop as they die. Inside his bone marrow where the new cells are born, normal and cancerous, the chemicals do their work.
Without his immune system it is a given he will fever (become febrile) with the start of an infection and then be hospitalized, again. (Dear Reader, I want you to learn how this works)
I hover with the thermometer. The state of immune suppression is called “Nutripenia”. When a patient is immune suppressed they are “Nutripenic”. His body cannot fight off what he would normally, on a day to day basis. He will need antibiotics.
Dear Reader,am I killing you with explanations?
Saturday March 27
FH and Frankie have left for home in the Kootenays. I’m flat inside. I tuck Nick into his bed, walk a few steps and climb into my own. We lie in the dark. The window is open a tiny bit but the air in the room feels heavy. I can hear his skinny eleven year old body moving under the covers.
I know the answer but I whisper, “Are you OK?”
“I don’t feel very good, Mommy.” In seconds I’m next to him with my hand on his cheek. It’s hot. He sighs. “Do we have to go now?”
We are in the hospital, having been quickly admitted through the emergency ward. Oncology patients are ushered into examination rooms as soon as they arrive to avoid contact with other patients waiting for doctors. It makes me uncomfortable to be in that area of the hospital as the infectious bugs are countless. But, just being inside this building is like peeing in a swimming pool – everyone is gonna swim in it.
With a little coaxing and some help my youngest child, my second born son, crawls onto the small bed in the room and curls up, pale except for the dull red glow in his cheeks.
I want to cry.
It seems a profoundly terrible mistake, some cataclysmic alteration in the universe, a horrific crime that children with such zest for life lie in a fetal position while cells mutate inside their bodies. I can’t believe that any merciful God would have a hand in this.
At eleven o’clock at night, Nicholas is admitted back onto the children’s oncology ward in British Columbia Children’s Hospital.