Sunday, Feb. 7
Nick says he feels better today. I hear soft puffs under his covers. He rolls his eyes when I grin at him and pinch my nostrils, “Mom, don’t!” Maybe he will poop soon.
My always smiling cousin Charlotte and her husband Gerry bring energy into the hospital room, and soon even Nicholas is laughing. A familiar face from the volunteer fire hall at home peeks around our half-open door. Every hour while at The House one of the three family phones rings for us as our community learn about Nick’s cancer.
FH (my husband) or I hear JR’s caring voice on the other end of the phone every couple of days. JR has become our spoke person and is organizing people at home who want to help. I think the whole town knows that Nicholas is here.
Wednesday, Feb. 10
Almost every one of the 13 bedrooms at the Ronald McDonald House has a family. In the big kitchen on the main floor I slide open the glass door of one of the two refrigerators, and find a container of juice labeled with our name. A warm, homey smell comes from a simmering pot on the six burner gas stove. Sitting at one of the yellow pine kitchen tables below a big window LC smiles at me over the rim of her cup and I sit down beside her. We met a few days ago.
“Three years ago my daughter went through this, but she’s relapsed.”
“I thought this was over, forever, once you got a remission.” My mouth is suddenly dry and my tongue feels thick.
As if out of breath from running up a hill, LC’s shoulders lift when she draws in air and then exhales through her mouth, a huge sigh. “I wish, Susan.”
I can hear little girl giggles in the family room at The House. LC and six-year-old KC have their heads together over a book. How does God let these terrors happen to a child even once, but twice? And they know what is coming; they’ve traveled this nightmarish road.
KC is wrapped in a blanket, her dark eyes looking at me from over her father’s shoulder, as he carries her through the quiet early morning hallways of the children’s ward to travel to the BC Cancer Agency for full body radiation. She vomited in the parking lot after her first treatment.
She is receiving enough noxious chemicals to destroy her again-diseased bone marrow in preparation for a bone marrow transplant; it takes just one hidden mutant cell to infect the new marrow. The donor marrow gives hope for a new life, but she has to be taken near death before she can receive it.
The donor marrow is transfused like red blood cells. It drips into a large vein and amazingly finds its way into the bones where it starts to take root. Transplant patients can expect to spend one hundred or more days in a germ free cubicle while their bodies become accustomed to the new blood factory taking up residence inside their bones.
LC is an x-ray technician from Saskatchewan and a walking reference book. I’m consumed with curiosity. The medical books I read don’t say what to tell Nick when his face gets furry like a monkey from the medications, or, how to distract him when he is going crazy from being locked up in isolation. Or, how to stay sane when as bad as it is, the doctors say it gets worse. LC keeps answering my questions even when the tissue in her hand has gotten soggy.