Angels sent by God to guide me,
Be my light and walk beside me,
Be my guardian and protect me,
On the paths of life direct me.
~Barbara Mark and Trudy Griswald
Nicholas’ pillow and bed are littered with hair; he will soon join the many little bald-headed people. His brown eyes just got bigger in contrast to the growing expanse of pale skin where his hair used to be. With a jolt I realize he looks like a kid with cancer. I need to leave the room, and have my first big, hot tears and snotty nose, brokenhearted, cancer-educated cry since his diagnosis. God has not been a big part of my life, but I’m praying now. My first Mom died when I was five years old, then Dad died when I was pregnant with Frankie, but children are not supposed to die before their parents.
Today he keeps vomiting; heaving like he would turn inside out because there is nothing left inside him. And he hasn’t pooped since Tuesday, but he hasn’t eaten anything to poop out. The nurses give him Gravol, taking his temperature, touching him with warm hands. He sleeps, even his lips are pale, between bouts of sickness.
Dr. Derek, one of the oncologists, takes us into the bad news meeting room and says he is worried about the continuing peripheral count of blasts (immature cancer cells) in Nick’s blood work. He would like to see much less. The peripheral count is the cancer cells that have filled the bone marrow and spilled out into the blood stream.
Nick is quiet and restless in his bed. I unfold the sleeping cot next to the wall and ready it with sheets. It’s better than some of the camping I’ve done. Nick’s Dad says it kills his back.
He watches TV. I lie on my side and watch his face. His profile shows a pink feverish- looking cheek. I’m thinking of home and fresh smelling, damp -haired, pajama-clad boys spread out on the couch or living room floor after having a bath and before sleep. We turn out the light by 10:30 p.m.
February 6, 1999