Thursday, September 16
My hair is ratty, dry and the ends are split. I smoke too much and I hate myself. I stink. I make my poor sick kid retch at the nauseating odor clinging to my clothes, hair and breath. I eat whatever people put in front of me, here and there, fast food, microwave food, and I feel like a sloth. At home I’m busy on the acreage; I’ve never been good at sitting still. Now, our nerves are reduced to a hard, sharp edge, our lives made up of hospital rooms and endless sitting, waiting for chemo, tests, and test results. We hold our breath and wait for the ultimate goal, the words to set us free: “Your son is cured. Take him home!”
My baby sister, bless her, says I look like shit. Thanks, I say. She takes me to Airdre, to her friend Rochelle’s home and treats my hair to a cut and color.
She drives me back into Calgary and FH meets us on the doorstep. It’s a replay of the day he met me in the foyer of the Ronald McDonald House in Vancouver and told me my mother was dead. What he has to say weighs heavy for him, and I, stupidly enough, think to myself that he looks like shit.
He recites the results of Nicholas’ blood work: white blood count (WBC 0.4) and the baby precursor cancer cells (Blasts 0.5). The cancer has returned. My gut, as usual, attempts to reject the partially digested remains of my lunch onto the dry brown lawn in the front yard of the Calgary Ronald McDonald House.
My sister takes Frankie with her back to Airdrie, away from his grieving, messed up parents, and his little brother, Nicholas, a sweet, exhausted bald-headed angel, blessed and oblivious, asleep tucked into his bed in our room. Another bone marrow biopsy is scheduled for Tuesday and possibly chemo on Wednesday.
September 19 Sunday 1999
We run to Olds, because we can, because understanding and at-the-bottom-of-his-bag-of-curing-Nicholas-Beresford tricks Dr. Anderson says, “Go, and take this time with your boy.”
“Faster,” I hiss to FH. The boys are in the back seat. “Drive faster, as fast as you can, and let’s see if we can’t outrun this motherf*cking cancer!”
We take the boys back to Larry and Donna’s farm. They care for us. Frankie is kept busy with their son Aaron riding the 4 wheelers and shooting BB guns. Donna and I exchange her small kitchen bowls, she gives me clean ones and takes the soiled ones, and with tissue she wipes out and flushes down the toilet scant traces of Nicholas’ mucus vomit. If he’s not sleeping, he’s puking.
“He needs to eat,” Donna says to no one in particular. She coaxes, and concocts and cooks, the house full of flavorful odors that for everyone, except Nicholas, is making us drool.
Monday, September 20
FH just couldn’t get our old Pontiac to fly. Nicholas is admitted back into Alberta Children’s Hospital cancer in-patient cluster with a fever.