The nurses come often to count his pulse, and measure his blood pressure and temperature. As expected his cheeks turn bright pink with a fever. Tylenol is being given at regular intervals yet he complains of a sore throat and “hurting all over.” Still the noxious chemicals don’t end. The Ara-C started yesterday on this chemo protocol.
Mom tells me, “Susan, get out of here, go, you look like hell.” My mother – the lady who is always neatly dressed in coordinated colors and material, her short hair with curl and body. She tells me I should cut my poker-straight hair if I’m not going to do anything with it and just let it hang in my face. My sister and step mother are alike in that they both care about their appearance, more than I do. Tonight my mom sleeps on the cot beside Nick while I wander aimlessly around the House.
On March 9 they will again drill into his pelvis to check for leukemia at the source – bone marrow biopsy. On March 16 (Mom’s birthday) chemotherapy will be started again. I can’t believe this is happening to my kid – to us…to me. My kid has cancer??!! I’ve been experiencing a buzzing in my ears. The blood is roaring through my veins and my head feels as if it is miles above my body. Sometimes it’s as if I’m looking out from deep inside myself where it is safe, and then I’m detached from the bad news or the pain Nick suffers. If I were living on the surface of my body where my nerve endings prickle, I would be jelly – vulnerable and useless.
I spin in circles, on the edge of an abyss, with the stench of cancer oozing from its depths and I struggle with the realization there is no place to run away with my boy.
Nicholas has no Absolute Neutrophil Count (ANC) or granulocyte (AGC) – nothing is showing on his blood work. No good cells. No bad cells. The chemo has cleaned out his bone marrow and it’s not producing anything. Poor little guy is in the race now.
The nausea is constant. When he isn’t puking he’s sleeping. This morning he lies in deep slumber with short, little puffs when he exhales as if even breathing is hard work.
I’m relieved to see dark brown fuzz returning to his small head. With hair he looks less like a kid with cancer. They give him high doses of the steroid prednisone. It makes his cheeks round, and they appear almost swollen like he has a toothache on both sides of his face.
His eyelids flutter, so heavy, an effort to keep half way open. His soft brown eyes are looking through me, past me, I think I should turn around to see what he does, and then I watch a wetness spread on the thin sheet draped across his skinny, little boy groin. He stirs. Recognition grows in his eyes and is followed by tears. “Oh Mom, I peed, I peed the bed.” He moans, horrified and my heart melts. “It’s OK Sweetheart, you couldn’t help it. It’s not your fault. Come on, don’t cry.”