Called into the meeting room on the oncology floor we are asked if the three of us would be tested for a bone marrow match for Nick.
We have to leave Frankie out of these meetings. “How do we do get tested?” His young face is worried as we walk back to his brother’s room. I rub the bridge of my nose where my glasses sit.
His Dad answers him, “We don’t know Frank, (I never call him that) but it seems like good news because it’s a plan, and maybe that’s how people with leukemia get better.”
Nicholas frets about the removal of the last lung tube, and there is another bone marrow biopsy, and lumbar puncture. “They said that it wouldn’t hurt, and that I wouldn’t remember, but I did, and they were pushing the needle into my back so hard I was sliding off the bed!” He’s crying, his mouth is wrinkling at the edges, as it always has, ever since he was a baby.
“I’m so sorry. I wish this were different, and that it would end, but you have to hang in there. You can’t give up.” Nick’s little hand is lost inside his father’s warm clasp.
Another chemo called Vincristine will soon start.
Frankie sits in front of his school books with a pencil in one hand and his head cradled in the other. Maybe he completes one page but the teacher wants ten. “I read this stuff over and over again but nothing sinks in.”
Take away the strangeness of this new world and it doesn’t change the fact that school work is not his favorite thing.
Frankie and I walk to the grocery store, with our collars pulled up against the wind. My head is full of hospital noises so I stumble over words, failing miserably at saying uplifting and wise things to help my fourteen year old through this cruel tilt in his world.
Frankie and his Dad are out when a gentle young doc we call Dr. Trevor comes to remove the last lung tube. Nick sits up in bed, his nervousness reflected in Dr. Trevor’s voice as he readies his patient. “Today you lose another hose tying you down, Buddy.”
“It took a surgery to put in and now you’re just gonna pull it out?” He is skeptical and afraid yet Nick obediently lies down on his side and takes a big breath as he is told. Dr. Trevor quickly begins pulling out of Nick’s side a piece of cooked spaghetti that seems like it might have no end. All three of us exhale at the same time when, triumphantly, the tube is held high for us to see.
“That was easy!” The smile on Nick’s face lights up the room as if there are one hundred happy people dancing and having a party.
I can’t stop yawning. Tonight, I’m at The House with Frankie working on a few loads of laundry, and then I’ll have a bath and go to bed.