“38.9 degrees” She says after taking the thermometer from his mouth.
Nick’s brown eyes are luminous and wet, like the reflection of a full moon on silver water. We are back on 3B the oncology ward, and there is a roaring streptococcus infection in his CVC (central venous catheter). When his fever started on Monday at 11PM we were kicked off the new big ward with the coat hooks. As I was packing our room I jokingly said I would rather stay.
“Our staff are not trained to deal with very sick cancer patients.” Then we better get outa here.
Last weekend while Frankie and his Dad were here our niece Sherri, her hubby Mark and their son Curtis invited our boys to feed a Beluga whale at the aquarium. Mark’s brother works at Vancouver’s Stanley Park Aquarium and we got a back stage pass.
Nicholas sat down a lot. His face was either screwed up in a grimace, or with an expression of one who had a world of weight on his shoulders. It breaks me to see a kid the age of eleven with that on his face. Outside of the hospital his sickness is massively obvious. I’m freaking out because he is more ill than I know. And I wonder at the fear I believe he hides.
When Nick moved schools he made a friend who is a girl.
“So, she’s your girlfriend.” I said.
“Mommm, she’s NOT my girlfriend!” I guess eleven is too young to call her that.
Melanie has phoned Nick at the Ronald McDonald House and the hospital. Her parents, who met Nicholas when he was at school, but I’ve just met now, drove their daughter to Vancouver to visit Nicholas.
Her mother tells me, “Melanie was devastated when she found out he had cancer. She prays for Nicholas every night before bed.”
I left the room to Nick and his little blonde friend with the big blue eyes. She was busy unwrapping and setting on his over- the- bed table little figures she had molded out of colored wax.
“F-ankie!” Paul pronounces it the same way Nick did when he started to talk. Three year old Paul does the Chemo Lurch down the hallway toward my fourteen year old son. In the way of children receiving chemotherapy, especially really young ones, Paul walks awkwardly. Instead of moving his arms for balance as he runs, he holds his arms out in front, like Frankenstein. And he puts so much effort into getting around, yet he moves in slow motion. My tall boy lets Paul slam into his leg. He reaches down and touches the little boy’s smooth head. “Hi Paul.”
Paul has wrapped his arms around Frankie’s leg. His mother Pam grins. “You’re such a great guy F-ankie.” Frankie blushes. We parents find tender amusement in watching our kids interact at the House. Frankie is a gentle soul – I wish this heartache wasn’t happening to him, too.
Wednesday April 28, 1999