This is the day before Nick’s 12th birthday. We wake up at the Ronald McDonald House and have breakfast as a family in the kitchen. Nick has been given a taste of the outside world and he’s savoring the last of it. On the way to the cancer clinic he asks even though he knows the answer. “Can’t we just not go?”
With big sighs and a few stomps of his feet he shows his displeasure. Yet, he climbs onto this stretcher, sits in that chair, does as he is told. The nurses cajole and coax him along, like a fish struggling on the end of a line, he is reeled in. His dad, brother and I shuffle along, following, as if we’re the school of fish he has been taken from. Into one room from the next, onto the elevator and the doors open onto 3B. Nick’s shoulders drop as he walks down the hall, and through the door marked with an “8.” He pulls back the covers of the bed, lies down and quickly falls asleep.
Once again he is admitted as an inpatient into BC Children’s Hospital. No time is wasted in hanging a bag of platelets on the IV pole. Two nurses go through the ceremony of double checking the chemotherapy. It’s a new cocktail the doctors discussed with us, not that it makes any sense: Etopside (VP-16) and Ifosamide, finished off with a Mesna flush.
In a few hours a tall and handsome young man is walking down the hall. When Dave Scatchard called the House they gave him Nick’s room number. As the sun sets outside the window Dave sits on the edge of Nick’s bed. Their laughter carries into the hallway.
Thursday, July 22
Happy Birthday my sweet Nicholas! This morning I choke on utter despair. I look down on the sleeping face of my newly twelve year old son lying in this hospital bed. Tall and skinny, with big hands and feet like a massive puppy. Tubes from the IV pumps disappear as long white worms under the covers and t shirt he wears. There are lumps from the hardware that sprout from his chest. I imagine the scars on his back and chest.
I close my eyes and ask, Why God?
Fourteen of the staff (nurses, doctors, ward clerk, social worker, his teacher) with letters taped to their backs spelling “Happy Birthday Nicholas” danced an enthusiastic, slightly off beat version of the Macarena in the playroom for an elated Nick. The beautiful and talented Kristina from Child Life baked a luscious, wildly decorated chocolate cake, and arranged for the Vancouver Fire Department to bring a fire truck into the turn around outside the entrance of the hospital. The firemen helped any child who was able to join in snooping around a real fire truck.
Yesterday, the hospital was Nick’s prison and the staff was guards, but today I see beautiful people striving to make this day special.
Dave Scatchard seems more like an angel. He took Nick, and his brother Frankie, and Nick’s talkative roommate Kyle, over to his place to play pool.
FH and I went to St Paul’s to see Grandpa Len. Back at the House we met up with our boys, Dave S. and Kristina from Child Life. We had supper, singing, gifts and more cake with our new friends – the other kids with cancer, and their families. It was a double birthday celebration because my little buddy Christina-Katarina- Ballerina is celebrating her seventh birthday.
Our little trip home doesn’t seem real; it’s disappearing into a haze. I’m all mixed up, and can’t find top or bottom. I find myself slipping back into what has become our reality. The Ronald McDonald House is our home and the people here, our family.