Heather and Lance arrive from home to visit. I was her maid of honor when she married this sweet guy.
“Nick? Nick. It’s Heather and Lance.” Softly she speaks. She lays a hand on the blanket over his shoulder. They haven’t seen Nick since he made it home in August.
He’s still hiding under the covers using the PCA to dose himself with morphine, and not because of pain but because he wants to lose the world in sleep – a world gone freaking mad.
How many hundreds of hours have I sat beside his bed? In the quiet semi dark his breath lulling me to the edge of sleep, and there my mind sometimes making strange shapes out of dark and sad thoughts. I’m clutching his cold hand; at times we pull each other, and he a mere stick of a boy, but more and more I have to tug him. There is a corner and we have no choice but to turn. My feet are grief-heavy. We’re leaving some of Nick behind, but to stop now means to lose all of him. I look back at the small form, vaporous gray and disappearing, the innocent child he once was.
Thin fingers emerge and pull the covers away from his head. Nicholas smiles with hollow cheeks, and showing teeth that seem too large for his face.
His voice is dry. “Hi,” he says.
Both Heather and Lance draw a breath in unison. “Oh Nick.”
Saturday, October 2 1999
Nick resists but I ask Lance and Heather to drive us out to Airdrie to see Dori and the family. My sister and her husband make a fuss, settling Nicholas onto the couch. A little work went into preparing Nick before leaving the hospital. His face and hands were washed and his big teeth brushed and a good thing too because he’s smiling a bit.
His three younger cousins are whirlwinds, wrestling with each other on the floor, performing. Just watching them is tiring Nicholas. When he struggles to his feet and shuffles off to the bathroom the adults watch surreptitiously, the kids not so much hiding their curiosity. Dori tells me they ask her questions about Nicholas and cancer. After today they’re worried and begin to ask, “Is Nick going to die?”
Sunday, October 3
Lance and Heather leave us for home. Nicholas doesn’t balk too much when I suggest we go hang out at the Ronald McDonald House while I do some laundry.
Blood count paperwork is given to me when we return to the unit. I thank the nurse and slide shut the plate glass door. She stands for a second at the door but I turn away, too caught up with the paper in my hand to really see her. Nicholas is sitting on his bed. Where there have been no numbers I now see figures. I’m terrified. Bone marrow activity has returned and counts are back with a leap onto the scale.
WBC white blood count 0.3
AGC absolute granulocyte count 287
My eyes move slowly down the paper. I can barely breathe. I look up at Nicholas and my heart thumps painfully at his expression, not one a child of 12 should wear.