We’ve slept the night at Larry and Donna’s farm west of Olds, AB. Woken to the sounds of farm animals we have breakfast in the sun drenched kitchen. Larry goes off to work, but Aaron his son, takes us for a tour around the perimeters of the farm, along gravel grid roads undulating through prairie land laid to rest in fallow fields, and through surprisingly deep coulees, Alberta’s rendition of green valleys so lovely to this homesick girl missing the mountains of British Columbia.
September 9, 1999 Larry and Donna have fueled their big motor home and given us the keys. We leave for Auntie and Uncle’s campground in Strathmore. It will take almost four hours to drive. The boys take turns sitting in the roomy captain’s passenger seat next to FH who drives. The huge vehicle lumbers along the highway like a ferry boat. I follow in the car because Nick will have to leave the campground in the morning to go back to the hospital for blood work.
A flatbed truck going in the opposite direction passes the motor home. The brake lights flash, the turn signal goes on and the motor home pulls off the road. Immediately I’m worried. I pull in behind the motor home. FH, Frankie and Nick are standing in front of the vehicle. They point at the spider web of cracks in the smashed windshield made from a thrown rock by the passing flatbed truck.
Saturday, September 10, 1999
“You’re camping?” The nurse cocks an eyebrow at me as she finishes with Nick’s central line. He’s wearing warm and slightly grubby sweat pants and sweater, and it feels good to see him this way. I grin at his tired but happy smile as he eases himself off the chair. I pulled him from his bunk in the camper early this morning for the drive from Strathmore to Calgary. He’s eager to get back to the campground. “Let’s go Mom!”
The nurse is loud and clear she doesn’t approve of Nick being out camping. What if something happens? I get that. Maybe we are being irresponsible. When he was diagnosed I was freaking obsessed with doing everything that everybody wanted us to do. And Nicholas was so obedient, enduring and patient and so damn brave for a little boy.
I don’t believe BC Children’s Hospital prognosis that he will die. I hate thinking about it and shove thoughts away, but now it is so very important, so massively imperative that he does as much as he can regardless of cancer, and then… more so, because of cancer.
Nicholas certainly is showing he’s had enough of life with cancer.
In little bits my sweet kid is disappearing. Cancer and treatment is diminishing his body. His poor kidneys are failing, he’ll never have his own children, I’m told his heart, his liver and even his eyesight may be permanently affected.
In trying to save his life are we losing the child, the person inside the body?
More and more we sit in silence. Nick in his bed and me in the chair, lost inside our heads. He often refuses to play card games, watch TV or have me read to him. He tells me, “I don’t want to hear about normal people doing normal things and fun things when it just makes me so mad that I’m stuck here in this STUPID hospital with STUPID cancer!”
When he was well he begged for his stories before bed. Each night I could read the same story “Mortimer,” and he would giggle hysterically every time.
Nick and I are heading for the exit when I’m handed the paper work with his blood work results. The nurse puts her warm hands over mine and when I look into her face her smile is brilliant. I scan the paper once and then twice. With my mouth hanging open I look at her and she’s nodding. “I know! I checked it twice.”
The blasts (baby cancer cells) are not there!
Nicholas and I chatter all the way to the campground in Strathmore. He tells me about all the fun and amazing and normal things he’s going to do when he finally gets to go home.