druidspell: For you? Anything. (Anything)
[personal profile] druidspell
I've talked around Ross' sickness a lot--the most common phrase I use is a variation on "when I was twelve, I watched this boy die by inches." And for what it is, that's a phrase that says a lot: I was young, he was incredibly sick, the illness lasted a long time and took him away bit by bit.
Here's what I haven't said since I actually was twelve.

First, the basic facts:

  1. Ross is my younger cousin on my mom's side; his mother is my mom's "Irish twin" sister.
    • Mom and Aunt Anne are 376 days apart. Mom is the oldest in her family of 8 siblings; the five oldest are all roughly a year or so apart--the biggest age gap is between Aunt Anne and the next sibling, my Aunt Doris.

  2. Ross is often referred to as my twin separated at birth (by five years, two different sets of parents, and different hospitals.) He's my mini-me, my best friend, my most treasured person in my life.
    • Possibly even more than my soulsister, but it's hard to say; once someone's that close, it becomes a "how many angels on the head of a pin" question: it's impossible to answer for sure, and debating it is something only people with a lot of time on their hands and a desperate need of a hobby discuss.

  3. I began babysitting Ross every Friday night when I was eleven and he was six; I stole the job from my older sister Stephanie.
  4. In April 1998, when he was six and a half years old, he began complaining of leg pain. His mother took him to the pediatrician, who couldn't find a reason for the pain, but advised him to take hot baths to relax his leg muscles and ease the pain.
  5. In July 1998, the family took a trip down to Huntsville, Alabama to celebrate the wedding of my Uncle Willie. Ross complained of such severe pain that several of our relatives were concerned. Aunt Anne was mostly frustrated at this point; for three months he'd been complaining, and there was no reason any doctor could find for him to be hurting.
  6. By late September 1998, in the space of five months, Ross had been to the pediatrician more than most children go the doctor in five years. He'd gotten every diagnosis from growing pains (hot baths, exercise) to constipation (drinking castor oil every night before supper and again before bed) to making it all up for attention. He was taking two or three hot baths a night, because the pain wouldn't stop--he'd take more when I was babysitting; four was typical, but five or six weren't out of the question.
  7. Early October 1998: Ross turned seven. His birthday was on a Sunday, and I remember that it was a perfect fall day: sunny, clear, a little windy, and the trees were turning from green to gold and orange and red. Everything was idyllic. He tried to get me to play Pokemon with him, and we played with his massive collection of LEGOs and dinosaurs; he had that Jurassic Park dinosaur toy whose rib meat detached and showed the bone and bloody muscle... it was my favorite.
  8. This was when I was in 6th grade, and our school district had just moved to modified-year-round schedule, which gave us two weeks off in October. Two days after his birthday, my sister and I were at home when our grandmother called. I answered the phone, and she said that Ross was in the hospital; some tests from the doctor had come back with results the doctor didn't like, but she didn't say what they were.
    • The next night, Aunt Anne called with the test results and the diagnosis.

  9. I was in the living room watching Full House in the dark, and Stephanie, Mom, and Andrea (home on break from college) were in the kitchen talking. Mom answered when Aunt Anne called, and I thought I heard them say the word "cancer." I came into the kitchen, and I remember blinking because the bright light disoriented me. Andrea and Steph looked really upset, and Mom told me that Ross had cancer.
  10. I remember being frozen--I know that I must have started to cry. Andrea tried to hug me, and I shoved her away and started to walk, then run, to the back of the house where my bedroom was. I slammed the door shut, punched the wall a few times, and then did that slow slide down the wall crying all the while. (People say that nobody does that in real life, that it's a chick flick cliche. As one friend so memorably, so pithily, puts it: They can suck my clit. I've done it, and my life is not a chick flick.)
  11. The next day, we went to see Ross in Kosair Hospital. The 7th floor is (or was at the time) their oncology ward. [Just as a side note: there is NOTHING sadder than a pediatric oncology ward.] We stepped off the elevator and the sound of screams immediately assaulted our ears. I don't remember the hallways we walked through, just that it sounded like we were getting closer and closer to the mouth of hell, and the wailing of the damned just kept getting louder and louder. When we reached Ross' room, of course, we discovered that it was coming from him. (He was only barely seven, had been told he had cancer, pulled out of his school, told he'd be staying in the hospital, denied food and water, and wasn't on sufficient pain medication. He was scared and in pain and so fucking young.)
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druidspell: Me, bowling at a family reunion, with my username inset in the bottom right corner. The blurriness is intentional. (Default)
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July 2014

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