druidspell: Broken (Broken)
[personal profile] druidspell
Walking into that hospital room, I was probably more frightened than I'd ever been in my life. Aunt Anne, Ross' dad Randy, our grandparents, my Aunt Linda, my Aunt Doris, and my mom, sisters, and I all crowded around Ross' hospital bed (which dwarfed him--Ross was about 3'4", and the bed was adult-sized). He was hooked up to so many tubes and machines, and the TV was playing something asinine, and Ross was still screaming. Tears and snot were all over his face (my mom's family does not have the ability to cry beautifully, and Ross is no exception to that; no seven year old is). He was upset and in pain, and above all that he was hungry because he had to have tests run that required him to not eat or drink for 24 hours. It had been 12 when we got there.
It was cloudy and chilly, and I remember both how everyone gave Ross Beanie Babies while he was in the hospital, and also how everyone was so much angrier all the time--people were fed up with everyone; my Aunt Doris talked shit about Ross' dad like she was being paid to do it.
Myself, I remember being filled with sick, desperate fear, and rage I thought would never end. I wanted the whole world to disappear, just leave me and a Ross who would get better, who would stop wasting away, would stop crying, would stop being sick and pale and weak, would make me not feel so helpless. I wanted his doctors who'd missed the problem to be dragged over broken glass and burning coals, wanted to somehow infect them with Ewing's Sarcoma, the disease that was eating him up inside. I wanted my classmates, teachers, and family to somehow intuit that my heart was breaking, and treat me more gently than they were--more than that, I wanted the strength to tell them that my heart was breaking, and mandate that they treat me more gently.
Every day in Sr. Theresa Giardino's class (dear gods, may this lady rest in peace), I offered up my prayer intentions that my cousin would be cured. A few people asked me about it, and I remember Sister once remarked that it was really admirable the way I prayed for him every single day. But there were entire notebooks filled with one simple phrase: Please let Ross be cured. Please let Ross be cured. Please let Ross be cured.
And finally, finally, finally, after they'd done chemo and radiation and removed his appendix and tonsils and done a bone marrow and stem cell transplant, finally he came home. He was tiny--not just in weight (although he was that, too--he weighed something like 25 pounds at eight and a half) but also in height; he was still 3'4". The way chemotherapy works, one of the things it does is attacks rapidly growing cells. Well, in a seven year old boy, every cell is a rapidly growing cell. For a year and a half, Ross hadn't grown at all. He had no hair except for a few stubborn wisps on his head (none on his arms or legs, no eyebrows, no eyelashes), he was pale as death (because the cancer treatment reacted badly with UV light), he was severely underweight (because the chemo always made him sick, and for a long time he couldn't keep food down at all--they put an IV line in him for essential nutrients), he had a tunneled catheter line in his chest (and still has the scar from it), and he was the most precious thing I'd ever seen. Ross had to take the rest of the year off from school so that he missed first and second grades (he had a private tutor) and I babysat him every Friday night--some nights Aunt Anne wouldn't even go out, and I'd still stay over, because part of me couldn't bear to let him out of my sight for a weekend. While he was in the hospital one of the chaplains taught him to play chess, and when he was released, he taught me. (I was good enough to beat some people, and while I was there I was intensely dedicated to learning, but chess is never going to be my game; I'm just not good enough at plotting out moves and counter-moves far enough in advance to regularly triumph.) He also got me into trading Pokemon cards, and we'd battle Pokemon and watch the first movie for hours and hours--I probably spent, no joke, more than $500 on cards, most of which I didn't keep for myself; if there was one that Ross wanted, I'd give it up (not always without a fight). I still have a binder filled with the cards too precious for me to give away when I got out of the game.


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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