Day 223

Banyan went to another friend’s house bright and early this morning, and Benji and I headed north. There were light sun showers all along our way. As a result, we were treated to our very own rainbow in the clouds over the Sunshine Skyway. It was going to be a good day. I could feel it in the crispness of the details everywhere I looked.

Today’s clinic visit was quick and easy, with the caveat that it is never easy for a 7-year old (or anyone) to get chemotherapy through a needle in the chest. While we waited for the medicine to arrive, we played practical jokes on the nurses with those sticky ninja wall climber dudes, hiding them on the mouse and mousepad, on the walls, on the ceiling. That last one went undetected. I’m pretty sure it’s still hanging up there.

Benjamin’s discomfort with the saline flushes and heparin is waning, and I have KICKcancER to thank for it. The calming blend of essential oils works every time, and it is empowering for him. It’s something Benji can do all on his own to overcome the threat of nausea. I am witnessing the same confidence growing as I did when he overcame his fear of the Erwinia shots. It’s beautiful.

After Benjamin’s penultimate dose of Cytarabine finished dripping and his line was locked with heparin, we were free to go. He took his customary nap on the way home. I picked up prescriptions while he slept (thank you, drive through pharmacies). Banyan was invited to stay a while longer at his friend’s house, so Benji and I made a meal plan and hit the grocery store. I noticed many more stares today than I have in the past. Benji’s hair is almost entirely gone now, but he also was wearing his Scopolomine patch, and hadn’t yet taken his hospital bracelet off. I guess it was pretty obvious.

While we were waiting in the deli section for our pound of sliced turkey, a lady came out from behind the counter and looked me straight in the eye. “Is he being treated at All Children’s?” She asked. After all of the stares, I appreciated her directness. There was compassion in her voice. “Yes.” She started asking if he was seeing certain doctors, most of whose names I didn’t recognize. “Oncology, right?” She told me her daughter was treated there several years ago. She had a bone marrow transplant. Everyone was so nice. There are so many services there for families who need help. I didn’t want to ask, I couldn’t read her face. My heart was in my throat. Finally she said, “She’s fifteen years a survivor now.” I put my hand on her arm and exhaled, tears welling up in my eyes. We left it at that. I kept my face hidden from Benji as I cried through the produce aisle.

The Children’s Cancer Center is holding a call for entries to young artists who are cancer patients or siblings of cancer patients. The winners will be featured on the Center’s greeting cards and 2016 calendar, and will receive a cash prize. Benji’s Aunt Sarah is an art teacher, and she showed him some techniques with oil pastels and liquid watercolors while she was visiting over the weekend. He whipped up two entries while she was here. Tonight, he created his piece de resistance: Fireworks over the Sunshine Skyway, inspired by the night he was diagnosed, New Year’s Eve. He put his heart into this one. I really hope he wins.

Tomorrow Banyan will play with more friends–the kid is so happy–and Benji and I will visit All Children’s Outpatient Care Clinic for the final time this week. He will get his last dose of Cytarabine, and his port will be deaccessed. We will also get a complete blood count so we know where his immune system is as we enter the weekend. Each night he stays accessed he gets a little more uncomfortable; three day old tape and a tube sticking out of his chest get really annoying. We’ll both be thrilled when he is free.


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