Day 244

Benjamin woke up happy this morning. He was excited to return to class. The boys sleepily got ready and ate breakfast, then Michael and I took a child each and parted ways for their schools. Benji’s tummy started hurting in the car. I told him again that he didn’t have to go, but he wanted to. He was determined. We turned around and grabbed the Kytril, which helped him almost immediately.

As Benji was unpacking his backpack in the classroom, I had a nice conversation with his sweet new teacher. She is already displaying such a delicate understanding of his experience. When he is present, she makes him feel normal and included. When he is absent, she is lets him know there is no pressure. And when parents and students ask her about him, she respects his privacy while empowering him to share if he feels like it. School feels easy, and for that we are thankful.

I picked Benji up at lunch. It was a treat to meet him in the cafeteria and see so many little faces I hadn’t seen in a while. We put numbing cream and dressing on his port under his school uniform, and headed north over the Sunshine Skyway. Even though it’s still a million degrees outside, the bald eagles have returned to our road well traveled from their summer hiatus. This is the third consecutive day we’ve seen one on the northbound section of our trip.

We put the numbing cream on Benji’s legs in the waiting room of the Infusion Center. When we were called back, the nurses put Benji in chair #9. It was the bay that Hudson was in on Friday, and Benji said so immediately. The memory reminded him of the paper airplanes they’d been flying. He asked for crayons and paper and we began building a fleet of them. I was thinking of Hudson. The latest updates from his mother were hard to read; he’s in severe pain, and his family is trying to make him more comfortable with radiation therapy. I want to wrap them up in something soft and comfortable and take all the pain away. I still don’t know the right answer on how or when or if I should talk to Benji about his friend. I am trusting those answers will come.

Benji’s port was accessed, his blood was drawn, and he was heparinized in one sitting, because the Infusion Center nurses are awesome. We just had to wait for the results of his complete blood count in order to get the go ahead for today’s Erwinia shots. We flew many paper airplanes of varying designs. The nurses got in on it too. Benji’s CBC came back and his numbers looked terrific, and Dr. Hale came over for a quick examination. Benji was cleared for chemo.

Today, Benji endured his 49th and 50th Erwinia shots since diagnosis. I watched his range of emotions in awe; from nervousness, to fear, to mind control, to confidence, to complete calm. The needles entered and the medicine burned. His eyes widened and he breathed through it. When it was over, he was proud. His sweet nurses drew works of art on his bandaids–today it was a guitar and a paper airplane–and we took our laps. He paused to offer a little girl in the hallway a chance to fly his plane.

Banyan went home from school with a friend and Michael worked late at the office, so even though Benji and I got home past dinnertime, the four of us ended up converging at our table together. We chattered about our days and crammed in homework. Too soon it was time for bed. Benji tossed and turned tonight, his tummy in pain. Bedtimes are tender times. He says things like “my body doesn’t feel good all over,” or “I feel like the hospital.” He always falls asleep soon after. I think when his body is finally still from the day, the feelings have a chance to rush over him.

Tomorrow, both boys will go to school. I’ll pick Benji up first and we’ll catch up on homework, then Banyan will come home and study before basketball practice. We’ll have dinner together as a family. It will be a perfectly normal Thursday and I plan to savor every moment of it.


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