Day 8

We are home. HOME.

The morning started early, with a transfusion of packed red blood cells at around 5am (Benji’s hemoglobin count continued to drop last night). With that boost, last night’s platelets and a perfectly normal temperature, we were on schedule for morning vincristine and an afternoon spinal.

While we waited for chemo and to be called down to the second floor for his procedure, I busied myself with packing the rest of our things, and finishing a hat I’d been knitting for Benji. When the nurse came in to administer the vincristine, wearing her full protective gear and two layers of chemo-proof gloves, I felt a twinge of guilt for allowing something so toxic to course through my baby’s veins. Of course I dismissed it instantly. I give thanks for the geniuses that figured out this pharmacology and continue to make it more effective and less harmful. But for a second, I couldn’t help visualizing the havoc it’s causing in his body.

We went down for the spinal and met the nurse, the anesthesiologist and the physician doing the draw. We all asked lots of questions about Benji’s slow recovery last time and were assured that because this wasn’t a port placement but just a spinal draw, he’d be far less medicated and wake up more quickly. They were right. I walked back with him, and they had barely started the IV before the kid was snoring. He was back up in his room no more than an hour later, asking for a chili cheese dog.

All systems were go for discharge. We packed the essentials: get well cards, rainbow makers, prayer flag, phone chargers, and the Nespresso machine Kathy dropped off that kept us fueled–and loaded up. A total of FIVE wagonloads of gear left Room 766.

I am reminded of a wise woman who said that emotions can creep up during the transitions. Somewhere over the Sunshine Skyway, with Benjamin sleeping on my shoulder, I let go for a minute. Relief, happiness, exhaustion, fear, shock, gratitude. Lots wrapped up in those tears.

When we arrived on Clematis Street, our house had been professionally cleaned and pressure washed, thanks to Grammy the Great. Kathy was finishing up an amazing day of work (with some help from dear friends). Even the dogs got a scrub down. It was overwhelming. There has just been so much kindness. Through all of this, I am learning to accept gifts. It’s a tough pill to swallow for me. But if Benji can take his medicine, so can I.

After a rest, Benji was ready to say hi to the Clematis crew. One more act of bravery. The boy amazes me. And once Banyan came in from playing, he was so kind to his brother, so happy to have him back. We ordered dinner. Benji didn’t eat much. I gave him his medicine. He got super tired, cold, shaky. Our new normal has begun. But there’s no place we’d rather be.

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