— Nelson Mandela
SITTING ON MY FLOOR CRYING BECAUSE SAINT LAWRENCE UNIVERSITY AND DIS DECIDED TO GIVE ME A $1,100 RESEARCH TRAVEL GRANT. I LOVE THIS SCHOOL!!!
I hope that someday in my lifetime North Korea overthrows it’s government and we can all find out what kind of shit has gone down in there…
They slowly feed me poison through a tube. That’s the best way that I can describe it to anyone who asks. They hook me up to a machine, and put a poison through my veins that is meant to slowly kill my body.
People always say to me, “Well hey, only two more treatments left, that must feel so good.”
I say no, and they always get disappointed. The last treatments are the worst, everyone knows that. And what I’ve learned with cancer is that it’s never the end. One day you can wake up feeling perfectly fine and you’ll hear your mom answer the telephone. She’ll open the door slowly, and look right into your eyes, trying to read your face, to see if you overheard her talking to the doctor.
That’s when you’ll know that there is no end. That’s when you know that there’s never relief. It’s like something is always lurking, waiting like a monster in your closet to reveal itself. Only this monster is real, and trust me, no flashlights can make it go away.
So when she tells me, I try to be strong for her. I’m her little fighter, and I think that she depends on me being positive through the process just as much as I depend on her to do the same. We get through it together, she and I.
One day I told my doctor that they shouldn’t use just one word to describe something like that. He asked what I meant, and I told him that a lot of things happen for this all to just have one word. The word means missing school, getting so sick my mom takes me back to the hospital, and everyone around staring at me. He agreed, and asked if I could come up with a better word for it. I had some ideas, but I didn’t want to make him sad like everyone else gets when I describe it, so I just said no and pretended to read a Highlights magazine that they gave me. Really, I would call it a monster, I would call it hell, or I would call it murder. But it’s not up to me, and I get that.
Last Sunday was our last session. We decided to move the sessions to Sunday because I never did like Sundays. When we used to go to church, Sundays meant dressing up and acting different than we really were. Now that I’m in the fourth grade, they always mean that I have to go to school the next day — bleh. But I don’t really know if Sundays were the best choice because the weekends always mean everyone gets real quiet in the house, and whenever I walk into a room people drop everything that they’re doing and make a big fuss over me. To me, Sundays mean getting nauseated with the smell of alcohol and the feel of cotton swabs against my skin. I don’t know what this chemotherapy smells like because it doesn’t really have a smell. But if I had to guess, it would smell like that.
My mom came in with me, and held my hand like she always does. She always sings to me, and sometimes, I get so overwhelmed that my body reaches it’s breaking point and after a while I just fall asleep listening to her voice. Sometimes I can hear her still in my sleep: “Stars shining bright above you/ Night breezes seem to whisper ‘I love you’/ Birds singing in the sycamore trees/ Dream a little dream of me.”
This last session I dreamt that I was back camping with my family. I was running around chasing lightning bugs. My hair was still long (my mom says at times it looked like it could touch the ground), and people still let me do things on my own.
I ran out down a trail to where I knew there was a field— fire-fly hotspot! I scooped up one, and let it crawl all over my hand until it decided to fly away. I guess I lost track of time, and it started to get dark. On my way back to the cabin, everything was different. Nothing looks the same in the dark as it does in the light. I went up and down trails, trying to use the moonlight to find my way back. I tripped and stumbled through the trails. Just as I was about to panic because I knew I was lost, I saw a light.
It was my mom with a flashlight, coming through the brush at a distance, calling my name. I followed the light like the North star. She ran up to me, picked me up and hugged me, and explained how that ever since I was born, she knew I was going to be her explorer child.
I woke up to a doctor shining a light over me, preparing to remove the IV from my arm. My mom was still singing and smiling. “Well, we did it,” she said to me. The light was blinding, but it gave me a somewhat peaceful feeling— I didn’t even mind the nauseating smell of the rubbing alcohol and the cotton swabs.
When I walked out into the waiting room, the whole room clapped for me, and I clapped for myself. An old woman and her husband in the seat next to the door started to cry, and even the doctor did a little bit too, I think.
On the ride home I asked my mom why the doctor needed to use a light this time to take the IV out. She asked what I meant, and I explained to her the light that he put on me while he was taking out the IV, he had never done that before. She laughed and said there was no light and asked if I meant the light overhead.
I said no, and smiled quietly to myself. I put my hand on top of hers as she drove the rest of the way home. I think she secretly knew what I meant— I think she saw the light, too.
— Lorrie Moore