Dylan spent most of yesterday waiting, we knew the chemo drugs were being mixed and readied for him, but Mondays are slower than other days. Maybe the weekend crew forgets to clean all the mixing gear and the weekday folks have to put the shakers through the dishwasher. Dylan was passing the time by watching cartoons and surfing the internet and I was catching up on email and a few other work related items I managed to ignore while I was at home. Dylan’s counts were up again and he had moved out of nuetrapenic so he could have outside food and he wanted something other than what the cafeteria offered. I was not keen on eating in the cafeteria either since I had seen the lunch menu when I was picking up my breakfast special (eggs with cheese, hash browns, two pieces of bacon: $3.80). The menu proudly announced that it was Meatless Monday and then described the two options that would be waiting in the chafing pans at 11AM. I came back upstairs and told Dylan I would be eating out on Meatless Monday. While we were discussing the various options provided by the neighborhood one of the new nurses (Cassandra) suggested the Honey Hole. I had walked by the Honey Hole several times, it is right near Gay City, and assumed it was a location for cinnamon rolls or…well, let’s not reveal too much about what I thought the Honey Hole offered.
We looked at the Honey Hole’s online menu and decided on the sandwiches we would eat. (Remember how the phonebook used to have menus in the middle of the book so you could call in and order? How did life exist before the internet?) I looked out the window to get a feel for whether I would need my rain jacket or not, the day started out damp but now the sun was out and the streets of Capitol Hill were alive. Just before leaving Dylan stopped me, “How far is it?”
“Not too far, it’s over by Alive and Well.”
“That’s a long way.”
I was touched, my son was worried about how far I was about to walk, what a great kid. “I’ll be okay.”
“I don’t want my food getting cold. Hurry up.”
The Honey Hole was jammed full of people when I arrived. I got in line, ordered, waited at the bar and then got my brown bag full of goodies. I hustled out onto the streets and made my way back to the hospital. About a block from Swedish, I saw a guy in a hard-hat pushing a large filing cabinet up the sidewalk on a wheeled platform. It seemed an odd way to move office furniture, but as I got closer I saw that they guy pushing the filing cabinet was one of the many homeless people who live around Capitol Hill. The homeless folks on Capitol Hill are very different from the homeless people in the downtown area. The downtown folks are far more aggressive and can be scary at times, but the Capitol Hill crew are an eclectic group. (The lady who asked if I was a Wookie is a good example of the difference between downtown and CH.) I have now been doing this cancer thing with Dylan for two months and in that time I have become familiar with the people and the areas they patrol. On one of my first walks in the neighborhood, I was approached by a guy in green pants a pink shirt and bleached hair. I was certain I was about to be asked to buy drugs, “Hey man. Hey man, wanna buy some art?” He asked as I walked by. I saw him later digging boxes out of a dumpster for his art.
As I approached the guy pushing the filing cabinet made space for me and said, “After you.”
I pushed the cross walk button and said, “I don’t think we are going anywhere too soon.”
“That’s funny. Too soon. It’s like a wave. Too soon.”
“Too soon, like a wave. You know?”
I haven’t seen a picture of puzzle master Will Short, but I doubt he pushes filing cabinets down the street but I felt like I needed to solve this puzzle before I could walk away from the guy in the hard-hat.
“Oh, like a wave…Tsunami. Right?”
He laughed showing off his missing teeth, “Too soon, too soon, tsunami…”
I was pretty pleased I was able to solve the word problem and made the final dash to get Dylan his food before it got cold.
As we ate our Honey Hole sandwiches, Sonja came in to say that the chemo had arrived and when we were done eating Dylan could start his treatment. The waiting was over and it was now time to get down to the business of chemotherapy.
Sonja and another nurse went through the routine of reading Dylan’s hospital bracelet and the chemo drugs to make sure he was getting the right bag of yellow liquid and then it began. It hit him hard. Within two hours, while the NCAA basketball game was on, Dylan was completely spent and curled up on his bed. I watched the game quietly looking over at him occasionally to see how he was doing. His arms were pulled tight against his body and he looked cold to me, so I pulled the covers up over his legs and he woke up to announce he was “hot as hell.” He rolled over and I propped his head up so he could watch the game, but he was only half interested. He put out his arm and demanded, “Tickle my arm.”
I touched his forearm lightly and tickled his wrist. A little at a time he became more aware of the world around him and woke up. His forehead was wet with sweat and I got a washcloth and rubbed his bald head down and then dried him off with a towel. He put the towel around his head and tucked it into his gown like a hood. I don’t know if he was channeling his inner Mike Tyson or his inner Cam Newton, but as soon as the game was over he said, “Let’s walk some laps.”
I helped him stand and we walked the halls. It had been a full day. A day that began with fear, a slow day, but a day that ended with unexpected bravery. We walked four laps, Dylan dragging his feet along the way, but fighting through each step. When we got back to the room, I set up my cot and we spent the remaining hours reading. I checked my phone one last time and saw that my dad had sent an email with a picture attached. I opened the picture and remembered, and tears filled my eyes. It seems like it was yesterday, but it was 20 years ago.