I arrived at the Charing Cross Hospital in London, on the 6th of July. Arielle had already had one round of chemo the previous night and was scheduled for her second round later that day. There was air of expectancy in our small corner of the all women’s oncology ward, as if she, Rich (Arielle’s boyfriend) and I were waiting for something. On the outside, I was cool, calm and collected, but all the while my brain was screaming; “For fuck’s sake, my kid has CANCER! … isn’t anyone going to do something?”
With the jacket potato, beans and cheese now finished, we filled the rest of the afternoon with lighthearted conversation, candy (Arielle always did have a sweet-tooth) and a slightly uncomfortable and somewhat forced banter.
Nick, who now knew what was happening to Arielle, was just beginning his 32 hour journey home from Brazil. His 3 1/2 week World Cup experience had been disrupted by my frantic phone call, at 6:30 am the day before. Luckily he and his friends were already scheduled to begin their journey on this day and this news was not cutting his “trip of a lifetime,” short. Although it must be said, he would have dropped everything and come back in a second if needed, because that’s just the kind of guy he is and I love him for that!
Nick White came into our lives when Sera was 19 and Arielle was 14. Sera had already left home, but from day 1, Arielle and Nick “hit it off.” They formed a unique bond that allowed them to be friends, while she accepted him as her “father figure.” Over time she grew to love him and respected his authority… sometimes, more than she did mine! The two of them were as thick as thieves, usually plotting against me. He practiced “football” with her, helped her with her math homework, “vetted” her boyfriends, taught her British swear words. etc.
“Arielle… it’s time for chemo,” the nurse said as she walked into the room. I heard these words very clearly, but yet had trouble actually registering them… we’ll come back to Nick.
Ahhh, right! This is what we had been waiting for all afternoon. The administering of the dreaded chemo. I have to say, this shit scares the hell out of me! The nurse wears a plastic apron and gloves as she handles it. The plastic bag (which I’m sure had a skull and crossbones on it) is placed inside a second plastic bag which is bright red. Make no mistake, this stuff is taken very seriously. It’s handled and treated with an attitude of reverence and respect and the whole process gives off a feeling of ceremony.
There is something very surreal about watching a stranger hang a bag of a potentially lethal, chemical concoction above your child’s head and just siting there, doing absolutely nothing about it, while she inserts the syringe into a port in your child’s hand allowing the liquid to flow freely. “Are you fucking kidding me?” I had to consciously restrain every fiber of my being from jumping across the bed and tackling the nurse to the ground.
We waited. Many minutes passed. Arielle did not turn “Hulk” green. Her face did not become contorted with pain. She did not give us her rendition of the scene from the “Exorcist,” when the little girl projectile vomited across the room. It was all fairly anti climatic, with of course the exception of the fact that there was now a potentially lethal, chemical concoction roaring through my daughter’s veins, but never mind.
Okay… it was now time for Mom to break the mood and change the energy in the room. “Hey,” I thought, “camera’s are fun, right?” I mean who doesn’t like their photo taken? As she sat in bed and calmly received her second round of chemo I suggested a photo. A nice photo to email to Nick so that when he arrived in the UK he would see for himself that his “Harry” as she is known, was doing okay. The response I received was the obligatory rolling of the eyes followed by “Ohh Maaa,” but then she reluctantly agreed.
Okay. Ready, set, say “jack potato with beans and cheese…”
Yes, this is how, our 31 year old, woman/child cancer patient decided to be photographed specially for her Stepdad. Charmer.
PS – To my American friends, she is not giving us a backward “Peace” sign… she is giving us, what you’d call, “the finger!”