During today’s chemo session, I sleep. I get the weekend off from treatment, which helps with the healing of cells, and gives me a small break. The button by my bed calls a nurse, who always comes quickly. This time around, it’s a man I haven’t had before, dark and tall. My sister would love him. He comes to my bedside, and adjusts the pillows by my side. “How’s the pain today, Fletcher?”
My cancer team uses a ten-point scale to determine pain after treatments. Half-asleep, I roll over a little. “About a four, I’d say. It’s been worse.” Though I’m sleepy, I’m restless, and haven’t been out of my room all day. “Could I go down to the cafeteria and get some lunch?”
These days, I don’t eat much. A meal a day, if that. Sometimes my mother visits and brings me some food. I’ve only been spending a few hours daily in the hospital. I’m a homebody, now, and I can’t stand it. “If you feel well enough to do that, then yes.” My nurse’s name is Warren. “After I remove the IV, you can go.”
“Thanks.” I stretch out, a tugging at the back of my arm. Most days I feel too nauseous to eat. I’m supposed to eat even when I’m not hungry, but it’s hard when all I feel like doing is puking my guts out. Mom makes me oatmeal, some days. I’ll nibble on crackers or almonds or avocado. Everything tastes different than it used to.
My eyes are dry. It isn’t something I’ve really noticed until this morning.
When I was fourteen, my mother picked me up after my first chemotherapy treatment and took me to a sperm bank. “I’m still expecting grandchildren one day,” she’d said, despite my protests. Cancer treatment can damage the production and quality of sperm cells in the body. If I took chemotherapy long enough, I might even become sterile. “If you freeze a sample now,” my mother said, after dragging me inside, “you can still have kids someday.”
It was awfully optimistic of her to assume that, first, I’d survive the cancer, and second, that I even wanted kids. It seemed to be her main concern with me starting treatment, which was weird, but just like my mother. I’d felt so many things at her request, I remember, but mostly humiliation. Cancer was bad enough without my mother’s need for control.
At first, I’d refused. Even now, I have no interest in kids, if I even live long enough to have that. “Don’t be selfish,” my mother had said, dragging me inside the building. “We both know you’ll regret not doing it. What if you change your mind when you’re older?”
For the record, I still haven’t changed my mind.
On the second floor, I order plain toast at the cafeteria. It’s not often I get the chance to roam around while I’m here. There’s an elderly man in a wheelchair at a table beside mine. my stomach is turning. Feeling nauseous makes me afraid to eat, at times; there’s always that chance of vomiting the food right back up. I try to eat anyway.
A woman stands at the counter, speaking to an employee. Like me, she wears a hospital gown, slim and barefoot. It’s hard to make new frends when you’re stuck in the hospital, but I desperately want to. When she passes my table, she smiles at me, a shy sort of smile that vanishes a moment later. She once had dark hair, clumps missing from her head, the same way mine falls out. I really am not feeling well. “How far into chemo are you?”
I haven’t seen her around. My hair hasn’t begun to fall out, but it likely will, soon. The girl wears a bracelet, with a strange symbol on it, she’s got a sparkly septum ring. “Just a couple weeks.” Her voice is soft, and quiet. She looks at me, and then sits timidly on a chair at my table. “Is it alright if I sit here?”
Even with all of her hair falling out, she’s really pretty. “Yeah, of course.” She eats slowly, delicately, one foot crossed over the other under the table. “I like your bracelet. Is it homemade?” If I eat another bite, I’m going to be sick.
The girl is silent for a moment, looking at her hands. She gazes at my leg, and then my face. “Thank you. My dad gave it to me. It’s a symbol of peace in Africa.” After a moment, she slides her tray into the trash, and stands. “I have to go do my treatment. Maybe I’ll see you tomorrow?” She shrugs, turning her eyes to the floor.
I definitely hope so. “Yeah, that’d be cool.” I should get back to my room, too. Treatment is over for today, but I’m tired, like I always am these days. “What’s your name, by the way? I’m Fletcher.”
“Oh.” Her foot scuffs the floor. “I’m Posie! Nice to meet you.” She smiles, small, and just a flicker, and then runs off.
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish