May I e-mail your oncologist? “If he is experiencing shortness of breath while at rest, he needs to go to the ER tonight.” Shit. We should have been in the ER on Friday night then. “I’m fine. We’ll go see Dr. D. in the morning.” I think this is probably going to have to be my last time to pump. “You have that Southern look about you.” What does that mean? “You are all dressed up and smiling, but you actually look quite sad underneath.” “I am being admitted to the hospital. Now.” Ok, I just picked up Joe from school. Let me get him home and think. I need to figure out what to do with the kids. “Dr. D. is waiting until you get here. She wants to talk to us both.” Joe Bear, remember how Daddy wasn’t feeling well this weekend? Well, Momma took him to the doctor this morning and now he has to spend the night at the hospital, so I am going to take him his toothbrush and pajamas. I’ll see you in the morning though, ok? I love you. Good night, Cros. “There are new tumors. The Xalkori is no longer working. This is a major setback. I am so sorry.” But it’s supposed to last for anywhere from 6-24 months. How long has it been? Calculate, calculate, calculate. Only 12-13 weeks. Shit! Ok, ok. We’ve got this. We’ve still got this. “Can you please go check on her husband? We were told she could go back to see him well over an hour ago.” “Code Red. Code Red. The hospital is experiencing a Code Red.” Flashing lights. Make that stop. I’m freaking out now. What is this Code Red? “Mrs. Kennett, you may come on back, but we’ve had a difficult time getting his pain under control.” Looks like somebody shaved your chest while you were drunk and passed out, buddy. I want the Sharpie. “We’re here and in the waiting room.” He isn’t ready to see them yet. “They are on their way back. I’m so sorry.” No! Respect him. RESPECT him. “Only two people are allowed back here at a time.” Shine bright like a diamond. Shine bright. Valentine’s heart-shaped plate. Joe, do you know where your heart is? Let’s find it. There it is. Well, Daddy’s heart has water all around it, and that water is not supposed to be there, so the doctors had to poke a straw in him like a juice box or a milk box so they can suck all of that water out and make him feel better. “Ok. Can Steve and I play with the balloons in the basement?” “You need to get some sleep.” What’s next? “What’s next is you recover from surgery, and then we figure out your treatment options.” And now I’m all alone again, nowhere to turn, no one to go to. “Do I go back on the Xalkori?” “No, there is usually a 30-day wash out period before you can start a clinical trial, so if you want to look at it this way, you’ve already burned five days on the clock.” “I would stay on the Xalkori. Who’s to say it’s not still working on some of the tumors? It’s better than doing nothing while figuring out the next step.” “If we can’t find a trial for you, then I’ll have to start you on traditional chemo, but your body is too weak and compromised to withstand that right now.” “You need to eat. You need to gain some weight. You need to consume 2,600 calories a day. Now is the time for you to eat two pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream a day.” But, sugar feeds tumors. He can’t eat ice cream. Don’t tell him that. Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock. “You can’t lift anything over five pounds for the next six weeks and can’t drive a car for the next two–or until you are off all pain meds.” He can’t pick up the kids. Without him, the world around me changes. The trees are bare and everywhere the streets are full of strangers. Joe, Daddy has a boo boo on his chest just like Momma did on her tummy when I came home from the hospital with Baby Crosby. “Do you want a Lightning McQueen Band-Aid, Daddy?” “You can be angry, you know? You don’t have to be so strong all of the time.” “Mommy, I don’t want to play with anybody else. I just want to play with you.” “You have to stay strong, Sheila. Chip is pulling his strength from you.” “Mommy, I’m sad.” Why are you sad, Joe? “I don’t know.” Ok. Sometimes Mommy gets sad, too. Do you want to hug until you feel better? Hug, hug, hug. “Mommy, my tummy hurts.” Why does it hurt, Joe? Do you need to go to the bathroom and get some poo poo out? “No, I had too many treats today.” “You need to go lie down and take a nap.” “Have you eaten today? You need to remember to eat.” “You have to stay strong for the kids.” My God, I wish there were two of me right now. One who could go downstairs and be strong and take care of this family and one who could just crawl into bed, pull the covers up over my head and sleep. Have I shampooed my hair yet? I can’t remember if I washed it or not. I guess I’ll just wash it again. But maybe I’ve already washed it. I just don’t know. Left foot, right foot. Repeat. “Mrs. Kennett, I know you have a lot going on at home right now, but Joe just threw up at school if you could please come pick him up. And he can’t come back for at least the next 24 hours.” “I want to hear a special song, Momma.” Ok, we can do that. What do you want to hear? “Something ’Bout a Truck.” Play “Something ’Bout a Truck.” “Playing ‘Something ’Bout a Truck.'” There’s something ’bout a truck in a field and a girl in a red sundress with an ice cold beer to her lips begging for another kiss. Parenting at its finest. “You take care of me and Crosby and you take care of Daddy and that’s why you’re the Momma.” Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock. “They are sending me back to the hospital. He thinks I have blood clots.” “Would you both like some time alone to review these documents?” Yes, please. “Who do you want to make your power of attorney if you become incapacitated and unable to make medical decisions for yourself?” “My wife.” Inhale, exhale. Repeat. WHY do they make so many Easter baskets to choose from? I just can’t make a decision like this right now. Focus. You can do this. Just pick one. Wait, what is that? Oh my gosh, are you kidding me? I’m seriously getting my period right now? My first one in over a year right here in the middle of Target? Ok, just buy the fucking Easter baskets, save the receipt and return what you don’t end up using. You can deal with this later. “I would be happy to schedule two or three appointments with you, but I have to be honest, I’m not really taking new patients right now. Do you think that would be enough?” Well, I don’t know, Doc. I’ve never really gone through anything like this before. You tell me. Do you think you can fix me up in two or three hours? Or could you possibly recommend another counselor? “Not that’s accepting new patients right now, but if I think of anyone, I have your number, and I will text you.” Seriously? Ya, why don’t you just do that. TEXT me. Bitch. Oh, and by the way, you are like the WORST grief counselor I have never met with before. “You look so great! You would never know you just had a baby three months ago. You are SO lucky.” Shut up, innocent mom at daycare. Yes, I am so lucky I carry my stress in my stomach and shit my brains out at least twice a day. Oh, no. Oh, no. Not this song. Run. FF. Damn you, shuffle. Too late. Now it’s stuck. There’s an emptiness inside her, and she’d do anything to fill it in. “Y’all need to find a church, Sheila Kaye.” “Keep writing. You’ve really tapped into something here.” Play “I Will Wait.” “Ok, playing ‘I Will Wait.’” You like that song, Bear? Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock. “Are you not working anymore? That’s so great! One of my friends did that. She went back to work after having a baby, and it turned out to be too soon, so then she took some more time off. How great is that!?” Do not punch the innocent mom at daycare in the face. Crosby will never get in if you start punching other moms in the face. “I know now really isn’t the time for you to be shopping around churches to join.” Did I take my vitamin today? Gosh, I just can’t remember. Why can’t I remember if I swallowed that big pill or not? I guess it won’t hurt if I take two. But three might be bad. Ok, I’ll just take one more. “Just insert the needle into his abdomen anywhere between 45 and 90.” 45 and 90. Got it. How long am I going to have to give him shots? “Indefinitely.” You smell so good, Crosby. Oh, look at that smile! You are my happy baby girl. Cros, you and Joe Bear make me a happy Momma. “Mrs. Kennett, you will need to wear these compression tights for seven days following surgery, but you only have to sleep in them the first night.” Ok. Maybe I should snap on a garter belt and pretend like they are sexy. “My eye is starting to hurt again. Have you heard back from Dr. B.? Will you please e-mail her again?” Somebody please help my husband. You know she wishes it were different. She prays to God most every night. And though she’s quite sure He doesn’t listen. There’s a tiny hope in her He might. I’m sorry if this hurts you. I don’t really like having to do this to you. It makes me sad. “There is a clinical trial at Fox Chase in Philadelphia for Crizotinib resistant patients. Let’s try to get you enrolled in that trial as quickly as possible. I would like to keep traditional chemo in our back pocket for the time being.” Do you have other ALK patients on this trial? “No.” Are you hopeful this will work? “Oh, we hope this drug leaves Crizotinib in the dust. We are trying to get this drug approved.” Oh, thank God. Thank. You. Jesus. Something ’bout you and me and the birds and the bees and Lawd have Mercy, it’s a beautiful thing. Mom, I know I am calling late, but can you and Daddy go ahead and come on up? We need to be in Philly on Tuesday. “We’ll be there by Monday night.” Love, love, love. I just made dinner reservations for us at Morimoto. It’s his flagship restaurant. Are you ok? “It’s been three weeks tonight, I am feeling worse, and I just need to get started on this trial.” I know you do, baby. I know. And we are getting started on that this week. We’ve got this.