|The Last Mile
Author: Moviepal PM
Musings of a cancer patient while he's in a coma.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Family - Chapters: 2 - Words: 9,372 - Reviews: 4 - Updated: 09-18-12 - Published: 08-03-12 - id: 3047481
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The Last Mile
A/N= At one point or another everyone with Cancer thinks about this, most more than once. This is for Roberto, who's thirteen and shouldn't have to be thinking about this now.
The medical facts used in this story are from Web MD. The other feelings and thoughts are from the author and belong solely to him.
The room was dark at the moment and silent except for the hum and beeps of a few machines. They think he can't hear, but they are wrong. He hears everything and he knows what's happening around him. He remembers the book he had to read for school, Dalton Trumbo's "Johnny Got His Gun" and the plight of its hero Joe Bonham, a soldier caught in a shell explosion that robs him of his arms, legs, eyes, ears, nose, and mouth, leaving him trapped inside his own body, mind intact. He spends his days drifting between the real and his own imagination. Joe finally manages to "speak" through banging his head in Morse code, something he couldn't do himself.
'Joe got off light is some ways,' he thought as he heard the sound of the night nurse's shoes shuffle into the room.
He likes her the most. She talks to him and tells him about her day as she checks his vital signs and repositions him so he doesn't get bed sores and such. She whistles some tune he knows, but he can't put a name to it.
'Great,' he thinks, 'Now I'll have that damn song in my head till I think of the name. Bad enough to be in this shape, but shit to be fixated on this trivial piece of shit when I'm slipping away more and more every day, it just ain't fair.'
Fair: adjective, fair·er, fair·est, adverb, fair·er, fair·est, noun, verb, adjective
free from bias, dishonesty, or injustice: a fair decision; a fair judge.
legitimately sought, pursued, done, given, etc.; proper under the rules: a fair fight.
moderately large; ample: a fair income.
neither excellent nor poor; moderately or tolerably good: fair health.
marked by favoring conditions; likely; promising: in a fair way to succeed.
'Yeah, fair,' the word bounced around in his head like a red dot over the lyrics of a song in a video, 'Ain't nothing about this fair. Nothing about this has ever been fair. What was that old song mom used to love? Jerry… Jerry… somebody… Reed, that's it Jerry Reed. The song was "She Got The Gold Mine And I Got The Shaft" and brother was that the understatement of the decade. Got a new wife that I can't spend quality time with and a son on the way that I'll never see, never get to teach or play with. He'll only hear stories about me and probably be raised by another man who he'll call daddy and who'll marry and make love to my wife. Shaft indeed!'
He feels the warm rush of something in his veins and knows its pain medicine. He also knows it won't make the pain go away but it will mute it some.
'Nothing makes it go completely away but death,' he thinks as he feels the first kick of the meds as they take ahold of him, 'Just when that will be? How much time do I have left?'
It started at the age of four. He had become tired almost all the time no matter how much rest he got. He would eat very little and when he did he would get sick. His mother had taken him to the doctor on a Thursday and by noon the blood test had come back, Acute leukemia.
The doctor explained that with leukemia the bone marrow starts to make a lot of abnormal white blood cells, called leukemia cells. They don't do the work of normal white blood cells, they grow faster than normal cells, and they don't stop growing when they should. Over time, leukemia cells can crowd out the normal blood cells. This can lead to serious problems such as anemia, bleeding, and infections. Leukemia cells can also spread to the lymph nodes or other organs and cause swelling or pain.
All of this had sailed over his head at four. All he knew was that his mom had begun to cry and he didn't like that. They talked about what had to be done and they put him in the hospital the same day. He thought it was cool because they gave him stuff like ice cream. He couldn't keep it down but it felt good while it lasted.
When the treatments started the fun went away and the sickness took its place. At the ripe old age of four they began to saturate his body with deadly chemicals designed to kill the cancer. The unfortunate side effect of that was it also killed good cells in his body and weakened him to the point he could not fight off any germ that he might come in contact with. He had to wear a mask, at least it was cool and he was able to pretend to be Darth Vader, so that he could be protected from germs. While other kids ran and played cop & robbers, war, or other types of play he lost his hair and spent his days throwing-up and in pain. His mom spent every waking moment she could with him and they formed a bond that became the center of his world and gave him hope and strength through the truly tough days that followed.
His dad became a shadow figure in his life. The man worked for a company that sold oil drilling equipment and he traveled during the week. Every Saturday and Sunday for the first year, when he would be in the hospital, he would visit him. He would bring presents and even read to him. Sometime after the second round of treatments he began to come fewer and fewer times. By the time he turned ten his father maybe visited once a year, if at all. He would pretend to be asleep when he was home and listen to the two of them fight. His dad was mad at all the time his mom spent with him at the hospital and how little time she spent with him.
"I have needs to and they need to be met," his dad would shout, "I need some loving to you know and more than just a peck on the goddamn cheek. I work hard all week and I need some relief when I get home, not more shit about how things are going with my son. Am I supposed to wait till he dies to get laid? Is that how it works?"
It hit him harder than any news about the cancer ever did. He prayed that night that God would let him die so his mom and dad could be happy again. He awoke the next day feeling worse than he ever had before. With all the strength he could muster he crawled out of bed and opened the window to his room. He removed his mask and breathed in as deeply as he could, praying to get sick. He laid back down uncovered and drifted off to sleep. He awoke six days later inside an oxygen tent, his mother beside him and his father nowhere to be seen. Despite his prayers his body wouldn't give up, and although pneumonia set in, he hovered near the edge but couldn't seem to teeter over like he wished. He could feel the restraints on his arms.
'They know,' he thought, 'they know what I did and they've strapped me down so I can't do it again. Please God, I've never bemoaned my fate or questioned why you set this as my path, not once, but I know my mom and dad fight because of me and are unhappy because of me, so please let me die so they can be happy again, please!'
He received his answer in the form of no answer that he could see at the time. Hours stretched into days as each breath was a herculean effort that brought more pain than air into his lungs. The oxygen tent made him feel claustrophobic and the pain of coughing somehow made it worse.
After four days his father was there when he woke up. He said nothing and barely looked at him, like he was a leper. He could tell that his dad wanted to be anyplace but there and for the first time, though not the last, he became angry at his dad. He hadn't asked for this and he was trying his best to end this so his dad could get the attention from his mom that he wanted.
'I'm dying as fast as I can you shitass,' (his grandmothers favorite cuss word), 'give a guy a break. I really am trying here so just hold your horses!'
Two weeks later they removed the oxygen tent as he began to get stronger. A doctor, a head doctor his father called him, came around and asked him about what happened. For the first time that he could remember he lied and told the doctor that he didn't remember doing it. They believed it and so no one but him ever knew what had really happened.
He felt big hands on him and knew it was the male nurses and they were here to change his pull-up, just a fancy way of saying diaper, and clean him. This to him was the greatest indignity of all, wearing a diaper and having to be cleaned like a baby. It reminded him of how weak he was and powerless he now had become.
'Man ain't a man if he can't even wipe his own ass,' he thought as the fuzzy feeling began to creep into his brain, 'Meds are kicking in. Hey man am I driving ok? I think we're parked man. Man that's some heavy shit, wonder what Great Dane taste like?'
He knew now that it was later than he thought because the hard stuff usually wasn't given till the night nurse's second round of bed checks, 'Must have slept through the first round.'
The lovely thing about the late night cocktail was the fact that he managed to get a little buzz off of it and Cheech & Chong movies would play in his head and he could laugh for a while. He wondered if he smiled or showed any signs that he was tripping on the inside, 'You keep a knocking but c'ya can't come in.'
They had finished cleaning him and putting on his new diaper, he knew because the four strong hands had let go of him, and now it was just the night nurse with him. She would sit and talk to him about her screwed up love life for a few minutes after she did her checks. He supposed in some small way he was serving a purpose still, he was her outlet and sounding board for her life. He was the perfect guy, he listened, wasn't controlling, he would never cheat, and he certainly wouldn't up and leave you, 'All husbands should be coma victims and the divorce rate would shrink to zero.'
Tonight's tale was the continuing saga of Steve and his inability to keep his dick in his pants and out of other women. The nurse, Beth, began with the latest chapter of finding out Steve had yet again stepped out on her, this time with some woman he met while tossing down a few at some high-end bar close to where they shared an apartment together.
He listened and felt sorry for her, he knew all about cheating and what it did to people and relationships. His dad had decided that if his mom wasn't going to be at his beck and call sexually he would find it elsewhere, and boy did he find it. His mom found numbers on matchbooks, scraps of paper, credit card receipts, hang-up phone calls, and excuses out the ying-yang. Finally when he was ten his dad came into his room, for what turned out to be the last time, and told him and his mom that he had met someone and was leaving. He also used it to put one more nail in his sons coffin of guilt by reminding them both that she spent far too much time tending to a boy who had nurses looking after him than she did her husband who didn't. He would never talk to his father again and only found out he was dead after the funeral, when he got his meager part of his dad's will.
The night his dad left he tried for the second, and last, time to correct all the problems he had caused. He unhooked everything attached to him and let the blood flow from the entry points. He prayed again for it to work and this time the answer was clear. He began to convulse which set off the monitors and brought more doctors and nurses than he had ever seen at one time. Again they assumed the convulsion had removed the tubes and after a shaky twenty-four hours he recovered. This time he understood GOD had something else in mind for him and he was going to have to accomplish it before he could leave the earth.
Beth wondered to him if she should give Steve another chance. With all his might he sent her a mental blast telling her to tazer Steve's nuts until they turned black and then cut them off with rusty scissors. As always the message didn't go through and he heard her say, "I just can't help but believe that we are meant to be together and that I need to forgive him."
'Yeah,' he thought, 'she got my message. Beth dump the bastard before he hurts you again. Maybe take home a STD and give it to him while he's asleep. Give him something that will turn his pecker pink and his nut sack to shrivel up like a raisin and kick his ass out! God almighty why do women put up with that kind of shit. Steve must be a demon in bed or something. My wife, if I weren't unconscious, would kill me over something like that.'
He couldn't now, nor had he ever, seen Beth physically, but he had seen her heart during these late night chats and she was beautiful. She was the kind of person who did her job not for the money, though that was part of it, but did it because she genuinely wanted and liked helping people. He would hear her talk to his wife sometimes and tell her how he had done the night before, their one-sided talks, and treated her like a wife and not someone with a coma victim in the hospital. Besides his wife and mom, Beth was part of the slender thread that allowed him to hang on. He wished better for her than what she was getting, but like everything else in his life at this point he was powerless to help.
She touched his hand and thanked him for listening, like he had a choice, and left the room. The fuzziness began to overtake his brain even more now that he was alone. He could feel Morpheus beginning to work his magic on him and all his thoughts begin to drift and roll into each other. He wondered if he would wake up from his sleep or maybe from his coma, or if this was it and he'd be moving on to the place the voice in his dreams talked to him about.
'I wonder if there is cotton candy and popcorn there,' he thought as he drifted off, 'or if you need to eat at all? Maybe you aren't tied to all that old stuff there, maybe you don't even have a body, and you just exist like I am now but able to speak or communicate with others. Wow, no body, no pain, you just are, people know the real you and not just the shell that holds you in. Wonder if you remember people or if it's just like a new start, like being born again?'
After his second "attempt" he settled in and realized that he had to fight and he was in a war, one that GOD himself had ordained him to fight. He took up his arms, or in his case I.V. tubes, and much like Joe Bonham from "Johnny Got His Gun" he stepped into the trenches of the cancer battlefield and began to wage twenty-four seven war with the insidious enemy that meant to take his life with a renewed vigor that shocked everyone.
"I'm gonna beat this bastard if it kills me," he would laugh and tell doctors, nurses, his family, other patients, and just about anyone who would listen.
He became a cheerleader on all the cancer wards and when health permitted he would demand to be wheeled around to visit other patients. Most people came to expect a daily visit from the "Cancer Crusher" as he came to be known. He sat with the younger patients and explained what was happening to them in terms they could understand and play and joke with them. People always told him how much he helped them; never knowing just how much it was they who helped him.
Chemotherapy treatments became a small party, the room a mix of jokes, songs, rude and crude comments and gestures, and even birthday parties when someone finished their last treatment. As he grew weaker and the treatments began to take their toll, he turned to the one place and person, if you could call him that, which he knew would be there even when his mom couldn't be.
He had learned what every good soldier learns in combat; there are no atheists in foxholes. When your life is at stake and you have nowhere else to turn, you learn GOD always was and always will be there beside you. When you're a twelve year old boy with no hair, except eyebrows for some reason, and you weigh less that seventy pounds soaking wet or at any age really when cancer declares war on you, you reach for GOD and you pray harder than you ever have before or maybe for the first time, for HIM to help you and grant you so relief from the pain and a measure of peace.
You count the small things that others overlook as great accomplishments, getting up, walking, talking, any kind of solid food you can keep down, and even a day spent with the most annoying asshole on the plant is welcomed because that means you are alive.
'So tired, twinkle, twinkle little star… how… I… won…der… wha… t… y… ou… ar…e.'
He drifted off into a peaceful and dreamless sleep as the monitors in the room recorded the slowing heart rate and slowing brainwaves.
This was going to be a straight one-shot story but has grown into something more. I have no idea where I'm going with this, but I do know that it's a story I need to tell, so bear with me and the story if you will.
You may notice that I refer to Dalton Trumbo's "Johnny Got His Gun" in this and will many times as this story progresses. I read the book, well have read it many times, and while it is depressing in some ways, it along with the Bible, which will be used often in this, became a lifeline to me many times on my journey. I suggest you read it if you can, but if you don't it won't cause you any problems reading this story.
A HUGE shout out to Pigwiz who gave me the will to write again and to WhiteKnightro for the encouragement to write this story, I thank you both and value the notes we pass and the friendship we share.