Friday, October 31, 2008

July 27, 2008

There are only two more days until I leave for chemo. It’s weird to think that only six days ago, life seemed to be the greatest. Now I just feel rotten.

Instead of just staying home today, I decided I should show up at the Kiddie Kollege before I disappeared into oblivion. (Or somewhere like it. I don’t exactly look forward to leaving for chemotherapy.) So, around ten, I went to see the kids.

There were only twelve or so there, so I was put in charge of a select few with the help of another volunteer, Nikki. (She’s 10 and the Kiddie Kollege Director’s daughter.) We had one girl and two boys to watch: Stefanie, Jack, and Eddie.

At first Nikki just stared at me like I was crazy. “You need more sleep,” she finally concluded.

“Thanks,” I grinned at her. She stuck her tongue out at me. “No problem, Bag-eyes.”

I rolled my eyes and took Stefanie by the hand. “Let’s color,” I told her.

She knew exactly where to go and led me to the table, plopped down, and shoved a box of crayons at me. “Pooh Bear is yellow,” she said. Then she snatched a pink crayon from the box and proceeded to smear it on Piglet’s eyes.

I took another book from the pile, since it seemed she wanted me to color a Pooh Bear yellow.

“So how old are you, Stephanie,” I asked as I flipped through the book.

She didn’t even look up when she said, “three and a half.” But when she glanced up and saw what page I was on, she squealed. “Not that one!! It’s got Rabbit in it!” She scowled and her nose wrinkled up. “He’s green.”

“Umm . . . okay. So what page should I color then?”

She tilted her head to one side and looked at the page sideways. Then she flipped one page and pointed to a picture of Pooh Bear and Eeyore pretending to be pirates. “That one.”


I let her work then, just to be fair. I figured I’d bothered her long enough. After I’d just finished Pooh and was starting on Eeyore’s droopy eyes, she sighed and said, “goldfish don’t like jello.”

That one wasn’t worth asking about.

When it was my turn to be with Jack and Eddie, I knew they’d be a lot harder to entertain. And neither of them really knew what they wanted to do.

That led to some interesting stuff to talk about. The first thing Eddie said was, “don’t lick a slug. They taste funny and then your tongue gets numb.”

“You licked a slug?” I couldn’t help but raise my eyebrows at him.

He grinned as though he were proud of himself and pointed to his mouth. “Yup! My tongue just got better before I got here.”

“And when did you lick this slug,” I asked.

Again, his grin beamed wider than before. “This morning when my mom told me to go outside and play and dad was reading the newspaper.”

At this, Jack piped up. “Did you know that you can’t put a marshmallow on the microwave?”

What happened with that, I don’t think I’d want know, and I didn't have to. Nikki had to leave to go to the YMCA for her swimming lesson and her mom asked me if I could walk with her.

The weirdest thing happened on the way there.

“So why are you walking with me, Bag-eyes?”

“Your mom told me to.”

“Why do you always volunteer?”

“I like to, that’s why.”

“How come you’re so tired today?”

“Why do you think?”

She huffed at me. “No fair. You can’t answer a question with another question.”

“I just did, didn’t I?”

Her eyes rolled and stopped when she was looking right up at me. “You’re just difficult.”

To say the least, I was surprised to hear that come out of the mouth of a girl less than thirteen years old. Before, I’d actually thought that only Cam could say that and make it seem true.

“Maybe you’re right,” I said.

She stopped suddenly and turned to me. “Life is really weird, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, I guess.” I wasn’t sure what to say, since she’d brought it up so quickly.

“It’s a lot of ups and downs, huh?” She smiled at me for the first time and said, “Except I’m usually going sideways.”

“Yeah, me to, kid,” I wanted to say, but I caught myself before I could.

For some reason, hearing that from a ten year old felt so much better than if it’d come from anyone else. A girl I hardly know, even. And she just said it outright, like it was a given fact that she’d always be moving against the current and in all sorts of which-ways that weren’t meant to be.

Cancer isn’t such a big deal if the numbers aren’t involved. It’s just a word that means “sideways”, in a weird twisted sort of way.

That was about the best thing that’s happened in the last few days. Nikki taught me more about life in one sentence than I’ve learned in five days.

Imagine that.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

July 26, 2008

I still haven’t talked to mom much. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to speak to her with respect again. And I’m beginning to think of time as Before Cancer (B.C. in my terms) and After Diagnose (A.D., also in my own terms) now. Things have changed around here. It’s weird to think that I’m going to be leaving in three days to begin chemo.

This morning, the thought of having cancer really hit me for the first time. I woke up to the dogs’ barking and Percy wailing at my window—and I sleep on the second floor of the house. (She can climb anything, I swear. Once, I had to pull her down from the middle of a telephone pole before she chased a squirrel all the way up ((and ended up on the street—dead like the squirrel.)) She’s insane!)

But before I managed to get out of bed, the ginormous 31 finally got out of the way of all the rest of the information. All of a sudden, all the other information slapped me right across that face. And I cried for the first time since I was diagnosed.

I hate myself for it. I know it’s understandable to cry and all, but it took me . . . what? Four days? Yeah. It took me four days to actually feel something for this weird new thing going on with my body. And when it actually hit me hard enough, I cry about it. Somehow, I don’t think Brad or Eliot would cry about something like this. They don’t seem like the kind of guys that would wimp out about a life-threatening illness. Then again, maybe I don’t either.

It’s not like it hurts. I’ve found other weird bruises on my wrists the last few days and one really big one on my back. Right now, it’s about the equivalent of a puke-green color. But this morning was the first time I actually felt my heart start to hurt. Like an inner pain that leaves me feeling like I may not have a heart left.

Remember how I said that I’ve been thinking in B.C. /A.D. time now?

Well . . . Before Cancer, mom was always trying to smile and make things seem like they were all okay no matter what. (Not that it was always a good thing that she did that . . .) Jeremy would at least acknowledge that I existed and Cam wouldn’t completely avoid me. And Ellie thought I was the best in the world.

After Diagnose, though, things have gone batty. Mom can hardly take one look at me without her eyes misting over and she doesn’t try to makes things seem better than they really are. Now, everything is just the way it was meant to sound. Like “31 percent survival in the first three years.” That sounds pretty bad the way it is. But I’d much rather not have mom throwing more “honeys” and “sweeties” my way.

Jeremy doesn’t even pay me recognition anymore. It hurts to think that he doesn’t want to have anything to do with me, now that I’m the “sick brother” or something like that. Cam is almost just as bad. She keeps herself looked in her room when she’s home and tries to get out of the house as much as possible. It’s almost like she can’t bear to look at me either. The only two words I’ve heard out of her since the twenty-second were “It’s good,” when I asked her how school was going lately.

Then there’s Ellie. She hasn’t changed a bit and I thank her for that—for being the one constant in my life right now. There’s just too much uncertainty right now, I’m not sure I would be able to deal with her falling apart too. Thanks for that, Ellie.

And I still haven’t decided whether I should tell anyone else about the diagnosis yet. I don’t think I could stand another shrug like Jeremy’s or another run-away like Cam. And especially not tears like Ellie’s.

Today was hard for me. I spent most of it sitting on the animal shack’s roof with Percy. She didn’t seem to mind staying in one place nearly the whole day.

But I got to thinking, if something does happen to me, who would take care of the animals? I knew that Ellie would gladly step up to the plate, but she’s just the helper right now, and can’t do much on her own. And she can’t even get a real job yet to pay for all the supplies.

And who would volunteer at Kiddie Kollege and help the kids learn the alphabet and how to count to a hundred? My youth pastor wouldn’t have anyone to scare into thinking they’ll “drop dead” in front of the whole church, and no one to help him when he needs it. And someone has to help the other guys get the pastor’s sermon on the radio.

And Ellie wouldn’t have her brother.

Who’s going to do all that stuff?

I’m irreplaceable in more ways than one, especially in the hearts of others. I don’t think I can stand to break anyone’s.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

July 25, 2008

We saw the doctor again today. All he could really do was refer us to another hospital and say “good luck”. Ha, thanks, buddy. I’m sure that’ll help a lot.

So after we got home from the other hospital, mom said I needed to get some rest. But I’ve lost almost all of my respect for her. The fight yesterday really defined what she thought of me. I always knew I wasn’t her favorite or whatever. Really, I’m sure she’d prefer having Cam and Ellie over Jeremy or I any day.

Our dad was a regular kind of guy, I guess. But he walked out after Ellie was born when I was five. The only memory I have of him is when I went to the park and he almost catapulted me right off the see-saw. It was the funnest thing next to Saturday-morning cartoons at that age.

But, really, that’s the only thing. Some kids would become bitter after a parent leaves them or they would want to meet them or give them a piece of their mind. I’d rather not do anything. My way of looking at it is that God put him in my life for such a short amount of time so I’d learn something from him. (Maybe how to not catapult little kids from see-saws?)

Seriously though, things—and people—happen for a reason. I guess the saying “life happens” is true, though I’d rather admit it wasn’t. (That saying has always bugged me, even though it’s now truer than ever.)

Okay, that was a bit off topic. So after mom told me to get some rest, I left the house without telling her where I was going. I just don’t feel like I have to listen to her anymore, I guess. And I took the dogs for a walk. They haven’t been out for a while, besides to go to the bathroom in the field just past our house.

We ended up passing the soccer field on the way home and I couldn’t resist. I tied the dogs’ leashes to a park bench and called Brad and Eliot on my cell phone to come play soccer with me. We used to be on a league in junior high, but it died after we got into high school because most of the guys became “too cool” or whatever.

When they showed up a little while later, I realized that I’d forgotten to tell then to bring a ball. All I could say was “my bad.” Brad nearly slugged me in the shoulder, but Eliot got this crazy grin on his face and backed slipped his hand out from behind his back.

“Hey, Jove.” The grin grew larger as he spoke.

“Do I even want to know?”

Brad glanced between the two of us, then at the little dachshund sitting at his feet and wagging his tail like a nut. He raised an eyebrow at the pup and chuckled. “This little guy a new one?”

But I wasn’t about to be distracted. “Eliot! What is it?”

His grin burst into laughter and he pointed behind him breathlessly. “See for yourself,” he gasped between breaths.

I looked back and saw . . . nothing. But that was it, wasn’t it? Nothing?

Then I suddenly realized what he was talking about. “Holy crap, Eliot!” He’d let the other two dogs loose while Brad and I weren’t paying attention.

“You’d better not lose them, jerkface!” I vaulted over the bench and tore across the lawn toward the dogs’ escape route.

All I could hear behind me was the sound of Eliot and Brad’s laughter.

It sent a pang down my spine when I finally got back home and had all the dogs back where they belonged.

What am I supposed to tell everyone else?

Monday, October 27, 2008

July 24, 2008

Mom tried to talk to me today. But I’m not sure what she was thinking—or me either for that matter—because we ended up yelling at each other. This is how it went.

—knock on door—

Me: Come in.

Mom: —pushes door open hesitantly— Is there anything you want to talk about, honey?

Me: I’m fine, mom.

Mom: —sits down on edge of bed where I’m pretending to be engrossed in an old Time magazine—

Me: Mom. I said I’m fine. —turn page—

Mom: —reaches for my hand— We’ll pull through this, Jove. You’ll see, sweetie.

Me: —snatches hand out of her grasp— Whoever said we wouldn’t?

So finally, I guess she got fed up with my “I don’t care” act.

She said “Maybe if you stopped denying what’s really going on, you’d be able to move through this.”

At this, I slapped Time down on the bed and sat up. “Me? You’re saying I’m the one who needs to move through this?”

“Well . . . yes, honey, that’s what I’m—"

“If you haven’t noticed, I haven’t been the one crying for the last three days!” Then I stomped from the room and slammed my door in her face before she could follow.

By the time she caught up with me, I’d made it out the door and into the animal’s shack.

“Don’t you dare speak to me like that, young man.” She stood in the doorway, her eyes shiny from holding back tears and a wrinkle standing out on her forehead.

I grabbed the parakeets’ cage from its perch and pushed past her. “Where do you think you’re going,” she demanded.

“To clean the cage,” I snapped back.

She followed me, her voice softer now. “Honey. Jove, sweetie.”

That’s what happens when she has nothing else to say. She says “sweetie” or “honey” or something to sugarcoat things that she’s not sure will hurt or not.

“It isn’t that bad of a percentage, honey. You know . . . a 31 percent is—"

“Is an F- if that were possible,” I cut her off. The parakeets squawked in protest at the pitch in my voice and I set the cage down before I turned and looked at her.

“It isn’t like that, sweetie.” She smiled weakly to sugarcoat the sentence even more and said, “its a three-year average. You’re strong. I know you can beat it those three years.”

“And what if I don’t?” By then, my eyes were on fire.

She hesitated again and took a step towards me. “Jove, swe—"

“Don’t “sweetie” me, mom! I know all you’re going to say is, ‘Oh, you can beat it. We can get through this.’ But you know what?”


But I didn’t give her time to answer.

“Has it ever occurred to you that the percentage means that only 31 out of 100 survive those first three years?”

Her bottom lip quivered, but I kept pressing.

“Did it occur to you before I told you that a 31 percent is an F and the average grade among the seniors graduating next year with me?”

“Honey, I—"

“No, mom! You’re only going to say that an F is fine as long as they’re trying their hardest. But what about my life? Is it trying hard enough if I join that stupid percentage? An F, mom?!”


By now, the parakeets were going batty. Their cage rattled as they flapped about it frantically.

“Jove. I had no idea you felt that way.” She’d finally gotten past the sugarcoating.

“Yeah, well. News flash for you,” I muttered and reached for the cage.

Then she said the worst thing of all. “But that other 69 percent . . . they lived for another three years, honey.”

The cage, now in my hand, crashed to the ground as I stood before her in horror.

“And only three more years with your son is good enough for you?”

To that, she couldn’t answer me.

July 22, 2008

The three-year overall survival rate for M5 type leukemia, or Acute Monocytic Leukemia (AML), is 31%. Not a very good average if you ask me.

And today, I was one of the 44,270 predicted to be diagnosed in 2008 with leukemia to actually be diagnosed.

I have to admit, though. It doesn’t surprise me much. I mean, there was that first initial shock when I heard the doctor say “I think you’re strong enough to hear the truth” and then told that I may not be alive in the next three years or so, maybe even the next few months. (Okay, so he didn’t say it exactly like that. But that's what he meant.)

Really, I’m not sure how it happened. The other day, I found this weird bruise on my wrist that I couldn’t remember getting. And during the night, I fell out of bed and I guess I hit my head pretty hard, because when I woke up the whole right side of my face was a deep bluish-purple.

Mom said it was nothing and shrugged it off. By the end of the day, I had a fever of 103.2 degrees Fahrenheit. Not fun. Well, next thing I know we’re at the doctor’s office with them all over me, drawing blood and taking tests. Joy.

Four hours, three blood tests, and two finger pricks later, I’ve been officially diagnosed with AML.

I’m not quite sure what to think yet. I guess the first thing that came to mind was “chemotherapy” and “will my hair fall out”. Stuff like that. But I thought the part where I’m scared or sad would set in sooner. It’s really weird.

It isn’t like I’m in denial; at least I don’t think that’s it. It’s just that the huge 31 in my mind hasn’t quite gotten out of the way of all the other information yet. I can’t really say what I’m thinking right now.

All mom has really done in the last few days is cry. Whenever I talk to her she’ll try to hide it, but the red rims under her eyes tell the whole story. Yesterday, I almost yelled at her. She doesn’t seem to get that I can’t deal with her blubbering on like that. She thinks that she’s the one who has to cry?

Okay, so maybe I’m being a bit unfair. I am her son and all. It just doesn’t feel right when she’s the parent especially when it feels like she can’t be strong enough to hold her tears for me just a little bit longer. At least until I’m out of the house or something.

We haven’t told any relatives yet. But, of course, the siblings know. What hurt the most out of all that was how Jeremy stared at me with his sad green eyes . . . and then just shrugged it off and went back to listening to Linkin Park as though nothing had happened.

The only response I got out of Cam was a slight tremble in her lip. Then she was grabbing up all her books from the kitchen table, where she’d laid out her homework, and skittering from the room as though a ghost were after her.

And Ellie . . . Ellie didn’t take it too well.

She was eating a chocolate chip cookie and sitting on the counter with her legs swinging when mom broke it to her. At first, there was nothing. Then, slowly, the color drained from her cheeks. Next was the cookie to fall from her fingers and crumble on the ceramic tiles beneath her now frozen legs.

Then her mouth opened in a little “O” of surprise. “Wh . . . what di-did you s-say?” The pain was so apparent in her voice, I couldn’t bear to hear mom answer her.

“Honey . . .” mom started. But before she could continue, Ellie burst into sobs right there on the counter.

I couldn’t just watch her cry like that, so I crossed the kitchen floor to her and held her in my arms, unsure of what to say. All she could do was press her nose into my shoulder and cry.

That was two nights ago. Now, I’m not so sure what’s going to happen. I’m still strangely numb to this news that seems to have affected everyone in the family but me. (If not Jeremy and Cam, I’m not sure, though.)

That night I sat on the animal shack’s roof and Percy came up to join me. (The only other cat we shelter besides Creature.) She seemed to be smiling at me through the moonlight and her whiskers quivered as she rubbed against my arm and welcomed a few scratches behind the ear.

It was the first time I managed to smile that day.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

July 18, 2008

A year ago today, Ellie found an abandoned kitten in a ditch near the highway. She came home crying and begging mom to let her keep it.

“No way are you keeping that creature inside this house, young lady.” (Exact words too. No way would I ever forget something like that. I mean, calling a kitten a “creature”?)

But I couldn’t bear to see the little thing get kicked out on the streets again. So I told Ellie that I would make the kitten a wooden box so she’d be safe sleeping in the garage that night. The look on her face was thanks enough.

So I made the box for Ellie’s kitten, now named “Creature”, and she was placed in the garage for that first night. But I should have known that Ellie wouldn’t let it go after that. The next day she was following mom around the house, constantly asking if she was allowed to keep Creature.

Eventually, I figured I couldn’t stand another “why can’t Creature stay mom”. So I told mom that I could make a shelter in the backyard for the kitten. She gave me one of her looks, so I just thought it was okay to go ahead and do it.

Pretty soon, though, Ellie started bringing all kinds of animals to our house and asking if we could keep them until we found their owners—if they had any. (Most of them didn’t.)

Three months later, I had a full-blown 20x15 foot shack. Ellie paid for three-fourths of the wood and shingles, while I got a few donations from mom and saved up for weeks to make up the difference. But it was worth it. (And we live on the very edge of town, so we don’t have to worry about disturbing the neighbors with all the noise.)

Now, we have three dogs (a Dachshund, German shepherd, and a Yorkshire terrier), two cats (Creature and a little tabby named Percy), four rabbits (just space-eaters, all of them!), two parakeets without names, and five adopted hamsters all in the same shack.

Ellie works (unofficially) at a donut shop in town to help pay for the supplies to take care of them all and I tutor first-eighth graders during the school year for a price of five dollars per every half hour. (I just can’t stand the thought of working at a fast food place somewhere and it pays better too!)

And to add to my busy schedule, I volunteer at the yearly “Kiddie Kollege” during the summer as much as I can. Whenever mom mentions it, she tells me that I could be doing something much more useful with my time. It doesn’t seem right though; for me to not go and be with the kids there would feel like I was abandoning them in someway. Almost like if we’d have kicked Creature out of the house.

So to keep her off my back long enough for me to not worry about it, I tell her that it’s my way of getting out of the house. But, really, it’s all for the kids. Somehow, she just doesn’t understand how important it is for me to work and talk with little kids. They say the coolest things sometimes. (I’ll have to remember to add some quotes later.)

I’m also really involved in my church. I sing in the choir and help with getting the pastor’s sermon on the radio. And my youth pastor says that I can help him with Youth Group when I want to, but only when I’m not too busy with everything else.

He’s told me before that someday I’m going to fall asleep in the middle of the special song during church, which the choir sings. It honestly scared me into getting more sleep at night because I was bound and determined not to “drop dead” in front of the whole congregation.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

July 17, 2008

I was never very good at writing and I don’t think a blog will make much difference. Essays in English class were never my thing, anyway. So . . . maybe it won’t be so hard. I mean, a blog is about my life, right? Not some character’s personality or some essay that tears a story to pieces. But, anyway, I guess I’ll give this blogging thing a shot and see how it goes. Who knows? Maybe I’ll like writing for once.

Well. What else does one say on a blog? It’s like a diary, right? Where I share my deep and inner secrets, huh? Ha. Yeah, right. Ellie (my little sister) must think I’m really stupid. The next thing she’ll be asking me is what kinds of stories we rip to pieces. This whole thing was her idea in the first place.

Hmm. I guess I could always talk about my family. There’s mom, Jeremy, Cam, and Ellie.

Mom is just like any other, I guess, except she makes breakfast for us every morning because it “brings us together as a family”. Usually, it just ends up with Jeremy ignoring us to the tunes of ACDC on his iPod at full blast, Cam texting one of her “friends” while completely failing to notice we exist, and Ellie chattering mom and I’s ears off.

Jeremy is 15 and trying to find who he is. It’s interesting, to say the least. It’s hard to watch him hang out with all those really dumb skater kids. And I’m not just saying that. I’ve talked to them before. If one jumped off a bridge, the others would all follow.

Cam is a regular thirteen year old prep. All she can think about is what she’ll wear to the school dance that’s a month away, what guy she’s got a major crush on, and why her “best friend” called her a not-so-very-nice-word-I’d-rather-not-repeat.

And then there’s Ellie. She’s 12—the odd-ball out. Her way of doing things is far from anything classified as conformity. She’s the very picture of inconsistency. And she’s the “baby” of the family.

Then I guess there’s me. I’m Jove and the oldest of my siblings at seventeen. And I’m not really sure how to describe myself. Guess you’ll just have to do the describing yourself, huh?

Thursday, October 23, 2008


This blog is solely for the purpose of documenting a story I'm working on. To get into the mood, I really needed to start a blog, rather than just write on paper. Part of my inspirational process is to get into character. And to do that, I had to create a real blog. Hope this clears things up a bit.

And this will not be a continuous thing, because the story takes place over a week or so. That's how long it will be, depending on if I decide to make it longer or not.

From here on out, every post will be in character and is not to be taken seriously as pertaining to my real persona. (And just to get this out of the way, my character is a boy--I am a girl.)

Even the comments are part of the story. They are posted by myself as characters who can interact slightly within the story, while still staying out of the way. (So, anyone else who reads this, do NOT comment, please! But if you absolutely can't STAND it, you may comment under the name "notacharrie" if you'd like. Otherwise, do not comment.)