Another week had passed, and more and more sickness followed for Cody. Some mornings he awoke feeling as if he were too weak to take on the day, and other mornings he awoke with just enough strength to sit up in bed. Whenever Theresa entered the room with a tray of food, he would turn it down, as the constant waves of nausea never allowed him to have a chance at being hungry. Dr. Hiru had been right when he'd said that cancer was not an easy thing to deal with once the chemotherapy had started. The cancer was clearly proving its existence, and only the chemo could take care of it, but even that came with more sickness.
"Is that normal?" Ryan asked as he pointed at Cody's pale face and the bags under his eyes.
Theresa turned the pages in the cancer book. "I have no idea," she said. "There's nothing in here that mentions that."
Dr. Yelena dodged the girls on the floor as she entered the room and approached Theresa on the chairs, watching Cody as she neared him. In her gloved hands, she held a few doctors masks, and set them upon Theresa's lap. "You'll need these," she said. "We're going to be putting Cody in isolation, so there's going to be a sign outside the door to warn any visitors."
Theresa was confused. "What going to happen?" she asked.
Dr. Yelena sighed. "When a patient is in isolation, it means their condition is serious, and they must be protected from germs. Visiting hours are going to be limited, so he will have to spend some nights alone. This is only temporary, but it helps to prevent the spread of germs in the hospital. He's got the flu, and because of his immune system, it's going to come a lot worse than what's normally expected."
Ryan's jaw dropped at the mention of that. His brother was really sick. They would have to wear doctors masks around him, that was how bad it was. "How long does it take?" he asked.
"Each patient is different," Dr. Yelena answered. "The time it takes to go away depends on his ability to fight it off. In fact, some patients don't even make it out of isolation, but from the looks of it, Cody shouldn't take too long to get out of it. It will take some time, though."
Both Theresa and Ryan frowned as they placed the masks over their faces. Now that Cody was really sick, everything seemed to be even more real than before. Although he hadn't been doing well for the past week, there was still the hope that he was getting better, but now it was crushed. Where on earth did he catch the flu from? More importantly, how would he fight it off? He seemed to be getting weaker by the day, and he felt as if he couldn't take the pain and sickness anymore. Like Dr. Hiru had said, it was only the beginning of his journey, but he really didn't want things to get worse. Everything was taking a turn for the worse already, and he dreaded the next few months to come.
The thunder rumbled loudly outside, and lightning flashed through the windows, reminding the family that it would not be a good day. The rain poured hard, and even splashed through the open window, which Dr. Yelena quickly shut. Cody rolled over in the bed and placed his hands over his ears as another loud crack of thunder shook the room. He hated thunderstorms. To make matters worse, they were on the top floor, where they were closer to the sky and the storm was much louder. They could hear the torrential downpour hitting the roof of the building, which drowned out the sound of the voices in room 1204. One more streak of lightning and suddenly the lights went out.
"Mommy!" Jodi and Shirley shrieked as they raced over to Theresa and gripped onto her tightly.
Another rumble of thunder shook the room. "It'll be okay," she assured them as she lifted the mask off to speak. "They have backup."
The lights came back on, and she could hear the sighs of relief escape her daughters. "I can see again," said Jodi.
Theresa smiled. "Here, I need you to put these on." She waved the green masks in front of the girls. "Cody is really sick."
"What is that?" said Shirley.
"It's a doctors mask," said Theresa as she placed it over their noses. "We can't let Cody catch our germs again."
"I can't even talk." Shirley's voice was muffled as she mentioned it. "And it smells really bad in here."
Theresa laughed. "But it's going to protect Cody. We can take it off when we leave the room. Jodi and I have to go for her appointment in an hour, anyway."
"Why doesn't Cody have to wear one?" Jodi asked as she twisted her long ponytail around her fingers.
"Because he's the one who's sick. We need to wear these because they won't let him get even more sick."
Jodi and Shirley locked eyes as they both nodded, understanding. They played around with the masks over their faces, observing the new "toys" and constantly running their fingers along them. Returning to their dolls on the floor, the girls ignored the rumbling of the thunder outside, which gradually became less audible as time went on. They returned to their imaginary world of princesses and Barbies and blocked out all sound and movement around them, while Ryan listened to some of the weird things they said. They had very creative minds, as he had come to learn. He hoped they wouldn't lose their creativity as they grew older -- already, they were brilliant.
Cody fell asleep to the sound of the rain, and Theresa wondered if it would be safe to send her remaining children down to the playroom for about an hour, just until Jodi's appointment. She'd stay in Cody's room and watch over him in case anything happened, while the kids could at least enjoy something for once. She didn't like that they were always stuck in room 1204, and had never once visited the playroom. "Hey Ryan, why don't you take the girls down to the playroom for a little bit? I'm sure they'd love that."
Ryan sighed. "Do I have to?" he said.
"Just please. It'll only be for an hour, maybe even less. Jodi has her appointment in an hour anyway."
Ryan sighed again. "Fine," he said. "But I'm not playing with little dollies and all that girly stuff."
Theresa laughed, and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Just go. And be back at," she glanced up at the clock, "one o'clock. Or before that, if you want."
"Definitely before," said Ryan. He rose to his feet and headed over to his younger sisters, not wanting to interrupt their make-believe world, but at the same time, wanting to. "We're going to the playroom," he told them. "You coming or nah?"
"Yes, finally!" Jodi shrieked as she instantly ditched the Barbies and joined Ryan. "Shirley, we're going to the playroom!"
"Yay!" said Shirley. She, too, ditched the Barbies and exited the room with her brother, soon finding herself outside the door of the playroom. "Are there other girls in there?" she asked.
"I would imagine so," said Ryan. "That would be weird if there wasn't."
The three stepped into the large room, and the first thing they saw was the flurry of excited children running around like animals in a game of tag, while others sat quietly at a circular table drawing pictures and making crafts. "So, which clan are you a part of?" Ryan asked his sisters.
Jodi and Shirley were puzzled, but Ryan shrugged anyway. "You can go play tag or something. I have no idea what I'll do, though."
He found himself a seat on a chair amongst many parents, mostly mothers, who watched their children do whatever they wanted to do. He almost felt like he didn't belong, considering no one his age was sitting near him. He really didn't feel like talking to any parents -- that would be awkward. If a mother turned to him and said, "Children are such a blessing," or "My kids are best when they're happy," he would get up and leave. Seriously. He didn't want to engage in any parental talks with anyone. In all honesty, he didn't care. Of course, he agreed it was a relief to get away from hospital rooms and doctors, but he didn't want to discuss the existence of children and how they were the greatest living things on earth to take care of, blah blah blah...
Jodi and Shirley found their way to the craft station rather than the game of tag, but Ryan could already see that they were having fun drawing and gluing random things to blank sheets of paper. Other little girls approached them, mostly bald-headed, but still friendly. Ryan never understood why others thought differently of kids with cancer. Eventually, Cody would be completely hairless, and Ryan knew that he'd be the target of stares in public. The moment people saw cancer patients, they instantly felt sympathy. But why? If they were getting better, why did people have to feel bad for them? He knew Cody didn't want the pity of others, but it was unavoidable once you stepped in public. Kids would point and ask why those people had no hair, teenaged girls would spill out a ton of "awww" comments, and adults would shoot them their famous what-a-shame stares. Not only did cancer show itself on the inside -- it showed itself on the outside too.
"Get a nurse!" The loud shriek brought Ryan out of his thoughts, and he looked up. Everything seemed to move in slow motion as his eyes caught sight of the shocking scene.
Jodi was on the ground. Shaking. Violently.
Adults rushed to her side, and soon, Ryan did too. His heart was pumping so fast he feared he'd collapse, and his breath hitched in his throat as he pushed his way through the crowd and approached his sister. "Jodi!" he called, but she just kept shaking. "Jodi, answer me!"
"She's having a seizure!" one of the women called out, and rolled Jodi over onto her side. Ryan wasn't sure why she'd done that, but he assumed it had something to do with her safety.
The crowd gradually got smaller as others raced off to get a nurse, but the blonde woman who'd turned Jodi onto her side focused on staying next to her, and could only manage one word to Ryan. "Would you like me to go and get someone for you?"
"My mom!" Ryan shrieked. "She's in room 1204!"
"Thank you." The woman rose to her feet and immediately rushed out of the room, returning moments later with Theresa at her side, as well as several nurses and Dr. Hiru. Theresa was panicked, and hysterical tears rushed down her red cheeks as she dropped to her knees and touched Jodi's cooling forehead. Ryan and Shirley were somehow pushed out of the crowd, but all Ryan could do was hold Shirley and hope for the best.
Shirley was crying. "What's happening?" she blubbered.
"She's just...having a seizure," said Ryan. "She's gonna be okay."
Ryan never thought he'd be the one to comfort someone, but clearly Shirley had no idea what was going on. One moment they were chatting and playing with their new friends over arts and crafts, and in the next Jodi had fallen out of her chair and was on the ground shaking and unresponsive. Ryan understood her fear, as he was feeling the exact same thing, but was not willing to show it. Clearly those headaches meant something now, which only worried him more. What did the seizure mean? Was it connected to those headaches she was having? He couldn't help but wonder if his sister would, just like Cody, receive her "life sentence." He certainly hoped not, but the signs she was giving weren't at all normal.
Soon enough, they whisked Jodi away, and Ryan and Shirley were back in room 1204 waiting while Jodi recovered in another room, and was soon taken down to her appointment. This was bad. Very bad. No kid just stumbled around like a newborn calf and had one too many headaches, and then dropped to the floor from a freaking seizure. Ryan's face fell as he realized that Jodi was in the danger zone, and maybe she wouldn't be alright. He suddenly felt like the worst brother ever for ignoring her complaints and telling her it was all in her head. Well, whatever it was really was in her head for sure, and was about to ruin their lives yet again.
"So what really happened?" Cody mumbled, but Ryan could barely understood a word.
"Huh?" said Ryan.
"What...happened." He said it slowly so it was understandable, but it was still kind of hard to hear what he was saying because of the tubes shoved in his throat.
"Jodi had a seizure."
Cody felt like saying "No shit," but he just shook his head anyway. Well, tried to shake his head. "Is...she...okay?"
Ryan felt tears form in his eyes, and he blinked repeatedly to keep them from falling. "I don't think so," he said sadly.
Ryan saw Shirley's little body from the corner of his eye as she crawled into the chair next to him, fiddling with the doctors mask on her face and still crying. "Where's Jodi?" she asked for the millionth time.
"Downstairs," said Ryan. He wasn't going to bother with a humerous reply, so he straight-up told her where her sister was. "Appointment. Probably not okay."
This only worsened Shirley's cries. "I want her to come back," she said through her tears.
"Why...wouldn't she...be okay?" Cody asked.
Ryan was being bombarded with millions of questions by both his siblings, and he almost felt like screaming. "I don't know," was all he could say. "I'm not an expert. Ask Dr. Yelena or something."
This seriously could not be happening. This was all a dream, and he'd wake up if he closed his eyes tight enough. But no matter how hard he tried, he was still in the same spot, unmoving. He was growing more and more frustrated, and wanted to punch something, or even worse, someone. If cancer were a person, he'd probably kill him, and if Jodi had cancer too, he'd bring this Cancer guy back to life just so he could kill him again. God, what was wrong with this world?
"So, how are we doing?" Dr. Yelena asked them as she walked in the room, tying her long, brown hair into a high ponytail.
All Ryan had to do was look at her, and she knew.
Nothing would be the same around here.
This family was certainly doomed in more ways than one.
"I heard about what happened," she said, but still got the cold shoulder treatment.
Silence surrounded her. "How about we play a game?" she suggested. "Did you guys bring any board games to keep you occupied?"
"Yeah," Ryan finally said. "But they're at our grandparents' house."
"Oh, that's not good. How about we make up a game instead? How does that sound?"
"I can make up a game," said Shirley.
"Really?" Dr. Yelena said enthusiastically. "That's awesome! What were you thinking?"
Shirley wiped the tears from her eyes and laid back in her chair, staring up at the ceiling in deep thought. "Can we use Barbies?" she asked.
Ryan sighed. "That's boring," he said. "Why don't we just sit here and think about stuff instead of playing a game? I don't want to."
He was sounding stubborn, but he didn't mean to. He even had to go to baseball tonight, and he wasn't looking forward to doing anything but sit in the hospital room and sulk. He knew he had to get active and at least do something with his life other than sit in a hospital room, but he didn't feel like moving from the very spot he sat in. There was nothing he could do to prevent what had happened to Jodi, and that was all he wanted to think about. He wanted to think about Cody and his cancer, and he wanted to dream up an imaginary place where cancer didn't exist and everybody was happy. It sounded silly, but really, it was all he had.
"Okay," said Dr. Yelena. "Shirley and I can play, you don't have to."
The two engaged in some kind of activity that involved a bunch of dolls and stuff, but Ryan just sat there. And he thought. His gaze continuously switched from nearly unconscious Cody to an excited Shirley as he could feel the sickening absence of Jodi. She wasn't dead, thankfully -- or at least he didn't think so. He knew that by now she was at her appointment and getting some kind of brain scan, but he was never updated on her condition. Her seizure was obviously over though. If it wasn't, that would be weird -- and kind of scary. What would it be like to have a seizure for hours and hours? All he knew was that it would seriously suck, and it would worry everyone around them.
"It's about time," said Ryan when Theresa brought Jodi into the room three hours later. "Did they rip apart her brain too?"
Theresa laughed. "No," she said, placing the mask over her face. "She spent most of her time recovering. How's Cody doing?"
Ryan pointed to the bowl which had been used more times than he could count. "That's his best friend today," he said. "I think the nurses have had to empty it, like, three times today."
"Ouch." Theresa approached Cody's bedside and stroked his cheek as he slept. "He's been doing an awful lot of sleeping lately," she said.
"Sometimes he falls asleep when you're in the middle of a conversation with him."
"Yes, I know." She wished she could kiss Cody's cheek, but of course, the doctors would give her crap if she did, and then proceed to warn her of the dangers of the germs and all that medical stuff. She had no time to hear that.
"So is there anything wrong with Jodi?" Ryan finally asked.
"I don't know yet," said Theresa. "I hope not."
"How do you not know? Didn't they just do a bunch of tests?"
Theresa nodded. "We're not gonna get the results right away," she said. "Probably tomorrow, or the next day. Or the next day. Maybe even the day after that."
"That long?" Ryan sounded a little scared. "If they did a brain scan, wouldn't they see if she had anything right away?"
Theresa shrugged. "I have no idea. I'm kind of glad I never became a doctor though. I'd never be able to bear telling anyone their kid is dying or something like that."
"Neither would I."
"You don't have to worry though," she said. "I'm not one of those parents who lives their dreams through their kids. I went to school with a girl whose mother forced her to become a doctor."
"That's stupid," said Ryan. "So when's Cody getting more chemo?"
"I think in two weeks," said Theresa. "Anyway, I'm gonna go and get us some supper, and when I get back, you should be ready for baseball. Deal?"
Ryan smiled. "Deal."
Once she left, he shuddered with disgust. The hospital food was actually so gross, and everyone knew it. If they were lucky, maybe she'd sneak in some KFC or something, and they could actually enjoy some real food. Everything at the hospital either tasted like rubber or had the flavour deep-fried right out of it. In all honesty, most of the food tasted like nothing. It was like water in a way -- water didn't have a specific taste. Water was water, and apparently at the hospital, food was food. Whoever made the food and put it out there obviously never tasted it, because if she did, even she would gag.
Ryan quickly threw on his red jersey and couldn't help but glance at Cody once more. He was tough, and Ryan knew for sure that his brother was going to be alright someday. He had recently come to learn that although cancer changes the way a person looks at life, it doesn't change who they truly are. Although he'd probably seem a little different once the harsh treatments were over, he would still be Cody -- his little brother that was annoying but funny at the same time. If he was lucky, maybe he'd even get to watch the baseball tournament at the end of the summer and cheer Ryan on the way he used to. But for now, his only focus was to survive, and Ryan wasn't going to get in the way.
"Theresa, could I speak to you for a moment? It's urgent."
The voice belonged to Dr. Hiru, and the sound of his voice drove a deep chill up Theresa's spine. It's urgent. What was going on?
She began to tremble slightly as she followed the doctor into the hallway. It was early in the morning -- only seven o'clock -- so Ryan and his sisters hadn't arrived yet, and she didn't need to worry about leaving them worried in room 1204. Sighing heavily, Theresa placed her back against the wall and waited for Dr. Hiru's next words, her nerves acting up terribly inside her. Of course, she had no idea what he'd say, but because it was urgent, she needed to listen.
Dr. Hiru had a clipboard in his hand. God, he always had that clipboard. He kept staring at it as he said, "So, it's urgent."
Duh, her mind screamed, but she remained silent.
"I just wanted to inform you of the test results from yesterday. Now you know why it's urgent."
Theresa wanted to punch him. Why couldn't he just be honest and tell her? He always had to pull that I'll-leave-you-hanging-instead nonsense, and she was sick of it. "What...what do they show?" she managed.
He held out this picture from the brain scan and pointed to a smallish, round, white thing that had appeared in her brain. "See that?" he said.
"Oh my gosh!" she said, and her hand flew to her mouth quicker than she could process what she was seeing. "Is that...?"
"A tumor," Dr. Hiru finished. "It's a tumor. Start saying your prayers now, 'cause they ain't pretty."