Ryan bolted upright, feeling as if he were suffering from a heart attack. He gazed around the room, which was no longer dark. The two mattresses next to him were empty. He almost wanted to cry, thinking it was all real. He gasped, then realized that it had been all a dream, and Jodi and Shirley were probably upstairs having breakfast. He breathed a sigh of relief, and decided to head upstairs.
He stumbled up the steps, still feeling exhausted. He couldn't wait to get back to the hospital. He needed to make sure that Cody was still alive. He would probably be in surgery when they got there. All that mattered to Ryan was that Cody was alive. Right after he had breakfast, got dressed, and brushed his teeth, he would get to go to the hospital with his sisters.
"It's about time you got up," said his grandmother. "It's almost eleven o'clock."
Ryan, surprised, gazed up at the clock. Sure enough, there was only five minutes until eleven o'clock. "You want some cereal?" his grandmother asked.
"Sure," he muttered, rubbing his eyes. He yawned, wishing he had slept longer. It didn't matter how long he slept for, he'd still be tired anyway.
Jodi and Shirley both lay on the couch, watching their favourite Care Bears episode. Ryan hardly ate any of his cereal, since he didn't feel that hungry. Now, maybe if Jodi and Shirley weren't too lazy, Ryan could get them to get dressed so they could leave earlier. "Come on," he told them. "You guys gotta get dressed. We gotta leave."
"But it's almost over!" Jodi whined. "Can we watch the rest?"
"Mom wanted us there as soon as possible," Ryan reminded them.
"Five more minutes?" Shirley pleaded.
"No, you guys take forever to get ready. Mom's gonna get suspicious."
They both sighed. "Fine," they said, and headed down to the basement to get their clothes and get dressed. They didn't even know exactly what "suspicious" meant, but they knew that they needed to go fast. They got ready faster than Ryan had imagined, which wasn't like them at all. Now they would get to leave.
"Have a nice day!" their grandparents called at them as they headed out the door. The three of them turned around to wave, then headed for the hospital.
The morning sky was cloudless, and looked beautiful. The sun shone brightly in the sky, beating the heat down on them as they walked. Ryan wore his favourite DC hat, to shield the sun from his eyes. Shirley loved the new pink, sparkly skirt she had gotten for her birthday, and wore that, along with a tank top. Jodi loved to wear dresses year-round, but she mostly wore them in the summer. She had on a little red dress, which had a bow that wrapped around the waist. It was her favourite dress out of her wardrobe.
As they cut through the front lawn, they spotted Aunt Mimi's van in the parking lot. Ryan rolled his eyes. He hoped she hadn't brought her kids, since he found them quite annoying at times. They sure liked to get their way all the time, and were unfair when it came to playing games. They were also greedy and spoiled. If one bought candy at the corner store with their allowance money, for example, everyone else would bug until Aunt Mimi went and bought them candy, too. That wasn't really fair to the one that would buy the candy with their own money, but Aunt Mimi didn't really pay much attention to that.
When they arrived at room 1204 about ten minutes later, Aunt Mimi and Uncle Scott were both there. And, sure enough, all six kids were there. Derek approached Ryan, and said, "Your brother is in surgery."
Ryan breathed a sigh of relief, since he thought Derek was going to say "Your brother didn't survive", like what had happened in his dream. "I know that," Ryan replied. "They're putting that thing in his body for the chemo."
"Oh," said Derek. He scratched his head, which was a habit of his. Ever since he had gotten his blonde hair shaved off, it had irritated him. He hardly had any hair left. He felt unique in his family, kind of like Shirley, except he wasn't the only one with blonde hair. But he was the only one with a spattering of freckles on his cheeks. Nobody in Ryan's family had that, either.
"The thing that they're putting in there, whatever it's called, will help to fight off all the bad cancer cells," Ryan told him.
"Why don't you guys go to the park or something?" Aunt Mimi suggested.
"But I don't wanna go to the park knowing that Cody can't come," Ryan said innocently. "He loves going to the park."
"But you guys went outside yesterday without him," Theresa reminded him.
"But that was just on the front lawn," Ryan pointed out. "He likes to have something to do. There would be nothing for him to do out there."
"Well, you guys are going to need your excersize."
"Are you calling me fat?" Ryan joked, and started to laugh.
"No," Theresa giggled. "What I'm trying to say is that you guys need your excersize. You can't just stay inside all summer. That's what summer is for."
"That's what Cody said." Ryan stared down at the floor, frowning. "He's not going to get the excersize he needs."
"But you have to understand, he is going to lose a significant amount of weight, and is going to be sick the entire summer."
Ryan had a surprised expression on his face. "Does that mean that I have to start school here?"
"Yeah, well obviously. You can't drive three hours back home to school everyday."
Ryan sighed deeply. Theresa ruffled his hair and said, "You should head off to the park now."
"Fine." He walked out of the room, his annoying cousins by his side.
The door suddenly swung back open. "I need to get my skateboard," he said, and headed over for the corner of the room, where he had left it the previous night.
Aunt Mimi and Theresa began to laugh hysterically. "What?" Ryan asked, puzzled.
"I knew you'd come back for that," Theresa answered.
"Well, I guess I'm attached to my skateboard like a thirteen-year-old girl to her cell phone."
Theresa laughed. "You should be on your way now. Have fun!"
The group returned from the park half an hour later, and Cody's surgery was just about completed. A nurse had also mentioned to Theresa about baseball this summer, and if Ryan was interested in it. Cody couldn't play, even though baseball was his favourite sport.
"The nurse said there are people looking for baseball players for this summer. I know you'd probably be interested." Theresa handed Ryan a sheet the nurse had given her. "It says it has a one hundred dollar fee," Ryan told her.
"Well, I could pay that," Theresa stated. "You like baseball, I know that." She was right. He had played baseball for a long time now, and was really good at it. Every team he had ever been on counted on him, since he could hit the ball farthest. He was like a role model. He was usually the reason why his team won. He was always a leader, not a follower. He decided he would join the team.
"Mommy, my head really hurts!" Jodi complained.
Jodi had been acting quite strangely lately. And they couldn't use the excuse that she was just getting used to her surroundings, because she had been acting this way even before they came to the hospital. She seemed to be getting lots of severe headaches, and that wasn't normal for her. Theresa had also seemed to notice Jodi's sudden loss of balance at times, and she would often wake up saying that her vision was blurry. This was definitely beginning to concern her.
"Well, how do you feel right now?" Theresa asked her.
Jodi began to walk over to Theresa, and suddenly staggered off balance. She hit Cody's hospital bed, and hung onto the sidebars to bring herself to her feet again.
"Are you okay?" Theresa wanted to know.
"I can't stand up!" she cried out.
Theresa began to get worried. "How are you feeling right now?" she asked her.
"My head hurts!" Jodi mumbled, a tear sliding down her rosy cheeks.
"We could probably make an appointment here to check on that." Theresa asked a nurse what she could do, and she was told she could probably request an appointment at the front desk. "But there are an awful lot of people who request appointments specifically here," the nurse warned her. "You may have to wait a while for that appointment."
"Well, I will need it to be done soon so we can figure out the problem," Theresa responded.
A doctor entered the room. "We have successfully completed the operation, and all is well," he announced.
"Do we get to see him?" Theresa asked.
"Well yes, you can, but he will need to stay in the recovery room for a few hours before he comes back here."
"Well, that's fine." Theresa gazed over at Ryan. "You wanna come downstairs with me so I can request an appointment for your sister?" she asked him.
"Okay," he replied.
"And we'll check in with your brother when we get back," Theresa whispered. She whirled around to face her sister. "Do you mind watching the girls for me until we get back?" she politely asked.
"I have no problem with that," Mimi grinned.
Theresa and Ryan headed out the door for the elevator. "Why has she been acting so weird lately?" he asked.
"I don't know," Theresa answered. "That's why we're going to set up an appointment for her."
A few minutes later, Theresa was having a friendly conversation with the woman at the front desk.
"So she's been struggling with her balance as well?" the woman asked in disbelief.
"Yeah," said Theresa. "So when can we set up an appointment for her?"
"Well, I wonder what we can do about that," the woman thought aloud. "There seems to be a lot of appointments booked for this week. The closest we can book an appointment for you is in three weeks from today. Are you okay with that?"
Theresa had definitely thought that she would have to wait longer. "That's fine with me," Theresa told her. "Just as long as she can be checked out. I'm beginning to get a little concerned with her behaviour lately. Well, I'll see you soon." She walked off back toward the elevator, Ryan at her side.
When they arrived at the recovery room where Cody lay, he said he felt lightheaded. He despised being sick just as much as anyone else would. To be put in this position for him, he would have to have a lot of courage and strength to get through this. "I'm gonna die, aren't I?" he said sadly.
To this, Theresa didn't know exactly how to respond. "Well, all I can say is, we need you to fight your way through this. Do it for your family. We'll most definitely be proud to see you recover."
Cody yawned. "I'll try," he said weakly.
Aunt Mimi entered the room, a worried expression on her face. She had still been watching Jodi and Shirley back in room 1204. "Jodi is having difficulties with her balance again," she breathed.
Theresa sighed impatiently. "Ryan, you stay here with Cody," she commanded. "I'll be right back." She raced off down the hall with Mimi.
Theresa returned a few minutes later, holding Jodi in her arms. She couldn't wait for that three weeks to come. Jodi seemed to be acting strange, and it was making her nervous. What if she had to be hospitalized like Cody? What if she had a type of disease that could kill her? These thoughts haunted her mind for the past day, and would continue on for two more weeks.
"My head hurts," Jodi said in an odd tone.
"Well, we have an appointment scheduled for you in three weeks," Theresa assured her. "We'll find out why your head hurts, and you'll be medicated to help cure it."
"Okay." Jodi bobbed her head back and forth, to try and ease the pain a little. She was beginning to feel like she had something severely wrong with her. Theresa placed Jodi in a chair and said to Ryan, "If you three sleep at Grandma and Grandpa's house tonight, you need to keep close watch on Jodi. Make sure she doesn't stagger off balance, and... just watch her for me, please."
"Okay," Ryan agreed.
Cody lay back in the hospital bed. All he wanted was to be home in his own bed, and be able to actually enjoy his summer. He feared not beating the leukemia, and dying. He sure felt like he was dying. He had been so tired for the past two days, he didn't even notice that the purple splotches on his face and arms had disappeared. He felt his head, afraid that a clump of hair would fall out. Thankfully, none had fallen out yet, but as he continued with his treatment, he'd have nothing left on his head. He didn't want that to happen at all. He loved his hair, and wanted to keep it.
"I think it's about time we bring him back to his room," a doctor said. He began to wheel the stretcher down the hall toward room 1204, and then the family could settle down a little. They had been so worked up lately about the entire situation, and all they wanted was to sit back and relax for a while. Ryan could maybe rest his sore foot for a while, instead of walking on it all day. That was really all he needed. The family would be able to enjoy some peace and quiet in the room for a while if Jodi didn't complain about her head. They were really looking forward to it.
They all sat back and relaxed, and the time seemed to fly by fast. After a few hours had already flown by, the quietness was disturbed by a loud knocking on the door. "Answer that, please," Theresa told Ryan.
Ryan rolled his eyes, and began to head for the door. Whoever was there would not stop knocking on the door. Somebody's impatient today, Ryan thought to himself. He twisted the knob, and when he pulled open the door, there stood Quincy and Tara.
Ryan was speechless. Great, he thought. This day can't possibly get any worse!
"Surprise visit!" Quincy shrieked.
Ryan whirled around to face Theresa. He shot her that what-do-I-do-now look. She tried her best to ignore him, but she knew she had to say something. Quincy and Tara walked past Ryan and barged into the room. When Tara spotted Cody on the hospital bed, she almost lost her mind.
"Cody!" she nearly screamed. She dashed over to his bedside and squeezed him tight, causing him to struggle with his breathing.
"Tara, let go, he's very fragile!" Theresa warned.
Tara released him at once. "I missed you!" she squeaked. And, unexpectedly, she attempted to kiss him again.
As she tried to reach for his lips, he leaned back, trying to get her to give up. He obviously couldn't slap her again. That would just make things worse. He kept leaning back, but he couldn't go that far. So, unfortunately, in the end, Tara got him.
At first, she would not release her lips from his. He tried to move, but he couldn't. Quincy had to come over and carry her away. She squirmed frantically, wanting to run back to Cody. All eyes were directed on Tara, then back to Cody, who was frozen on the spot. "Well, I guess we gotta head back to our hotel room," said Quincy. "Bye!" He dragged Tara out of the room as she blew a kiss at Cody.
Cody pretended to wave away the kiss blown at him. Everyone in the room cracked up. "That was disgusting!" he shrieked. He kept wiping his mouth, trying to get all the germs off.
"So those were the neighbours you told us about, I'm guessing," Uncle Scott said, a weird expression on his face.
"Unfortunately, they were," Theresa sighed.
Ryan walked over to Cody's bedside, laughing. "How do you feel about having your first kiss with someone you hate?"
Cody looked disgusted. "I hope that never happens again," he spat.
Ryan laughed again. "She likes you so much. Why? She's only like, five, and you're eight!"
"Well, I'm glad we don't have to see them for a while when they leave."
"Me too," Ryan agreed. "I bet that hurt when she hugged you."
"It did," Cody said, feeling sick.
"Well, I hope she didn't hurt you too bad," said Theresa. "Are you okay, anyway?"
"Yep," he responded, gagging at the fact that he had Tara's germs on his lips.
"Tara's weird," Jodi mumbled. "Did you know she likes Cody? She said she wants to marry him."
"Now that is disgusting," Cody muttered.
"Yeah, that's what you say," said Ryan. "You probably wish she was your girlfriend."
"Eww no!" Cody almost yelled. "No thanks, I'd rather have her as my annoying neighbour. You couldn't pay me to marry that."
"I'm not sure if I would even go to the wedding," Ryan grinned.
"Keep dreaming," Cody chuckled. "It'll never happen."
Cody began to feel sick again. He hated the feeling of being sick, but this was just the beginning. Within the next few months, he'd be travelling down the road to recovery, and it wasn't easy getting to the end. He could even risk dying on the way there. Days and days passed, and everyone of those days made him feel like giving up. He fought so desperately for his life during those horrible days. All the other kids there made it seem so easy. But now, with personal experiences of his own, he realized really how difficult fighting for your life can be.
Finally. Three weeks had flown by. Already. Jodi had a scheduled appointment that very day. And yes, her behaviour had gotten much worse. Now she was vomiting without reason, and she could barely walk at all. She also complained about her vision sometimes. When she would wake up, her vision would blur for about an hour. There was definitely something wrong.
Theresa carried Jodi down to the room where she was to have her tests done. It was ten floors down from room 1204, on the second floor. The doctors greeted them with a smile, and she started to get a little nervous. "It's alright," Theresa assured. "They're only going to test you to find the problem."
Theresa placed Jodi on the ground. She stumbled over a little, then attempted to hide behind Theresa. She was very shy with new people. "It's okay," said Theresa. "They won't bite you."
Slowly, Jodi poked her head out from behind Theresa. As she tiptoed over to the doctors, she gazed back over her shoulder at Theresa. "Mommy, aren't you coming?"
"No, honey," Theresa responded in a calm, comforting tone. "They asked me to sit out in the hall and wait. Just like we did for Cody."
"Was he scared?" Jodi questioned, and Theresa noticed she was trembling slightly.
"I'm sure he was," Theresa told her. "But when he went by himself, he would have felt more safe. You will feel the same way, okay?"
"Okay." Jodi almost whispered. Theresa exited the room. She hoped Jodi wasn't able to indicate that Theresa was just telling her this to calm her down. Of course, Cody was scared before he went in, but when he was brought in the room to be examined by the doctors, he freaked out a little. He wasn't even close to relaxed, or feeling safe. He was safe in the room, yes, but he sure didn't feel like it. Theresa hoped this would make Jodi feel better, anyway. She would probably have to go through some pretty scary procedures.
Theresa sat across the hall from the room. She had decided not to make herself too comfortable, since Jodi would most likely have to move from one room to another to be examined. They would need to do more than one test on her. They would focus most of their attention on her head, since she had been having some pretty painful headaches for the past two weeks. Her behaviour lately was beyond normal. Theresa only hoped that they were only headaches, instead of something severe. And, if it was severe, she definitely hoped that they wouldn't have a wrong diagnosis this time, like they did with Cody.
Theresa reflected back on when Quincy and Tara came to visit. They had stayed for a week, and it was the most horrible week at the hospital they had had so far. Especially Tara, who had been known to be quite the troublemaker. Theresa didn't appreciate how, when Quincy and Tara first showed up, they just barged in, and especially how Tara had squeezed Cody so tight, causing him to have breathing problems for a few minutes. Theresa kept her hopes up that they wouldn't come back for anymore unexpected visits.
About ten minutes had passed by when the doctors told Theresa that they were moving to another room to do a few more tests, then they could diagnose her. Theresa nodded in agreement and moved on with Jodi by her side. This time, they were going to the bottom floor, just below them. Apparently, these few more tests were going to be faster than the ones they had just done. Theresa was glad, since she hated sitting out there and waiting. It just turned her stomach to butterflies.
About five minutes later, Theresa could see Ryan coming down the hall. "How are things back with Cody?" Theresa asked him.
"I don't know," he answered. "He just keeps falling back asleep and waking up. That's really all he's done here this whole time."
"Well, I have to remind you, it's not his fault."
"I know that," Ryan stated. "I didn't say it was."
The door swung open. One of the doctors stepped outside the door, and gently closed it behind her, as not to startle anyone. "Well, we have some news," she announced.
"Is it good or bad?" Ryan asked. The doctor looked at him, confused. He had not been there a few minutes ago.
"Anyway," the doctor continued. "We have the results of the tests."
"I'm gonna repeat what my son said, but is it good or bad?" Theresa asked.
The doctor sighed loudly. This was definitely an indication it wasn't something good. This was similar to the night where they diagnosed Cody. "I don't know how I'm gonna say this, but..."
"Oh no," Theresa breathed. "It's not good, is it?"
"Not really," the doctor said quietly. It was hard to even really hear her speak.
"Well, now I know that it's bad, but what exactly is wrong?" Theresa asked desperately. She was pretty much begging on her knees for an answer.
The doctor hesitated for a moment, and finally, she blurted, "We found a tumor in her brain. We're not exactly sure how it can be cured, but it will be a difficult journey for your family. She will get worse, let me remind you. There is also a high chance that, if we can't find a way to get rid of it, she will die."