They say that everyone has a story that will break your heart. My little brother Nicholas had cancer. His hear had fallen out, and he was so weat that it was hard for him to walk. I couldn't stand to see the pain in his eyes any longer. His childhood memories were not of Christmases, camping trips and toys; his memories were of hospital visits, I.V.s, and blood transfusions.
I remember when it first started, when he was only three. At first, it was the way he was always getting awful, ugly bruises. We didn't think anything of it until they started showing up in places they didn't belong, like in his armpit or on his scalp. Then there were his nosebleeds, which were a constant occurrence. My mom would always have to remind us, "Don't horse around with Nicholas; his nose will start to bleed."
His form of cancer was acute lymphatic leukemia(ALL), which is very curable. Seventy percent of children with ALL achieve remission within one year, and out of those in remission, 50 percent never relapse. Nicky's odds were very good.
He started chemotherapy immediately, to stop the cancer from getting any worse. It went will but it was hard. He was at the hospital Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday receiving treatment, and then he would come home for the rest of the week, sick and completely powerless. He missed preschool that year, but he was in remission in nine months, and we were all happy.
Life was back to normal for a while, until one day during my freshman year. I came home from school to see my parents sitting on the couch, which was odd, because my parents were never home after school. But when I saw the tears, I knew that my worse fear had come true. The cancer was back.
He was five by then and had been in remission for about two years. We all thought he had beaten it, but then they had found a cancerous tumor inside his chest. The doctors were not sure how big it was, so they set a surgery date. They were going to make a small incision on his chest and evaluate the tumor. If it was possible, they would remove it that same day.
The day of the surgery, we all woke up early to accompany Nicholas to the hospital. We sat in the stark white waiting room of B-3, the "cancer hall." I had been there far more than I could handle. In the last two years, I had seen too much of this hall, of ruibs occupied by babies whose mothers visit less and less, of children who know they will not make it. The sickening smell of death lines each room, telling past stories of children whose lives were cut short by a silent killer.
We sat and waited for what seemed like an eternity. Finally, after four hours Dr. McGuiness, Nicky's cancer physician specialist, came out of the door marked SURGERY. He was still wearing his operating garb as he motioned for us to follow him, which meant that we needed to talk. As we sat down, fear consumed us.
"Nicholas is out of surgery now, and the medicine will wear off soon," Dr. McGuiness began.
"I'm sorry, though," he continued. "The tumor has grown too large. It has consumed one entire lung, and it has grown all down one side of his heart. There is nothing we can do now."
As I heard those words, my eyes filled with tears. Those words meant that it was time to stop fighting because we would not win. I looked around and knew I wanted to leave. I wanted to run far, far away, but I knew I couldn't. It wouldn't make my problems any better, and it wouldn't make Nicky live.
The doctor left for ten minutes so we could regain composure. When he returned, he asked where we wanted Nicholas to spend his last days. We said we wanted Nicholas home.
The next few months were torture, having to watch Nicky get sicker and weaker. As the tumor grew, his heart stopped pumping regularly and he became short of breath.
The summer went by much quicker than it should have. Nicholas' health remaned steady, although still very fragile. We were even able to take a trip to Disneyland, Nicky's One Last Wish. It was so hard, though, trying to be happy for him and knowing it was our last vacation together as a family.
As the year went by, the bustle and jumble of the holiday season kept us occupied. Halloween was fun and Thanksgiving dinner was delicious. Then, as we started preparing for Christmas, Nicky's health deteriorated.
One day as everyone was decorating the tree, I went in to see Nicholas, who was sitting in a chair. The Christmas lights beautifully illuminated his face and brought out an innocent sparkle we had not seen in a long time.
As I came closer, I realized he was crying. I sat down in the chair with him and held him in my arm sthe way I had when he was younger.
"Nicky, tell me why you cry," I said.
"Sissy, it's just not fair," he blubbered.
"What's not fair?" I asked.
"Why am I going to die?"
"Well, you know that everyone dies," I replied, obviously avoiding the subject. I didn't want him to know, and deep down inside I didn't want to know either.
"But not like me. Why do I have to die? Why so early?" And then he started to cry. He buried his head in my chest, and I started to cry, too. We sat like that for a long time. A very long, lonesome and scary time. Afterwards there was an understanding between us. He was ready, and so was I. We could handle anything now.
In January, he slipped into a coma and we knew we were losing him. One day we sat in his room, holding his hand, because we knew this was going to be his last time with us. Suddenly, a certain peacefulness filled the room, and I knew that Nicholas had breathed his last breath.
I looked outside. The freshly falling snow somehow seemed brighter. I hated myself for it, but I suddenly felt better. All the pain and sorrow of the past few years were gone, and I knew that Nicholas was safe. He was no longer scared or hurt, and it was better this way.
- Nicole Rose Patridge