The first week of November brought colder temperatures and round 5. The first three days were rough but Emmy plowed through. On Thursday, both Brett and Stephanie went again. The procedure was the same but her veins were beginning to show the effects of chemo. Holly had to try several times to find a vein and then finally got an IV started in her leg.
Emmy actually fell asleep during the treatment. Brett and Stephanie just sat there watching, wanting so badly to hold her hand. She’d been with them for almost 7 weeks and other than a hug after the stitches Emmy still hadn’t opened up.
She wondered what Emmy’s life had been like before her Mother had gone missing. As a child had she been tucked into bed? Had anyone been there to kiss it when she fell and scraped her knee? Had she ever had a birthday cake? These were all things that Stephanie longed to know and yet was afraid to ask.
She had horrible visions of Emmy going to bed alone while her mother worked. Seeing the little girl standing in front of the microwave as some unhealthy cardboard packed meal heated while her mother slept. Picking out her own clothes and fixing her own little ponytail were things she’d probably been doing since she could walk.
When the treatment finished Holly removed the IV and Emmy barely stirred. Stephanie and Holly worked her shoes back on and Brett pulled her into his arms, noticing how light she was. Stephanie threw her jacket over her and they headed home. They were having practice tonight but it was looking like Emmy wasn’t going to make it again.
Driving home Emmy got sick three times despite the fact that she was barely awake. Brett carried her in and laid her on the bed. Stephanie helped her get undressed. Emmy didn’t object. She was just too tired to do it on her own. She pulled the covered over her and kissed her on the forehead. “Thank you for everything.” Emmy said her eyes already closing.
“Sweetie this is how family works.” She didn’t know if Emmy heard her. She was already asleep.
Brett stayed there and worked on school stuff and Stephanie dressed for practice. “We are going to have to tell the team, aren’t we?” Stephanie asked as she grabbed her keys and the practice schedule she’d made sitting at the hospital.
“I think they are getting concerned. Several parents asked last Thursday when we made her sit. They are noticing the weight loss and how tired she looks.” Brett paused. “I’m so glad that she hasn’t lost her hair, but I can’t help but thinking that it would have forced her to tell people. I still think that pretending to be fine all the time has to be hard on her.”
“Maybe we can talk to her tonight. If she misses anymore school we are going to have to let them know why.”
Brett kissed her on the head.
After practice Stephanie went first to check on Emmy. “She ok?” Brett asked as he looked up from his laptop. He was giving a history test tomorrow and was looking back over it for any typos or misleading questions.
“Completely worn out.” Stephanie took the seat across from him.
“I wonder if its normal to be this wiped?”
“Holly didn’t seem too concerned.”
“When I picked her up I couldn’t believe how light she was. Do you think the injections are working, or is she forcing herself to eat to keep playing?”
Stephanie really didn’t know. She knew that in the past several weeks as Emmy missed basketball and school her spirit had really taken a hit. “I’ve seen her eat a couple of times, but I’m not sure how much of it has stayed down. She wants to play so badly she may be hiding how sick she is. But if we take basketball away it will crush her. It gives her the reason to fight.”
They heard the stairs creaking as Jake came up from the basement. “How’d it go?”
“Same.” He looked to the couch.
“Where is she?”
“Can I stick my head in?” With his games and practices and how much she slept he felt like he hadn’t seen her in a week.
“Sure just be quiet.” He smiled and walked down the hall toward her room. Pushing the door open he was glad it didn’t squeak. She was asleep on her side, with the covers pulled up tight under her chin. Unable to control himself he walked over to the bed and kissed her on the top of the head. “Get better sis.” He whispered.
Jake walked back to the door and stood there. As an 18 year old he realized how completely easy he’d had it. He’d never really been sick or severely injured. Just like most kids there’d be injuries, a broken arm, the result of a fall from a tree when he was 8, and a slightly sprained ankle last season, hit than was it.
Other than losing his grandmother, Brett’s Mom, two years ago their family had not even experienced any loss. In middle school he had seen his friend struggle with drugs and ultimately end up in jail, but even that seemed so far from this. His life had been a cakewalk and he wished he could have taken at least a little of her pain.
Standing there in front of her door he whispered a prayer that God would help her.
“Yes she’s out. Dad we gotta go to practice.” They had a late time tonight. He yelled down for Tyler and Brett grabbed his keys.
Kissing Stephanie on the cheek they left.
Stephanie was grading some papers when she heard Emmy make another run. After a while she realized that she’d never heard Emmy come back out. Peeking into her room Emmy wasn’t there. Stephanie listened at the bathroom door and heard nothing. She felt it and it was unlocked. Pushing it open just a little she found Emmy on the floor laying on the bath mat. Immediately fear gripped her.
She touched Emmy on the shoulder, “Emmy.” Nothing. She was breathing. “Emmy.” Finally her eyes fluttered open. “Emmy are you OK? You’re on the bathroom floor.”
“Oh I’m so sorry. I just laid down for a moment and I guess I fell back asleep.” She started to get up.
“Here let me help you.” Stephanie gave her a hand and walked her back to her room where she fell right back asleep.
The next morning Stephanie was surprised to see Emmy dressed and ready for school. “You feeling better?”
“I ate some cereal.”
Emmy sat on the couch reading while Stephanie got ready. She might have been dressed for school but her eyes told a different story. There was no doubt that she needed to be in bed.
“Ready to go.”
“Yes.” Coach watched as Emmy grabbed her school backpack and the one for practice. Stephanie wished that she’d just give in and stay at home today. But never one to admit defeat she was ready to go. There was no doubt that the fact that there was a game on Tuesday was a big part of her determination.
The day was horrible Emmy got sick in almost every class. Teachers were starting to give her dirty looks when she asked to go to the bathroom. She was so tired that she had to prop her head up in two classes to keep it from hitting the desk when she nodded off. At least she turned in the final draft of her paper for Language Arts and got a test back in math and she’d gotten a 100%. She’d taken it Tuesday when she was feeling just about as bad as she’d ever felt. The graded test in hand Emmy thought “maybe I can do this.”
The emotional lift carried her through the last dose for this round, and practice. Then a weekend of sleep and Emmy made it to the game on Tuesday night. This week the injections did seem to be helping. Emmy had also decided to give up on regular food all together and stick to the protein shakes the nutritionist had recommended. They were cold and so very plain but they seemed to work.
On top of everything else last week Emmy had started getting sores in her mouth. The shakes didn’t burn like the orange juice she had been drinking. By Thursday of the third week the nausea was waning and the extra shakes, she was drinking 6-8 of them a day, and the water she was focusing on seemed to be helping. Her body was finally getting used to this round of chemo, just in time for them to do it all again.