The final round of chemo began the week after Thanksgiving. After four days of family, food, and fun Emmy just wanted this week over and to get on with her life. They both took her on Monday and everything went OK. Tuesday Stephanie had a faculty meeting after school so Brett drove Emmy downtown.
Tuesday was rough. They had a lot of trouble getting a vein that would hold. The nurse, who wasn’t Holly, stuck Emmy six times before she went for one in the leg. Emmy was a trooper and never complained. Wednesday and Thursday were horrible. Another new nurse who didn’t give Emmy the anti-nausea medication before she started, and more blown veins made the visit take forever. Emmy threw up before the chemo was even finished and her energy was simply gone. Throughout the week Brett continued to give her the injections and by Thursday Stephanie called Dr. Hatcher who bumped the dose up just a bit more.
There was only one more week until the state tournament and she wasn’t going to let anyone take that away. So despite the nausea and the pain Emmy pushed through. She drank shake after shake trying to keep something in her body. She’d long since used up any stored energy in fat and her body was now running on just what nutrients she was able to take in. Under normal circumstances Dr. Hatcher would have forced a nasal style feeding tube on a patient in Emmy’s condition, but with her he hesitated choosing not to crush her spirit.
Finally Friday, the final dose of chemotherapy arrived. Stephanie and Brett both breathed a sigh of relief when they walked in and Holly was standing at the desk. She’d done this for Emmy many times now and knew exactly what Emmy needed. She took her back to the corner to one of the chairs that was a little quieter. She loaded Emmy up on anti-nausea medication before she did anything else. Stephanie and Brett watched as the woman worked with such care to prep Emmy for one last time.
Then, despite Holly’s presence, a vein wasn’t to be had. Holly looked at her arms and the track marks from all the attempts early in the week. She checked her legs and the veins there were no better. No wanting to put her through any added pain, Holly had seen in Emmy’s eyes that she was struggling to keep everything in check, she went straight to her the neck. Brett and Stephanie both had to look away as she placed the IV directly into a vein on Emmy’s neck. Holly’s skill got the IV placed the first time and this dose actually went quickly.
Since this was her final dose, after she finished there was a cake and a little party. She smiled and hugged everyone fighting every moment to stay upright. Brett and Stephanie thanked every one of the doctors and nurses for the care that they’d given Emmy through this gruesome process. After an hour or so everyone got back to work and Brett brought the car around while Stephanie waited and practically held Emmy up.
Knowing that this was Emmy’s last dose and that the staff had planned the little party, Coach had given the team Friday off. She told them to take the time to rest before the push next week to the tournament. With the IV being placed in her neck Emmy wouldn’t have been practicing anyway.
When the car pulled up Brett jumped out and helped Emmy into the car. She slept through the car ride home and then the entire weekend. Brett woke her to give her the injection on Friday night. By Saturday morning she didn’t even really wake she just rolled over and gave him her leg.
Saturday night the boys finished a tournament they’d been playing in. Stephanie had stayed with Emmy, so the three of them came home bringing dinner and Tyler went to the bathroom to wash his hands. As he pushed the door open he hit something. Pushing it further he screamed for his parents.
They both came running. Emmy was passed out on the bathroom floor again and Stephanie hadn’t heard her. Tyler had never seen her there before. “Its OK.” Brett put his hand on her and could feel her heart beating and that she was breathing. He picked her up and carried her across the hall to her room. Stephanie tucked her in after he gave her another injection.
“Mom, does that happen a lot?”
“It does after the treatments.”
“But this was the last one right.”
“We sure hope so. She’s got three weeks and then a round of scans and tests and that will determine where we go from here.”
“I really hope this is over. Its so sad to see her like that.”
“I know sweetie.” Brett came back out and closed the door.
“She’s still out. I wonder if she ate anything today?”
“I don’t think she’s eating much at all. Jake’s basketball bag weighs more than she does.”
“Dad how does she play like that?”
“Willpower I guess. There’s no way that she’s got anything but sheer will left in the tank.”
By the time Sunday evening rolled around Emmy knew that she had to put forth an effort. If she went into clinic on Monday like this they’d put the feeding tube in for sure. The State Tournament started on Friday and there was no way she was going to miss it. Dragging herself to her feet she went to the kitchen and drank a shake. She could hear everyone outside shooting basketball, but she didn’t have the energy to walk out there.
Monday morning she felt slightly less tired. She forced herself up and out of bed. School was a blur. Emmy knew she’d fallen asleep several times, but hopefully no one had noticed. She had managed to get a seat in the back corner in every class. By this point in the year the teachers had stopped calling on her. They knew she knew the material but wasn’t going to speak up in class discussions.
By the end of the day she knew that at clinic they’d be giving her transfusions. Thankfully Stephanie hadn’t come. Holly had to get a vein in her foot this time. Emmy refused to let her use the neck again because it would have meant that she couldn’t have practiced.
Brett pulled up in front of the gym with two minutes to spare. “Go get’em girl.”
“Thank you sir.”
“Emmy, enough with the sir.”
“Sorry, si…coach.” Brett smiled as she caught herself.
“I guess that will work. Tell Steph I’ve got film to watch before the boys’ practice. I’ll see you guys tonight.”
Emmy nodded and got out of the car. Inside Stephanie nodded as she ran to the locker room. She had to admit that Emmy looked a little better. Practice got off to a great start. They shot and ran some offense and defensive sets that they would need this weekend. They hadn’t gotten the Titans in the first round, but the team they were playing was pretty good and couldn’t be overlooked.
With about twenty minutes left in practice Stephanie’s phone rang. She glanced down at it and then stuck it back in her pocket. Moments later it rang again. She stepped to the side and took the call. Emmy tried to listen. “How bad?” “I’m on my way.” Was all that she could hear.
“Rick can you finish up. The boys were in a wreck.” Stephanie looked so scared and Emmy swore there were tears in her eyes.
“Absolutely. You go! I’ll take care of this.” Stephanie stuck her head in her office grabbing her coat and keys and then ran out. Emmy and the rest of the team were silent as they watched her go. They ran three more shooting drills and then he had them put their hands in.
Everyone was talking about what had happened in the locker room, but Emmy just grabbed her bag and came back out. She really didn’t know what to do. Outside she waited while all the other players got in with their parents. After everyone was gone Coach Jameson came out locking the door. He looked up startled to see anyone still out there. “Emmy?”
“Sir, I think I may need a ride.”
“Oh sweetie I guess you do. Where should I take you?”
“Have you heard from Brett or Stephanie?”
“No sir, I don’t have a phone.”
“No problem I’ll drop you off. I’m the white truck over there.” He walked toward a small white pickup truck Emmy climbed in and laid her bag in her lap. Rick started the car and drove her to the Miles’ without speaking.
“You sure you’ll be OK?”
“Yes sir. I’m fine. Thank you for the ride.” He nodded and she climbed out. Punching in the code the garage door began to go up. He watched until she went in the house and the garage door began to go back down.
He dialed Stephanie’s number and left her a message that he’d dropped Emmy off there. There was no doubt that Stephanie had been so worried about the boys that she’d just forgotten about Emmy.
Inside Emmy grabbed a shake and sat at the table to drink it and finish her homework. She had just finished the shake when the phone rang. “Hello.”
“Oh Emmy I am so sorry.”
“Its OK ma’am. How are Jake and Tyler?”
“Broken ankle and collarbone but they’ll survive.”
“Whew. That’s good to hear.”
“Emmy, Rick called and said he’d brought you home. I am so sorry. When Brett called I was so scared. I should have brought you with me.”
“Coach its OK. They are your kids and they were hurt. I’m fine, really.” The words stung even as she said them. Coach knew that as much as she might want it Emmy still felt like she was just the kid they were fostering. When Stephanie forgot about her tonight it only made that feeling deeper. Stephanie prayed that once they were able to adopt her officially she would start to feel differently. She knew that they had a long way to go with trust before they would ever be anything more than Coach and Ma’am or Sir, but they were in this for the long haul. Eventually Emmy would see that they weren’t going to let her go.
“Emmy, we’ll probably be late. How are you feeling?”
“Better since the transfusions. I’m just going to go to bed.”
“Did you eat?”
They hung up and Emmy was relieved. After cleaning up her dinner she took a shower and headed to bed. About midnight she got sick again and remembered that she hadn’t gotten an injection this evening. It was too late now. She’d tough it through tonight and then hopefully Brett would be back to give her one in the morning. Without it she wouldn’t make it through school. Twenty minutes later and she was back in the bathroom. This time she just lay down on the floor.
About 2:00 in the morning the hospital finally released the boys and they made the drive home. Both of them were in a lot of pain. Brett and Stephanie helped them in and set them both up in the family room. They put Taylor in the recliner and propped his ankle up on a pillow. The made Tyler a spot in the corner of the sectional sofa so he could rest his shoulder. Collarbones were painful because there was no way to cast them. Both were on some pretty good painkillers and getting really sleepy. Brett covered them both with blankets and then he stepped back to where Stephanie stood.
“Do you know how lucky we were?” Stephanie just shook her head. The police officer that responded had called a couple of hours ago and told them that the other driver had been drunk. Drunk at 6:30 in the evening. He crossed into the boys’ lane and hit them head on. The man would be going to jail for a long time. Apparently this wasn’t his first offense.
As if hit with a reminder from above. Stephanie remembered Emmy. “Did you check on Emmy?”
“Oh, no.” Brett headed down the hall and opened her door. The bed was messed up but as he approached he could tell that she wasn’t there. Stephanie watched as he came back out. Her heart broke again as he walked across the hall. Brett slowly pushed the door open and there with the light blaring down on her was Emmy. She’d curled in a ball on the bath mat. This was the second night in a row that Brett had picked her up off the floor and carried her to bed. He tucked her in and then stepped back out.
“I wasn’t here to give her the injection. It must be bad tonight.” Stephanie knew that Brett felt really bad, but there wasn’t really anything they could have done. Emmy would have been miserable waiting at the hospital with them. At least here she could rest and use her own bathroom when she felt sick. Stephanie and Brett both fell into bed knowing that tonight had been the worst night of their lives.