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Saving Gracie

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A slight, nearly nonexistent hum of the hospital machinery continued to play in my head days after leaving my room. Despite living no more than twenty minutes from my second home, the doctor had been How do you live if you don't know how? Gracie has lived her entire life in and out of the hospital; leukemia being closer to her than most people in her family. With her dad as her rock, she has been trying to escape the pain for as long as she can remember. When by some miracle she gets cured, Gracie is faced with stepping into a life like nothing she's ever known before. One involving a certain irritating and obnoxious next door neighbor, living with siblings, a bucket list, loner, and her nine uncles.

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I’ve spent fifteen years, seven months, forty eight days, and twenty seven minutes in this frigid and dreary hospital room. On good days I was able to step out into the hall or head down to the Funzone that sat comfortably at the end of the long corridor. Bad days, my nurses wouldn’t allow even the simplest of actions such as coloring or drawing; I was restricted to watching TV and reading the textbooks Mom and Dad left every weekend after visitation with the entire family.

Sometimes it was easy to fantasize of the life that I could have had a possibility of living a normal one. A life without IV’s and heart monitors; chemo and a nurse at the door every hour to give me my daily dose of medication. A life where I could run around in an open field freely with my brothers and sister, only to later fall down on a picnic blanket with Mom and Dad and listen to them scold us about some nearly nonexistent thing we had done.

There were days when it wasn’t so easy; days where I felt like giving up. On those days, Dad made sure to stretch out on the bed with me and read all he could, open up board games on our laps and challenge me until I finally beat him without him letting me win. He would give the nurses the day off and have only one, Nurse Myra, bring me my medication and change my IV’s.

Nurse Myra had been at my bedside for as long as I could remember. A tall woman in frame, she looked like she had walked right out of an English modeling catalog for nuns and stepped into America with fresh eyes. She had soft features, with her kind baby blue eyes and soft, thin lipped smile that she always gave whenever she knew I was in pain. She had become part of my family over the years, but my father overshot her by a lot.

My dad had given up his entire world for me. He had been quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers for the first five years of my life. Despite my diagnosis being just before my second birthday, he had continued to play for the next three years in desperate hopes that he’d be able to make enough to pay for my hospital bills. Eventually, early on his sixth year, he decided he was going to retire and dedicated his entire life to me. He was here every morning when I woke up, and stayed every night until I slipped into a tired daze and drifted off into a deep sleep.

There were few things my father couldn’t do; one of them being coping with his emotions. No matter my own pain and anger, he always kept his face wiped emotionless. Even when I knew, deep down, that he was breaking piece by piece as he watched me slowly crumble before his eyes.

Standing in the middle of the sterilized hospital room now, my father blocked my vision of the new doctor. She was short, about half my dad’s height, with a tight black ponytail and even darker eyes. I’ve never met someone that could paralyze you where you sat, and it was odd to have her in here rather than Dr. Owens.

Dad collapsed to the ground suddenly before the petite she-devil, face buried in his hands. The sound of my heart monitor beeping rapidly echoed throughout the room as I pushed myself upright to see my father.

Dr. Wimer set her clipboard down and rushed to my bedside, her cold hands falling against my skin, “Grace, I’m going to need you to calm down.”

“My dad.” I tried to shrug her off, “Daddy?”

He kept his head bowed, his breathing ragged as he pressed his palms against the glistening tile, staring down at his reflection.

“I’m okay.” he assured, “I’m fine, baby girl. Calm down.”

I opened my mouth, trying to force words out from between my chapped lips, but my doctor had a different thought.

“I want you to lay back and relax, Grace. I’ll be returning with your paperwork.” with a curt nod, the doctor turned on her heels and ducked out of the room without another word.

“Dad?” I called out again.

He sucked in a deep breath and released it before standing, grasping sheets at the end of the hospital bed to keep his knees from buckling beneath him again. He looked exhausted; as if he’d been hit by a train repeatedly and still forced to work down at a construction sight. The lines around his eyes had become more predominant over the years and he had begun to care less about the five o’ clock shadow mom was always commenting on over the last few months.

He leaned forward with a small smile, “Do you remember when Dr. Owens forced you into all those tests a few months ago and couldn’t give us the results right away?”

“Yes.” I sat up, crossing my arms on my lap.

“He’s sent them back and your blood tests have come back clear, honey. You’re clear. The transplant worked, Gracie. The cancer is gone.” I only stared at my father in disbelief, not believing his words for a fraction of a second.

“That’s impossible, Dad. Cancer can’t just disappear.” I wanted so desperately to take in his words and burst into tears of joy.

“You’re right, Gracie, it can’t. But the cells can no longer be seen in your bone marrow, which means as of right now, you’re in remission.” He explained in a soft tone, arms outstretched in my direction.

I only sat there, stiff in his arms as he hugged me against his chest. His shaky hand found my shoulder length dark black mane and buried itself in it, lips pressed against my temple as a hysterical laugh vibrated through his chest.

“I can go home?” I whispered into his chest, afraid he may not be able to hear my muffled voice.

He had no problem hearing it, “Yes, Gracie. I’m going home.” He laughed as he took my face in his hands and brushed his thumbs along the bags under my eyes before the tears could roll any further down my ashen cheeks, “This time you’re coming with me.”

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