“It is better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness.”
—W. L. Watkinson
You cannot reply when the nurse asks if a private room is preferred. She understands your silence. Twenty minutes ago, you brought your son to the ER, so certain: pneumonia. Two minutes ago, you caught her fleeting look—eyes so telling—planted fear in your soul. One minute ago, the physician began asking questions of family history...You hear the C word. And he holds up an unrecognizable chest X-ray. A tumor the size of a softball is snaking through your son’s chest, suffocating him.
He grows worse, breathing more labored.
His heart rate 180, three times normal, off the chart surreal.
The team shifts into high gear—no time—roll your son away for emergency surgery. His father and brother follow the gurney out. You stand frozen, on the edge of the abyss. She understands and holds your hands for a quick prayer. You remember her words, her eyes, and her belief. She keeps you from falling in.
This cannot be happening. Your twin boys recently completed advanced degrees and working, their lives just starting—this one a nuclear engineer—how can this be happening. There is no cancer in your family, not on either side, ever.
Surgery drains two liters of fluid from around his heart and lungs, saves his life, nothing more than a momentary reprieve. Cancer this fast is never good. You must wait two days for the lab to ID this killer… The name you do not hear, just that word: aggressive. If bone marrow needed, he has a ready-made donor.
Twenty-four years ago next month, a mother’s intuition, you never believed what the doctor said: fraternal twins, two birth sacs. Then on their eighteenth birthday, for a hundred bucks each, they participated in a twin study: mirror-image identical twins. Perhaps the same DNA explains their close bond…
You remember her eyes, her words, her hands...They kept you from falling. Words of belief flowed from somewhere unknown…Perhaps another mother’s intuition…
First round of chemo gives little more than mild indigestion. Second round takes some hair but appetite returns and his weight increases. By the third treatment, the oncologist cannot believe what he sees. Never before has he had a patient like your son, nor does he know any colleagues who have had a patient like you son. He has only read of this unbelievable rarity in medical journals. With odds less than a lotto ticket, chemo took out your son’s cancer: no different from antibiotics curing a strep throat.
Years pass… Not for all the tea in China, do you know why your son picked the name Ace. How could parents ever name their child Ace? Why not narrow names down to a few, then name him when you see him. Minutes after he arrives, you hold your grandchild in your arms…You know. Eyes tell so much…He was baby Ace.
You think back to the nurse who held your hands, her eyes, her words. Words out of the blue: You will see what I see…your son still has his life to live…He’ll be all right…