She’s got a couple hours free? More like she feels sorry for me
As told to Rochel Samet
Dr. Parker and Shaindy were right. By the time I’m up to my third infusion, it doesn’t feel so scary anymore. It’s actually pretty chilled.
I’m preparing a bag with a drink, my iPod, and a book, when Ma pops her head in.
“Henny’s gonna drive you today, Libby, okay? It’s just a bit crazy here, I haven’t finished Sara’s school shopping, and she’s got a couple hours free...”
Henny. I’ve hardly seen her all month. She spent second half in the mountains, and she’s been rushing around like a whirlwind since she got back, with shopping and packing for seminary.
She’s got a couple hours free? More like she feels sorry for me. Or maybe she wants to give me some more helpful advice.
I shrug my consent. Maybe it’ll be good for her to see this.
Henny’s unnaturally quiet on the drive. It’s like she wants to say something but isn’t quite sure what. When we get to the infusion center, I sling my bag over one shoulder and head for the reception desk. Henny hangs back. I’ve never seen her feeling awkward.
“You can come along, you know,” I tell her, as the nurse comes to show me to my cubicle.
She looks nervous. “Yeah, sure, I’m coming.”
“How have you been feeling, honey?” The nurse – Cherry, her name tag says – asks me brightly. “Seeing any improvement? Don’t worry if you haven’t, it’s only been a few weeks.”
“I think so,” I say. She deftly inserts the needle and catheter. Henny’s carefully looking away. “I mean, this past week I’ve really felt more energetic. I think it’s working. I hope so...”
“That’s great, hon.” She fiddles with the IV bag for a moment. “Okay, you’re all set. I’ll check on you soon.” She pulls the curtains shut as she goes. Now it’s just me and Henny and the IV.
I wonder if it would be rude to take out my iPod. I’m starting to get drowsy from the allergy pre-meds. But then Henny blinks and asks, “Does it hurt?”
I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. She sounds so tentative and unsure.
“This? Nah, just for a second when they put it in. It looks worse than it is.”
She clears her throat. “Wow. You’re… you’re so brave.”
I look down. I wonder how to tell her that it took a lot more bravery to continue going to doctors for months with no one believing me, that it took much more strength to keep going in the thick darkness when every test came back negative.
Then I realize that I don’t need to explain myself. That some things need to be experienced to be understood. And that it’s true, I am brave, and if this is how she recognizes it, then let it be.
We sit in silence for a few moments. For once, it’s actually comfortable. Then I ask her about seminary, and the time passes surprisingly fast.
Cherry comes back at the end to flush out the IV. “So how was that, honey?”
I look over at Henny. “Great,” I say, and I mean it.
Ta’s pulling into the driveway when we arrive home. He looks surprised to see us together.
“Been anywhere fun?” he asks Henny. His tone is a little doubtful.
She gestures in my direction. “Depends what you call fun. I took Libby to get her infusion. It was pretty cool, to be honest.” She winks at me.
“Oh.” Ta is taken aback. “So, how you feeling? Libby?” He tacks on my name after his question, probably because I look a little woozy.
“Yeah, I’m good.” I actually just want to sleep, but that’s normal after an infusion. And I really think the medication is kicking in and starting to make a difference. I hope so, I’d love to actually attend twelfth grade.
Ta looks pleased. “Well, that’s great,” he says, flourishing his house keys. He doesn’t say a word about school, or energy, or pushing myself. Wow. When did that happen?
*Names and details changed to protect privacy
(Originally featured in Teen Pages, Issue 821)
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