Nathan fully understood the term “persistent recurrent neuroblastoma” in a way most adults might have difficulty with. He also understood his prognosis had grown increasingly grim in the matter of just a few months. He knew this because he had demanded the doctors not “pull their punches” with him.
But today, he awoke to a very different kind of morning. He practically sprang out of bed without even the slightest twinge of the pain that had been his lifelong companion. He ran down the hall to his parent’s room, shouting for them to wake up. It was the very first Christmas he had not been in the hospital and heavily dosed with painkillers in his entire life.
He was so excited, he scarcely noticed how different things looked. Everything seemed so much larger than it normally did that he almost wondered if he had somehow shrunk during the night. Just as quickly the thought fled his mind as he ran down the stairs, parents in tow, and for the first time ever tore into real, honest-to-gosh presents.
Engrossed by his toys, he hadn’t even noticed the odd, furtive expressions on his parent’s faces nor when they slipped out of the room to the kitchen. It was the loud and harsh tone of his mother’s voice that shattered his happiness.
“I don’t know why the hell I agreed to all this in the first place? I can’t stand seeing him like this and I sure as hell don’t know how long we can keep him in the dark about what we did! What have we done, David? What have we done?”
His father’s voice was every bit as strident. “We did what had to be done for the boy to survive at all! They told us the science hasn’t evolved to the level we need it to yet. This was the only option for his consciousness to remain intact we had. So, we’ll just have to deal with it day by day. Dr. Mueller swears they’re on the verge of some breakthroughs that will finally let Nathan live the life of a normal little boy. We just have to hang on a little longer. We have to.”
Toys and sweets and such could only do so much to distract Nathan and, in the space of just a moment, he felt a more profound sadness than his illness had ever subjected him to. He didn’t know why Mommy and Daddy were so angry and upset but he did know he would gladly take back all his accustomed pain, with no hesitation, if only they would smile and hug him in the way he needed more than all the presents in the world.