Arman with a 6.5 cm lymph node, now ultrasound shows an 11.4 cm spleen, huge, upper limit of normal for an adult, much less for a six year old, blood work mostly normal, no clear diagnosis, mono test results two weeks away.
Thus the recommendation to biopsy. Look for cancer – lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease, childhood death.
I held Arman as he screamed yesterday, the needle entering his vein, and I thought, “I hope and pray this is not the beginning.” My sweet six year-old child, so full of life and joy and determination and creativity and enthusiasm and lost in his plans to go up to the elementary.
We’d move the family of course, to MD Anderson or Sloan-Kettering or wherever could give him the chance for cure.
And should he be taken from us, such an emptiness would be left all my days. For Nava, her life a dance with his, she just two years older, a gaping emptiness. And every day I would talk to his soul beyond, and ask for his intercession on behalf of his father, for strength and patience to make it without him.
I can imagine all this, but in my heart, it has to just be an exuberant immune response to mono, right? Please? How can Arman have cancer?! Diverse genetic mix, mostly vegetarian diet, clear island air, no carcinogens. It’s just not possible.
And I try to cut a deal with God. The bargaining -- one of the five stages of grieving (I recognize it from my medical school days). Save my son, let this all be a lump of nothing, make it all smaller, and I promise I will be good. In however many ways that I’m not, I’ll be good.
All my personal concerns, various worries, evaporate under the heat of this lump.
I saw my friend Robert, from residency, last year in
The universe and God I do not understand. Suffering and the suffering of the innocent, I do not understand. And at times like this, I don’t try to understand, fearing my explanation or theory may just be false placation. It’s just the way it is, and there is nothing I can do about it. Will my magical thinking help? Will the universe still respond with “your wish is my command”? Is my son any more important, just because he is mine? Thousands of despondent parents bury their children every day, death by lymphoma, or leukemia, or tuberculosis, or starvation or war or murder. And the world just keeps going on. I just keep going on, thinking about me, my concerns, my pursuits, my hopes, oblivious of their pain and the fragments of their broken hearts. Why would I be so special to receive my special request from the universe, from God? I feel reticent even to ask.
Over the last few year when death would come up in conversations (your great-great grandmother died, Duke died, the cat died), Arman has so often said, “I’m scared to die, I don't want to die alone, can you die with me, Dad?” We realized he thinks that the next world is in the ground, somehow related to the grave. “We’ll all see each other in the next world, Arman.” “But what if we get buried in different holes?”
For most of the day, I’m just doing something else. And I look up from my work, and wonder what it was that was causing my anxiety? Briefly forgotten. And the knowledge quickly rushes in, pushes the fragile calm out, my tears well up and I sob.