I have to admit, it always feels strange to say 'Pablo's doing well.' People ask after Pablo a thousand times a day, and I always feel the need to frame the 'well' response with a tinge of the horror of it all. If I break off a little horror crumb for everyone to carry, the load won't be so heavy at the end of the day. Plus, I feel guilty saying 'he's doing OK' when he's the one with a length of plastic tubing coming out his chest, and target marks tattooed on his chest, wrists and throat. No matter my response to this question—always posed in a loving, caring way by loving, caring people—Pablo is still fighting cancer.
The fact is, he is doing well. He's happy, smiling, laughing, eating, drinking, playing. All his bodily functions are working great. More than that, he understands what he is going through every morning at the hospital. His eyes are open as the nurses and doctors position themselves around him. Curious and sober, he watches every major movement in the room. When others are around, he speaks to Jo Ann and I with his eyes and with hand gestures. He is curious. He is not scared.
This morning, Pablo woke up early and joined me at the dining room table. He sat in a chair that traditionally Grady's seat, because I was sitting in his seat at the head of the table. I was reading two newspapers, my email and four websites and getting nowhere. It was nice to have Pablo join the party. After a moment, he looked at my bowl of yogurt and granola. 'Oh s**t,' I thought. 'He can't eat.'
'Papa, I'm hungry.'
I knew it. A guilty flush came over my entire body. This hasn't happened in the eight days we've been doing radiation, because I wake up early and eat before waking him. Even though there is a logical, legit explanation why he can't eat, I still felt bad telling him he had to wait until after his treatment to eat. I said the words, and he was OK with it. We looked out the window across the Silverlake valley. I was searching for something to distract his attention. He began playing with a few dinosaurs that he'd left on the table last night at dinner. The moment passed and we were out the door a few minutes later.
As we parked the car at CHLA, Pablo asked if we could race to the radiation oncology clinic after we got our sticky passes at the front desk. 'Can we race all the way there, but not too fast?' he asked. When his abdominal pain stopped on Saturday, all kinds of cute and interesting observations and questions like this began to emerge from his ever-growing brain. In the absence of kindergarten knowledge and cute school drawings, it's a delight to witness.
We are down to two final days of radiation. Monday is the last day Pablo will be woken early, driven to the hospital, and put into a chemically-induced sleep. The party at the finish line Monday morning will be sweet as it will be short. We check Pablo into CHLA Wednesday for five days of in-patient chemotherapy.