Monday, September 15, 2014

Big C Blog Fest: Cancer Stories for a Cause

Welcome friends! Today's blog fest is a special one. Many of you probably know that Melissa Bradley, a fellow author and blogger, is fighting cancer. She recently had her last round of chemo and the expenses are big, so Michael DiGesu has spearheaded this blog-fest for people to submit stories for an anthology, the proceeds of which will help pay for Melissa's cancer treatment.

I have a few personal cancer stories, but they aren't particularly happy or uplifting, so instead I'm submitting a work of fiction to be included. I will confess before hand that I have trouble with short stories, but the cause merited me giving it my best shot anyway.

Dragonflies in the Children's Ward

Tommy Sontoro could tell a story. The night I met him was the first in my pediatric rotation, so of course they had scheduled me to work graveyard, but Tommy was awake.

“Shouldn't you get some rest?” I asked as I recorded his vitals on my chart.

“I'm dying.” His brown eyes were large and earnest. “Why would I want to spend the rest of my life sleeping?”

I looked back at his chart. That seemed like an awful lot of wisdom for a boy of eight.

I ran my hand over his hair. “I have to check on the other patients, but if there's time left before my next rounds, I'll come back and talk to you.”

“I get all the ladies,” he said.

I laughed and continued my rounds. When I finished, I had half an hour to spare before I had to check them all again, so I went back to Tommy's room. He was still sitting up, a solitaire game on the screen of his tablet computer.

“You play cards all night?” I asked.

“Sometimes. I like it better when there's somebody to tell my story.”

I smiled, set an alarm on my watch to remind me when rounds would need me again, and sat next to Tommy's bed. “So tell me your story.”

He sat up taller and set his tablet aside. “Come closer. I don't want the kids to hear.” As if he weren't a child himself.

I grinned and move to the edge of his bed. He leaned forward as if to tell be a secret and began.

“I see them when they come at night. I've seen them since the battle for Hannah Ganas. I wasn't supposed to see, but... I couldn't sleep.”

“Who's Hannah?” I asked.

“You can see her picture out there on the wall. Cured. She got to go home.”

“Tell me about the battle.” I wasn't sure if I really wanted to hear. His start had sent a chill up my spine, but he did seem to want to tell the story and I decided if he could tell it, I could listen.

“One was bright green and the other was yellow. They looked like big dragonflies. Their faces were fierce and proud and the yellow one crouched on the foot of her bed. I could see them from my room and I got up to watch from a crack in the door so I could see better. They buzzed, they didn't talk, but the green one kept trying to unseat the yellow, make him go away. And while they were fighting, a nurse came in, like you, and injected something into Hannah's IV. She didn't see them. They were right there and she couldn't see. The yellow one watched her. He looked sad and when she was done, he left and the green one perched in his place for a while—just long enough to make sure the yellow one was really gone.

“They don't come every night. Just, I think... when they have to battle. Decide who wins. And there is a blue one and a red one. When the yellow one wins, someone dies, but he isn't mean. He is just trying to help. They all are trying to help.”

“Are any of them here tonight?” I asked, afraid of his answer.

“Just the yellow one. There's nothing left they can do for me. He'll guide me on my way though. I won't be alone.”

My watch buzzed then and to be honest, I was relieved. I wasn't sure what to say to Tommy. He seemed a lot less upset by what he'd said than I was, and the last thing I wanted to do was make it worse. I checked his vitals and asked him to lie down.

“I'll be back if I can,” I promised.

“It's okay to be scared,” he said. “But they won't hurt us.”

I nodded at him and left, unnerved. It was a good thing nobody I encountered needed any real nursing care—just standard stuff. Halfway through I had a call asking me to do a double, and because I was too flustered to think, I agreed. Somebody relieved me for a break shortly after. Knowing I'd have an extra long shift, I went into the break room for a twenty-minute nap.

When I returned to the floor, Tommy was gone.

“What happened? Where did he go?” I asked, but the nurse on the floor had just gotten there and didn't know.

The work of nursing care occupied the next few hours, but finally, with relief, I saw them wheel back Tommy Sontoro.

“Is he okay?” I asked. “What happened?”

Tommy's eyes fluttered open. He smiled at me. “He wasn't yellow, he was orange.” And he closed them again.

I looked around to see Tommy's parents, their laughter and tears mingling. Tommy had turned a corner in the night. They'd just taken him for testing and proven the tumor at the edge of his brain was finally shrinking. A brain tumor might explain his visions, but when I looked into the room where they were wheeling him, I could have sworn I saw the air ripple with orange light as something rushed away.

So please check out some of the other entries, but more importantly, watch for the collection when it becomes available. It's for a very good cause. If you are able to donate additionally, here is Melissa's donation link: 


Mason Canyon said...

Hart, a wonderful story to add to the collection for an amazing cause.

Yolanda Renee said...

A truly beautiful story! The magic of childhood! Thank you!

Elizabeth Hein said...

Thank you for this wonderful story. I am continually amazed at how creative children are in coming up with ways to understand the world. His dragonflies helped him make sense of a confusing and frightening time in his young life.
Elizabeth Hein - Scribbling in the Storage Room

impatient said...

Wow! First thing of yours I've read and I loved it!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's a delightful story. Thanks goodness for the orange dragonfly.

Hart Johnson said...

Thank you so much for the support, gang! I get a bit insecure on the short stories, partially because they tend to be a different flavor than my longer stuff, so I appreciate your kindness!

Chrys Fey said...

That was a beautiful story! The ending gave me a happy chill. I love dragonflies, and I've always felt that they were magical. :)

Nick Wilford said...

That was a sweet and heartwarming story. I enjoyed it a lot.

Nicki Elson said...

Hooray for orange! The visions of the dragonflies added a nice, fanciful element to this touching story. Very nice job - I'd never guess you were uncomforatable w/ short storytelling.

Michael Di Gesu said...


You sent chills down my spine with this! LOVED IT! No need to feel insecure about your shorts. It was wonderful!

I love anything to do with dragonflies....

You nailed Tommy's character. Children with cancer are so adult like and handle their illness with maturity way beyond their years.....

Thank you for your participation! I was a happy read!

Michelle Wallace said...

Cancer is difficult enough for adults...but kids with cancer, that's just so heartbreaking.
Why would you feel insecure about your shorts? This story is great...captures the imagination with its magical element.
I like the idea of all the different colored dragonflies...

Roland D. Yeomans said...

As others have said: no need to worry about your short stories. This one was riveting, chilling, and at the end, uplifting. May all the ripples ahead of you be orange! :-)

Denise Covey said...

Oh, Hart, what a beautiful story. And I can imagine it happening. The poor kid. Thank goodness for a child's imagination.

Melissa Bradley said...

I really loved this story. It made me smile as I thought anout my own scan today. Hopefully mine is purple. :) Thank you so much for helping get the word out and for participating. Huge Hugs!!

E.J. Wesley said...

Amazing story, Hart. Every parent's worst nightmare. And I think you captured the bravery I've seen in sick kids so well. (My bro was badly burned as a child, so we spent a lot of time in children's burn units growing up. Those kids are damn tough! Way more so than the parents. :)

Arlee Bird said...

Nice addition to the collection. I like the spin you put on things.

Tossing It Out

Helena said...

What a sweet, moving story and with an ending that really touched me. I'll watch for the anthology and recommend it to others. Meanwhile, may Melissa see a gorgeous orange dragonfly.

Theresa Milstein said...

Ooo, I love the hint of real magic at the end. Even though Tommy is fictional, I breathed a sigh of relief.

Deniz Bevan said...

Oh, that's a lovely story. So happy for Tommy!