Monday, September 17, 2012

No More Chemo Kindness

I first met Jason when he was about 14 or 15 years old. He and my son, Kohen, became friends, united by their mutual passion for skateboarding. Jason was quite unlike any of Kohen’s other friends. For one thing, he was about six and half feet tall, had girl-long hair, and a mouth that could rival a sailor. He was also brutally honest, funny, smart, and those big brown eyes had a depth and wisdom beyond his years. He soon became number two son.
 Kohen and Jason

Admittedly, as someone who learns the hard way, he made some poor choices after high-school that derailed him in some ways, but probably accelerated his personal growth and development in other ways. He accepted responsibility, and his punishment, with his usual reflective wisdom (which his mother and I often hoped would become foresight instead of hindsight:). Little did we know how Jason’s experiences would provide him with the strength and endurance needed to face cancer.

Last Christmas, he was diagnosed with Stage 3, Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He was 21. It had spread to his chest and abdomen. For the next six months he spent every other Wednesday in a chemo chair while a four drug cocktail slowly dripped the equivalent of draino into his veins, scouring away everything in its’ path – we hoped. I was fortunate enough to be his chauffeur on most days. And although I know he dreaded the poking and prodding, the fatigue and sickness, the isolation of sitting in that chemo chair, I looked forward to our time together in the car. We talked about pretty much everything with Jason’s frank and insightful wisdom. I’m not sure who helped who more on those car rides.

On August 15th, we made what we hoped was our last chemo drive to Hamilton. Then the waiting began. Waiting for the results of the six-month Cat scan. I find it difficult to describe in words, that tension of tempering hope with reality. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for Jason. September 5th was Results Day. On the way I asked Jason, on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the greatest despair ever, and 1 being the complete opposite) how disappointed he would be if he needed just a couple more treatments – just to be sure what to expect if the news was not what we hoped. Without hesitation he said, “A ten.” I wasn’t looking forward to the appointment.
Last chemo treatment
By the time the doctor came into the room all I could hear was the blood pounding in my head. She began talking about size of the lymph nodes, but ended with, “We can stop the chemo.” I’m pretty sure that’s all Jason heard. Five powerful, hopeful words. The doctor wouldn’t say he was ‘cured’, but definitely in remission! The only thing left to do was decide where to have our celebratory dinner. Jason picked Kelsey’s.
Celebration Dinner

We packed up the car with my six year, Jason’s girlfriend Dana, her son Caleb, and my son’s father, and headed out to celebrate. When our waitress, Danielle, asked us what we were celebrating I almost cried, “As of today, Jason has been declared cancer free.” Then she almost cried. A few moments later she brought out all our appetizers and explained that the manager, Brian Moore, had gifted them in honour of the great news. After dinner he came to shake Jason’s hand and congratulate him. I gave Brian and Danielle dakbands – of course. We took pictures and basked in the glow of kindness. Thank-you Brian. Kelsey’s is now our new favourite restaurant.
Kelsey's kindness

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