The trip down to Boston goes smoothly enough, and before I know it I’m once again standing in the MRI room with an uncertain little boy in my arms, looking around with a mix of curiosity and concern. MRI’s when idle make a sound that is similar to the heartbeat of someone jogging
at a good clip, and my anxiety increases slightly so my heart is in sync. A little push of the syringe later, and Vampboy is limp in my arms, visiting drug-induce dreamland. I quickly rest him on the MRI table and step away, leaving the swarm of medical personnel to their task.
Vampmommy and I head off to get some lunch, and sit in semi-silent discomfort as we listen to a group of student nurses at the next table presenting to their teacher on “quality of life care post-cancer treatment”. We tear away from the eavesdropping, and have the quick conversation that we’ve both been thinking about internally for some time now.
“Everything is going to be all right, right?”
“I think so. I mean, I’ve been telling people that I think I’m supposed to be nervous about this, but it’s not how I feel.”
“Me neither. I think I’m in denial.”
“Maybe denial, maybe ignorant optimism? I don’t know, but I don’t feel as nervous as I think I should be.”
“It is going to be all right, right?”
We both realize on some level that today’s test is big. If cancer shows up, we are in a very different hell from the one we’re in right now (the answer to “can it get any worse?” is “yes…yes it can”). If it doesn’t, we stay in our current hell, but with some satisfaction that redemption is closer than before. All we can do at the moment is wait, re-read the research paper on Vampboy’s cancer, check the calendar to coordinate the next few weeks, and nibble our salads.
We finally pay the bill, meander to Starbucks for caffeine sustenance, then hightail it back to the MRI department to wait. Strangely, the testing takes longer than usual, so Vampmommy reads a book while I pull out my Ipod and listen to all of the deep songs I can find.
My mind goes to the possible scenarios. Scrubs calls and tells us that all is well, and we head home to spread the word. Or, Scrubs comes to us with sadness in her eyes and breaks our hearts with grim truth. What would that be like? How would I react, if I found out that Death was once again crashing the party and trying to take all of the attention?
Just as I begin to envision a great deal of dramatic sobbing, the clowns walk in. It turns out this hospital is equipped with about 10 circus clowns whose sole jobs are to visit the children in the hospital and lighten the atmosphere with a little tom-foolery. In the months since Vampboy started treatment, and the weeks and weeks we’ve been in the hospital, we’d never run across them. Yet when my son is out cold in another room here they are, Ukulele and all. The room is quickly devoid of any kids, as the remaining two that were in the waiting room were whisked away for their turn in the scanner. This left my wife and I, the two people at the desk, and the clowns.
One of them asks what I’m listening to, as I have my Ipod earphones still in my ears.
“Oh, I see — just keeping them in so people won’t talk to you?” I chuckle and nod my head. “So, what were you listening to?”
The other clown jumps in “Oh, I know him! He did that song…The Coal Miner’s Daughter?”
The conversation then goes to the Damien Rice discography, and the correction that the song is called “The Blower’s Daughter”. “That doesn’t sound too appropriate,” the clown with the Ukulele says, and he begins a rousing rendition of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight”. He goes from there into a Spanish version, whereby we spend about fifteen minutes all working together on how to say “In the jungle, the Lion pees tonight”. I have no idea where that came from, but somehow talking to circus clowns about lions urinating in the rain forest seems completely in line with the rest of life.
Eventually some poor boy accidentally walks into the room, then makes a harried exit at the site of the clowns. They had clearly engaged with him before, so they dutifully took off to torment him with some silly song or another. We return to our thinking and waiting, but not with the same seriousness as before.
It was another ten minutes before we could meet up with our drugged son in the recovery room, and another hour and a half before we got the official word from Scrubs that our current hell will stay our comfortable (yet hot) home, as the scans showed “no signs of disease”. So we are fulfilling the happier scenario of ending our day sharing good news with the world.
Sadly, the good news only means that we are ready to push forward with weeks and weeks of more treatments — it is not indicative of a “cure” or anything like that. We can only celebrate the news for what it represents, which is only the present moment. We will once again undergo these tests in a couple of months, as another guidepost along a journey that seems like it will never end.
But thank God clowns are included.