It felt sacrilegious cuddling with my cell phone Thursday night in my bottom bunk at the cabin, but Julia had to be calling Friday morning. She couldn’t make me wait all weekend. I’ve gotten used to the beeps and rings of IV machines since May, so I didn’t want to risk mistaking The Big Call for a tantrum from Dorothy, the newly agreed-upon name for my Old Bag of an IV-toting backpack.
The rural phone grids held. Julia called at 7:30 a.m., a full two and a half hours before my hemoglobin would have me rise and shine otherwise. Her cheerful voice was a welcome wake-up. All 16 of my chromosomes in some special cell were lined up as nicely as I lined up with my 15 classmates in 3rd grade at St. John’s in Searles. Before transplant 14 were out of line, but they haven’t budged since the Day 30 biopsy. The organized lineup led the pathologist to note “No sign of MDS or blasts” in his report, an accolade as appreciated as those scratch-and-sniff stickers Mrs. Hodapp used to put on exceptionally neat papers.
What’s more, the DNA of my blood and bone marrow is still 100 percent my donor’s – a “2 for 1” as Jimmy calls it. My doctor had been particularly anxious over this measure because my blood counts have steadily fallen for three weeks. Contrary to what we feared, there is no problem with my graft. I’m still 100 percent. Anything less than that is worrisome because it leaves room for the cancer cells to come back. My marrow just has to start working a little harder to “populate” my blood with some meaty cells, Julia said. “So this is really good news, Jenna. We’ll talk more about it Monday when I see you.”
I rolled out of my bunk, careful not to rest my knee on my IV tubing and pull my hickman out even farther out of my chest. Gross, I know. The now-arbitrary blue stitches dangle about an inch down from where they should be, as scar tissue tries to hold on, at least another few weeks. Led by the weave of early morning moonlight and sunlight, I sat next to my mom on her bed. “Julia called,” I said. “I’m 100 percent.” She hugged me tight and clenched my hand with her even smaller one, letting a few tears go but not letting out exclamation that would wake the others. “That’s really good news,” she repeated, pushing the words out in big breaths, as if she’d held them all week.
I think my whole family breathed a little easier for the rest of the weekend at the cabin we’ve enjoyed together for years. Although I still had to stay away from the who-knows-what-could-be-in-the- lake and sand, didn’t dare a game of horseshoe or a rowboat for fear of rupturing my hickman, and still shied away from the fresh summer harvests that could bring sickness, I didn’t mind as much. That night, the moon at the end of the dock shined brighter, closer than I had thought it earlier in the week.
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