Read an Excerpt:
Classified Terminally Ill:
My Story of Beating the Odds
Chapter One: I Die
My mother sat by my bedside, gently brushing a few locks of my hair across my forehead. Her fingers soothed me as they traced patterns across my brow, like a skater practicing a figure-8 over and over until it became second nature to them. I could never figure out where she found the patience – or the strength.
The gentle touch of her fingernails upon my soft skin felt good. I smiled up at her even though I knew that something was wrong again.
“You’re gonna be fine,” she whispered. A brave smile appeared on her face. She looked tired. Mom never ate. Mom never slept. She was just there – always – just like the snow and the cold and my disease.
Growing up in a town just downwind of Lake Ontario, you learn how to be tough. Winters here sometimes run six months long. This is not a place for sissies. It tests your will to survive. You had better be hearty if you plan to stay here. Once the calendar hits October, winter starts its icy attack; and by the time January comes to call, the weak are sent fleeing, looking for any place that will offer warmth and a respite from the howling winds and endless snow squalls.
This particular winter, the eighteenth of my life, had taken its toll on me, more so than usual. By February I had pneumonia again – for the hundredth time, for the thousandth time, no one knew; there were too many times to count. All I knew was that I had it again; and this time I had it bad.
My fever had nearly rendered me delirious. I had completely lost track of time. I tried to remember how long I had been sick. Had it been days? How many? I had no idea. All that I could feel was the familiar, gut-wrenching kick to the stomach, as clear and as unforgiving as the harsh winter winds that blew off Lake Ontario and iced my bedroom windows to the point where I could no longer see outside, trapping me in a prison cell – in a prison cell of a body that could not move on its own. This was the vulnerability of my fragile existence. This was the feeling of terminal illness, the feeling that was my life....
...The darkness of the winter day made the posters that covered my bedroom walls hard to see. Pictures of sun and surf and of things warm and beautiful seemed as hard to attain as a single breath. The Metallica poster on the wall to my left, which stood guard over me as I slept, looked distant and out of focus. The band had turned away, except for James, who stared and wondered what was to become of his biggest fan.
Grandma walked into my room. She was wearing her coat buttoned all the way up to her neck, around which her scarf was wrapped tightly. She had a serious look on her face, which meant she was ready to get down to business.
“Did you call them yet, Starr?”
“No, Mom. Not yet. I’m not ready.”
Grandma paced back and forth with impatient steps. She grabbed Grandpa by the arm and led him away, mumbling something under her breath. Mom leaned into me and kissed my cheek. Then, she said the dreaded words that I knew were coming all along.
“I’m sorry, Craig. You’re not getting better. We have to get you to the hospital. I have to call 9-1-1. It’s the only way. We have no choice.”
Not again, I thought. Oh God, please. Not again.
...to be continued