Flatline

Brielle has always been a tad bit peculiar, strange. She is twenty-eight years old and has been dancing ballet forever. However, during a routine check, something shows up. Something that isn't good. More tests are done, and the doctors can only tell her one thing; cancer. It's in her blood and her lungs, a consequence to the years of smoking that her parents went through starting the day she was born.

Her cancer doesn't only bring her morning sickness, hair loss, it also brings her friends. Old friends she used to be in contact with, but also new ones, Anthony. Anthony, a young boy visiting his sister in the hospital, the person who becomes one of her best friends in the year she has been battling at that time. The two of them get involved, knowing the risks damn well, but they fight. The harder they fight for their relationship, the more she gets confronted with her illness, that seems to be everywhere.

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4. chapter three ||

Alexandra didn’t manage to come by that day, but she called. Brielle refused to tell her over the phone what was wrong, but promised she would tell when she came over. She just couldn't tell her sister over the phone, it was too harsh to do that. Too cruel. Of course, people that weren't family got to know over the phone, and so did her father, but her sister, she just couldn't do that. She felt too guilty. By the way, the rumor train would say enough.

                Soon enough, she would come across somebody in the hospital, somebody who didn’t really need to know, and when they knew, everybody knew.

                When Alexandra and Alesana walked through the hospital room doors, hand in hand, Brielle smiled. They had always looked so extremely adorable, a couple that she sort of envied actually. She had never managed to find a person to live with, to cherish, to love, like her sisters had. It felt like she was the only one who wasn't fit for loving, the only one who really couldn't find a person to fall in love with and to be with forever until the end of days. Maybe it was her own fault, maybe tunnel vision got the best of her, but maybe, it was just that she couldn’t be loved. Not really.

                "Hi," she smiled, "long time no see sis. How's school?"

                "Quite okay," she said, sitting down on one of the bright orange chairs that stood in the corner of the room. She knew that they were uncomfortable, but they didn't fit on the bed both, and it was a little sad if you only had one of them sitting comfortable. "Things are going smooth, lots of stress for the exams though. I have a feeling I'm going to fail them terribly." A wavering smile lay on her lips for a minute.

                "They'll be fine," Brielle said. "You always panic for those things, and you always manage to get top scores. Don’t be too insecure about yourself." Brielle managed to smile a little, glad that the pain in her lungs had eased a little. Breathing still hurt, and talking did too, but it was starting to get better, finally. A cough forced its’ way up in her throat, struggling out. It hurt, hurt a lot, but she had been through worse, hadn’t she?

                "I don't know about this time though, they are quite annoying." Not like Brielle knew. "How are you doing sis? What's wrong? Alesana said that it was urgent."

                "It is," she said, sitting up a little straighter, thankful for the fever that eased away a little. The pillow wasn’t really comfortable for her back, but she didn’t really want to fidget with that. Alesana walked over with a frown clear in her face and helped her put the pillow in a good place. Brielle smiled a guilty smile and wished that she would have just told her over the phone. "I just didn't want to make you panic yesterday. You know that I haven't been going to ballet often right? That I have been having the nosebleeds?" Alexandra had been the only one she had told about them, because she knew that she could handle it without looking for things behind it, looking for possible causes.

                Alexandra had been the one who wanted her to say something to the doctor though, because she considered it strange that she had them so suddenly, without really having them before. Alexandra nodded, frowning. "I had one at the doc's, and well, Dr. Lee considered it weird too, so they send out blood to be tested two months ago, and the diagnosis leukemia was made. Leukemia that has spread to certain spots in my lungs to be precise. They are doing everything they can to stop it, but cannot be sure about how much that can be done. Because they caught it quite early, they believe that they may be able to get the spots in my lungs out with chemo. Or at least, that is what they are trying at the moment."  She took a deep breath; even though it hurt, maybe even because it would hurt.

                "Cancer?" she asked, fear in her eyes. "But they caught it early?" Brielle nodded. "That's good; that they caught it early I mean, and you are one heck of a fighter. You'll get past it. I know that." Even though Alexandra tried to hide it, Brielle saw her take her girlfriends hand and squeeze it tightly.  She didn’t want them to hide it from her, but understood. Alesana meant the world to Alexandra.

                "You don't have to be scared," Brielle said. "I'll probably get through it rather okay. Chemo has been though, I've been through one round, and you can probably tell that I've lost weight, but I'm quite sure that it'll be okay."

                Everything will be okay. Brielle wanted to get everything over with as soon as possible, to get out of the hospital and have her net chemo planned as soon as possible, so that she knew when this would all be over, even though she knew that it wouldn't be over quite soon. If only she would get past it, get the cancer out of her blood stream.

                Time passed by as they talked about the treatment, school, how things were going between the two of them, their plans - they were planning on getting IVF, both - and how they were going to do all of this. Brielle enjoyed a conversation that didn't go about her cancer, or what was happening to her. She adored it.

                After all those visitors, Brielle was utterly exhausted. She felt like she couldn't even move without falling asleep, even though the nurse said that it was always like this, Brielle hated it. The fatigue she had too felt during chemo, and she could deal with it then, because it wasn't too bad then. Especially the nausea had bugged her then, but now, with the infection, it felt like she had just come back from a marathon, and never stopped running.

                Sleep fights cancer, but cancer fights sleep. No matter how long she tossed and turned, she couldn't fall asleep; it was like her thoughts went back and forth from thing A and B, without a stop. Nothing could stop the thoughts from coming back, and the fact that she didn't have a single thing to do, not a single one of her things with her, didn't help at all.
                Eventually, she called her mother, to ask if she could pack up some stuff at home and bring them to her. Things like a warm set of PJ's, a book to read, maybe something to do in the hospital while she was there. She still didn’t really feel like doing anything really, but the thought that there was something that could help her through her stay, even if it was nothing more than a book, was comforting.

                Brielle got the stuff she needed, and her mother helped her get into her pajama's. Her legs trembled as she stood on them, and she almost fell to the floor lifting them up. Her mom set her on the edge of her bed and helped her get the pants over her skinny legs, and get the hospital gown replaced by her shirt. For a little while, Brielle felt like a baby again, not being able to do all those things on her own, but knew that calling her mother for this had been a good thing to do. This way, her mother couldn’t say that she kept her out of everything, which she actually did. Her mother had already been kept out of the cancer thing for too long.
                "Do you want to make a little lap?" her mother asked her, and after Brielle had nodded, she went to grab a wheelchair and set her down in it. It was good to see something else than that stupid hospital room for the first time in a long, long time. It had been three days now, and she had been staring at the white walls forever. She really hadn't done anything else, talk, stare, sleep. No eating, but she wasn't hungry. The doctors weren’t too happy about that, and she knew that, but nothing looked even remotely okay.
                "Mom?" she asked, as they wheeled down the hallway. "Will you tell dad?" She didn't want to tell her dad herself, she was way too scared to do that. If he knew, and didn't take it good, then a lot of things could happen, but none of them were actually good.

                She had her father had been through a rough patch for a very long time. Their bound had pretty much been shattered the second her father came in through the doors of her room when she was ten and told her that he was leaving her mother, forever. Her and dad had never really had a good relationship when he left her mother, but she loved her little, two year old brother who couldn't pronounce her name properly, and her new step-mom was alright, she guessed.

                "Don't you prefer to do that yourself?" mom asked surprised.

                "No," Brielle said, being honest to her mother for the first time in a really long time. "Me and dad, well, we aren't that good friends, and you know that."

                “I know,” she eventually said, “but that doesn’t mean that can’t tell him things like that yourself, he’s still your father, Brielle, and I think that he’d rather hear something like that from you.” It seemed reasonable that he’d get the news from her, but they hadn’t talked in weeks, months even. It came close to a year since they had even seen each other.

                “Isn’t it weird if I call him now?” Brielle protested. “I mean, we haven’t talked in ages. We only talk when I have to keep an eye on Nick, and that’s it. How weird is it, if I call and tell him that I have cancer, I mean.” Kathy nodded, understanding her daughter, knowing that she didn’t really like her father,  at all, but he ought to know, her deserved to know if his daughter was sick, because after all, she was still his daughter, and he still her father, and they ought to know when there is a chance that one of the two will die.
                “Look at it this way,” she said eventually, after they had arrived at the cafeteria, and she took a coffee for the both of them. “Would you like it when your ex-wife suddenly calls to say that your daughter has died due to the complications of cancer. How would you react to that? He would almost kill me, and if you were him, it probably would’ve killed you not to know, because Brielle, you are still important to him, even though you don’t think that that is the case.”
                Brielle sighed, “Okay, mom, you are right, but I never talk to him, how will he react when I call him and say that I have cancer? I mean, there is a truth to it, he is my father, and he cares about me, I guess, but how weird is that?”
                “I know that I wouldn’t like to suddenly hear that,” mom said. “I wouldn’t even like it if I heard that Nick was sick like that, and he isn’t even my own. Just call him when you find the time to do so. You will not regret it, I promise you.”

 

They sat down in the cafeteria. Her mother wheeled her to a table as she went to grab them some coffee and maybe something to eat for them. Brielle had always hated the stares that she got when she wasn’t in the hospital and now that she was back here, even though she hated it, she was back to belonging somewhere for the first time in a long, long time.

                Brielle actually drank her coffee. It was weird, after all this time without food and drinking, how good a normal cup of coffee can taste when it helps you to get your appetite back. If things kept going like this, she might even ask if she could eat something that night, but it would probably not keep going that way, she knew her own body way too well.
                “Mom?” she asked, after an hour of sitting there, “can we please go back to my room?” She felt even more tired than she did before, and if she wanted to complain about it, she probably wouldn’t be the right person to do that back then, because it was even worse now. And now there were even more thoughts, but this time, the sleep was way to prominent to stop her from sleeping, it was within reach.

                On the way to the room, she already fell asleep in the wheelchair, which wasn’t really too comfortable, but okay. Kathy put her under the blankets, and tried not to wake her up as she wondered around the room, eventually sitting own to read a book that lay on her daughter’s nightstand.

                She still couldn’t completely grasp that the sick daughter sleeping actually had cancer. You could easily see that she was sick, the dark circles under her eyes and the fact that she was suite thin gave away a lot, just like the grayish tone her skin had become over the last couple of weeks. She didn’t want to see her daughter this way, fragile, ready to give up from the look in her eyes, but most of all, scared. She seemed so goddamn scared. Her house was a mess, bills everywhere, and she knew that Brielle could pay them, but barely. It was hard to imagine that she had been going through this for a month before she told it, before the truth came out of her little, brittle mouth.
                Seeing her like this, reminded her of the beginning. When she was born and lay in the little incubator, almost invisible as the doctors worked their hardest to keep her alive. This time too, she couldn’t do anything at all. It was all in the hands of the doctors and the chemicals that they send through her body to kill the cancer cells.
                Somewhere deep down, she felt quite guilty. Maybe, if she wasn’t the one smoking, the cancer wouldn’t have spread to her already weaker lungs. Maybe treating her would be easier if there was nothing in her lungs, if it as just her blood and nothing more.
                Leukemia was scary; Scary to go through and scary to see in others. She couldn’t get the image of her mind, children with bald heads, skinny, but smiling, people being too sick to move. Her daughter in a big hospital bed in which she almost seemed to drown. It was hard to tell that she was twenty-eight when you saw her this way, when you saw her fragile and broken.
                Now, she more than ever realized that she was still her little girl, that she hadn’t really grown up to be a proud woman, with wicked ballet skills, able to jump an enormous distance as long as you give her a pair of pointe shoes. Now, she will probably never be able to wear them again. She could almost see her daughters dream scatter in the blink of an eye.

                It was a sad realization, and it actually surprised Kathy. She too felt sad that her daughter probably wouldn’t have the strength to do ballet often anymore, to do those beautiful pirouettes she always used to make when she was little, to prove us that she could do three or four after each other and made her extremely dizzy.
                This wasn’t the proud girl she used to know, this was the fragile girl that she saw the day that her father moved out and cried herself to sleep. This was everything she didn’t want to see in her daughter at all.

 

Brielle woke up when they made rounds with the food, and they split their plate of food. She wasn’t really that hungry, she never was, but she ate some and managed to keep it down before she went asleep again.
                Kathy left when the visiting hours were over, and with tears in her eyes, she drove home, to her youngest daughter who hadn’t been able to sleep last night. She had heard her twist and turn in her bed all night, and she often went downstairs to take something to drink upstairs with her. After a while, she too heard the familiar noise of her fingers coming down on the keys of a keyboard.

                She didn’t say anything about it, because she knew her daughter was already not that stable mentally. She didn’t even say anything about it when she asked if her boyfriend could sleep over. It was her way of dealing with the fact that her sister had cancer, and how she needed to cope with that.

                How was she coping with it? Not. But you have to pass on and let it go past you. The worse part wasn’t even there yet, that would be when she had her chemo and would be sicker than sick. She had to stay strong for those moments, and if letting Chloe be for a little while was good f or that, she would to that. She couldn’t see two daughters crumple to the ground.

 

Brielle felt better the day after that. The fever had started to disappear the night before and in the morning, her temperature was almost back to normal. She knew that she wasn’t out of the clearing yet, but her blood counts were getting better and better and that was reassuring The doctors believed that she could go home again quite soon, but told her that she had to take it easy now that the family actually knew and could help her do things in her house.
                No cleaning all day, no going outside in the rain, no being around toddlers and baby’s, because they can get you sick very easily. No getting yourself tired, because a tired person has a lower immune system, and hers was already quite bad. All those little rules drove her crazy, but she promised to obey them, all except for one. She was planning on paying a visit to her father’s. He probably wouldn’t be home, but his wife would be, and Nick, and they would be able to tell him.

                She really hoped that she wouldn’t worry too much. She wasn’t on her own, and she certainly wasn’t weak, not at all. He was strong, and could handle the chemo like a champion, or that was at least what she tried to make herself believe. If that was actually the case, she couldn’t and wouldn’t tell. She had handled it okay before, but they always said that it was the worst the second time around. That it would be harder later on in the cancer treatment, because you are more and more tired and worn out after a while.

                Some people go to work while chemo and that was what she told herself over and over again. If they can go to work, you can go through it too, and maybe even smile while doing so. That would be a good idea.

               

The doctor did however tell her that she didn’t need to make illusions for herself, she wouldn’t always stay super girl who could manage everything and fight cancer like a champion. She would be sick, and tired and probably mentally instable for a great part of the chemo therapies. Maybe, if they managed to go through it, she would laugh about it but that change was so slim that he didn’t even want her to think about that.

                The first chemo session was no representation of the others.

 

Because she was feeling better, Dr. Dre told her that he had managed to get a spot in for the scanner the next day, because a patient had reset his appointment to another day because he was too sick to actually come to it. Then, they would see what had happened to the Mets in her lungs, and if they were shrinking. Staying the same size wasn’t too much of a trouble, he told her when he paid a visit to her room, and if they had shrunk, she was even allowed to be happy about it for a little while, but if it had no effect and there was a growth in the Mets, it may be that they had to have more violent chemo rounds, for longer, and a bigger dose. With more side effects, worse side effects, and probably, hair loss.

                “Most patients are scared of the hair loss,” he said, looking at the clipboard once again. “But you just have to put up with it when it happens, and maybe consider a wig if it makes you feel bad to look in the mirror. You just can’t turn it around and stick the hair back to your head. It grows back after a while, and even though it may take a while for it to be back to its’ full length, it would grow back and would be about the same as before.  Maybe the color would be a little lighter or darker, but it grows back, and that is the most important thing.” He almost smiled a little as he wrote something down.

                She nodded upon hearing this. “I don’t really care about my hair.” It may be foolish or stupid to say, but it was actually sort of true. She didn’t care about her hair that much. She cared about her life, and whether she would survive, and also if she would be able to dance after she got better, but she didn’t care about her hair. Maybe, when it all fell out, she would care more about it, and feel bad, but she just wanted her life back. “Will I be able to dance again?”

                It may be stupid to think about that even before, but she missed it, she missed being on her legs and dance, to go through the air and be light as a feather.

                “You may be able to dance through your treatment,” the doc said, “it’s good to keep fit throughout if you can, because it will make going back to the real world easier afterwards, but if that’s not possible, well, I just don’t want to give you hope again.” Brielle nodded.

                “So you think that I might be able to dance during treatment, but that I shouldn’t keep my hopes up if it doesn’t work out?” He nodded.

                “Let’s just focus on getting you home first.”

 

The results of the scan were good, and for that, Brielle had never been happier. The mets in her lungs had shrunk a little, though her blood had shown a slight relapse where things had been better for a while. The doctor explained her that the chemo may be strong enough for the Mets in her lungs, but not for the leukemia. They would be figuring out if they would find a chemo that fit her needs better, but it would be worse.

                That’s what they told her the day that she could pack up and go home. The past days she had been feeling good again, healthy and had been counting down the days until she could go home. Her house had to be cleaned out according to her mother, but she had to do her laundry first, which wasn’t that big of a deal, considering the fact that doing laundry wasn’t exactly heavy duty housework, and she really had to do it.

 

 

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