“Today’s the big day,” I say. “Last day of chemo.”

“Tomorrow’s a bigger day,” he says with a truly genuine smile. “Transplant day.”

I hold my fist out, and he bumps his lightly against mine. “Going to rock it. Then we’re going to spring you from this joint and get you home.”

I glance across the bed at Leighton, who’s staring at Sam with glazed eyes. She looks so exhausted. If I blew a hard gust of breath at her, she’d probably topple over.

I address Sam, trying to be sneaky. “I wish we could talk your mom into getting out of this room for a little bit—”

“I’m not going anywhere,” Leighton says, steel laced in her words. It proves she’s paying more attention than I’d thought. Maybe she’s not so exhausted after all. I bet if I tried to drag her out of here, she would put up a hell of a fight.

My gaze returns to Sam, and he shrugs again. I return the gesture. A silent male communication as if to say, “We have no clue what to do with this woman.”

I stay with Sam for the next couple of hours. We watch TV, and he dozes. When he wakes up, he vomits. I go down to the café to grab food for Leighton, but she barely touches it. Sam and I work a children’s crossword puzzle together. He ends up having a bout of uncontrollable diarrhea that soils the bed. Leighton takes him into the bathroom to assist him with a shower while I help a nurse’s assistant change the bed linens so it’s all fresh by the time he returns.

Lunch comes for Sam… warm broth and ice cream. He valiantly tries both, but they irritate the sores in his mouth. I step out of the room to ask the nurse about his inability to eat. It concerns me tremendously, and I can’t ask Leighton about it in front of Sam, because I don’t want to worry him. The nurse patiently explains he’s getting enough nutrition and hydration intravenously and even if he doesn’t eat for a few days, it’s not something to worry about.

When I leave, Leighton averts her eyes. Sam is actually in a decent mood, which makes my departure all the harder. But I do have to leave for the office to clear a few things from my desk, because tomorrow is indeed a big day… transplant day.

It’s the day my son’s life is going to be saved.

CHAPTER 12

Leighton

“What did the left eye say to the right eye?” August asks Sam, his tone mischievous and sly.

Our son sits up in bed, still gray in the face but more animated than I’ve seen him this past week. He grins at his dad. “What?”

August leans in, looking left and then right before whispering conspiratorially. “Between us, something smells.”

Sam tips his head back, laughing so hard he has to hold his stomach to contain the ache. August steals a glance, and I roll my eyes. Those two have been trading stupid jokes for the last half hour. While I’ve reached my limit, they could probably go on for hours.

It’s okay, though, because Sam is happy and laughing, which is far better than being sick and crying. I don’t have a single laugh in me because I’m bone tired. I’m having a tough time finding anything to be funny.

There is light at the end of the tunnel, though.

Today is transplant day. In just a couple of hours, they’re going to wheel Sam down into a surgical room for the procedure.

It sounds quite easy, though. They’ve already taken August’s blood, which has been boosted with his daily injections, and performed some twisty magic on it to remove his stem cells. They’ll inject that right into Sam’s blood via a transplant catheter, which has to be done in a sterile environment. It will take about an hour for the transplant to be complete.

That’s the easy part.

The hard part will be the next several weeks as we wait to see what happens. The doctors said Sam would have to stay in the hospital anywhere from thirty to a hundred days.

Thirty if all goes well, meaning no infections or other complications. We’ve chosen to stay optimistic. Our hope is we’ll be out of here at the earliest possible time.

Sam lobs a silly joke at August. “Two pickles fell out of a jar onto the floor. What did one pickle say to the other?”

“What?” August asks with enthusiasm, as if he hasn’t heard two dozen corny jokes already.

“Dill with it,” Sam exclaims, and they both chortle.

I don’t have it in me to laugh, but I do share a faint smile with them. I’ll truly be able to relax when Sam is out of the woods and back home.

When his cancer goes into remission.

I do have something special planned for Sam later, though. Down in the trunk of August’s car are a slew of comfort items I asked him to pick up. While I’ve refused to leave Sam’s side since he’s been admitted, I didn’t have a problem asking August to run and grab a few specific things I know will make Sam feel better.

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