So the time we spent it was precious to me
All the while I was dreaming of revelry
And I told myself for the way you go, rained so hard it felt like snow
Everything came a tumbling down on me
In the back of the woods in the dark of the night
Palest of the old moonlight
It all feels so incomplete
Dreaming of Revelry
–Kings of Leon
Growing up is hard. It's hard for everyone, however, some are luckier than others. I thought growing up I was one of the lucky ones, but as I sat in there, I realized how wrong I was.
I sat in a blank hospital room; my nose was burning with the smell of the chemicals they used for sterilization. On the walls were generic pictures, all in natural colors. There was nothing remarkable in the room, only the standard bed, sink and television. I took a minute to look out the window; the view was bland, just a concrete parking structure. There was nothing good about the day. It was a gloomy overcast, rainy day, with clouds so dark they were almost black. All I could hear was the pounding rain outside that was beating against the window, and the gentle hum of hospital machines. Everything else was still and quiet. It made me uncomfortable.
When I had walked into the room earlier, I was sure the shock on my face was evident. Sitting in the middle of the room, in a starched white bed, was my father, Charlie Swan. To my surprise, he had been wearing a traditional hospital gown, a stark contrast to the police uniform that I was so used to. His wrist was attached to an IV that was forcibly pumping fluids into his body. My mom, Renee, had come up behind me and put her hands on my shoulders.
"Honey, we need to talk, can you sit down over there?" she asked in a hushed voice as she pointed to a plastic chair by the bed.
She looked tired and worn out, much different then her normal refreshed look and childlike enthusiasm. I could tell by the blotches on her skin and the bloodshot look of her eyes that she had been crying.
"Wh-What's going on?" I stammered.
Out of nervousness, I had started to bite the inside of my cheek and pull at the strings on my purple sweater. I had no idea at the time I asked the question, that I would be getting the worst news of my young life.
"Bella, Bella, are you listening?" Mom asked.
"Sorry. What?" I was too distracted from the shock to listen attentively at that point.
"Mom said, that the doctors don't see any reason why a full recovery isn't completely possible," Dad said with a weak smile.
"That's really great, Dad," I had replied with tears in my eyes.
They had just finished explaining the details, that at the time, I didn't know would change my life forever.
They informed me that during all of this time, while we thought that dad had a flu that wouldn't budge, it was something far worse. After hours of testing, they had learned he had cancer. He was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML). Mom and Dad explained that this form of cancer was a fast moving cancer of the blood that stems from his bone marrow. They continued to declare how the doctors were encouraged by how early they caught it and with fast, aggressive treatment; "He would kick this in no time."
I sat there nodding my head, trying to keep up with all the information that was being thrown my way, while trying to stay strong and not cry at the same time. I knew once I was alone, I would be able to process the information better. As Mom and Dad finished up their explanation, a doctor strolled into the room. He was a very average looking man, about six feet tall, early forties, with pale skin. He wore glasses that didn't seem to quite fit his face, giving him in awkward look. Despite the awkwardness he handled himself with an air of confidence that made everyone relax just a little.
"How is everyone doing?" he asked in a soft voice.
"As good as can be expected," Dad replied.
I looked over and saw tears in my Mom's eyes. I knew that they were doing their best to play tough, so that I wouldn't get scared. It wasn't working.
"My name is Dr. Burke. I will be working with you, Chief Swan."
After the pleasantries, he continued, "Well, I think its best to discuss treatment plans, and get started as soon as possible."
Following a lengthy discussion, a plan was made. Dr. Burke decided that after getting Charlie's blood counts stabilized through transfusions, they would start immediately with heavy chemotherapy. It hit me then - this was really happening.
"What should we expect?" Mom asked, her voice shakey.
Doctor Burke explained briefly how the side effects are different for everyone and could be severe.
"The most common side effects are nausea, drowsiness, and hair loss." He was listing off more, but at that point my brain had shut down all incoming information. It was just too much.
Dad would have to stay there that night, and for probably the next few nights while they started his treatment. After that, he would need to be brought in everyday and go through a four-hour sitting of chemo. As I listened, I took a minute to just look at him.
Yes, he looked sick, but only in a way that one would need to go lie down and sleep it off. I couldn't believe we were talking about cancer. I couldn't wrap my mind around that fact that the one person that always seemed to be invincible to me, was now going through this. He was only thirty-eight and had always been as healthy. As I looked over at my mom, I could tell the same thoughts were going through her head as well.
After hugs, and then some tears, on my part and my mom's, we reluctantly left. As I stepped outside, I was greeted by darkness and a light mist with a cold breeze. I welcomed them. The mist helped wash away the grime I was feeling from being in that hospital all day.
I couldn't help but feel a sense of abandonment on my part, leaving him there - in that cold, stark place alone to focus on the devastating news he just learned about his health. However, in true Chief Swan nature, when I expressed my concern he simply said that he was, "A big boy and was not scared, so you shouldn't be either." and to "go home get a good night's sleep and have a great day at school." He even encouraged me to go out with my friends the following day.
"Go out, have some fun. There's no need to sit in a stuffy room with me all day, I am just going to watch some sports and pretend I get a little extended vacation from work."
When he saw my expression that said, 'I know you, and I know that you are trying to be strong on my behalf, however, I am sixteen and not five and can handle more than you can think,' he added, "I promise everything will be fine, you're worrying for no reason."
On the way home with my mom, I thought about my life so far. I lived in the town of Forks, Washington. It was small, cold, and rainy here, but it was home. Charlie was the chief of Police in this small town, and Renee was mostly a stay-at-home mom. However, now that Charlie would not be able to work for a while, she would have to go back to work.
I had an ideal childhood. I was involved in all the typical school activities and always had my own cheerleading section that was made up of Charlie and Renee. My parents were great, and we've always been close. Mom was my best friend, but I was a daddy's girl all the way.
I went to one of the two high schools in Forks; I was a junior at Forks Private High. It was a tiny school that consisted of only one building - a remodeled church - with less than two hundred students. Wanting the best education possible for me, my parents worked hard to afford the tuition required to attend.
We spent the ride home in silence, both going through our own inner musings. As we pulled into the driveway of our two-story, modest house I was raised in. I realized, with all information that I had received my home felt off. It didn't have the same comfort that it once held for me. It seemed cold - unwelcoming even.
Mom turned to me and grabbed my hands. "He'll be back to normal before we know it," she said with passion.
I couldn't say anything in return. I looked into her tear-filled eyes and nodded. I went up to my room to have some time alone. Once I entered the familiar space, I felt myself relax. I kept my room clean - the organization of the space helped calm me. I took in the purple décor that went throughout the room, and my pictures of all of my friends that hung on my dresser mirror. They reminded me of happier times. I felt a sense of comfort, normalcy.
I ignored the calls from my friends, not wanting to explain anything. I went into the bathroom and looked at the mirror, realizing that my brown eyes were now bloodshot, and it was obvious I had been crying. I looked at my long brown hair and my small frame, analyzing what I saw. Even though I felt different, I still looked the same. I'm not sure what I had been expecting to see. I took a long shower, letting the hot water relax my muscles.
I didn't speak again that night, knowing that the second I opened my mouth I would burst into tears. I managed to keep them at bay and seem strong for my mom. I didn't need her worrying about me on top of everything else. However, the second I turned out the light and lay down, I cried into my pillow. I hoped the rain outside would muffle the noise of my sobs until I feel asleep.