Thank you all for reading and for your comments! Sorry I kept you in suspense for so long - here's the next chapter . . . :)
Five hours into sitting in the ER waiting to see the pediatrician on call, Daniel was going insane. He couldn't believe there weren't enough doctors that one of them could help his child.
"Excuse me, but my family paid for the cardiology ward of this hospital. I expect to be treated with more respect than waiting five hours in a crowded waiting room while my daughter seems to be getting sicker by the minute!" Daniel complained to the receptionist.
"Mr. Meade, I realize your family is a big contributor to our hospital, but we run our triage based on who is worse off – not on how much money they have. Now please have a seat and we will call you when a doctor is available," the woman told him.
If that didn't make him feel like the scum of the earth, he didn't know what would. If Betty were there, she'd give him that look – the look that portrayed how disappointed she was in him. He'd seen it too many times since he'd known her and he never got used to it. Using his money and power to get in the front of the line of fifty other sick people . . . All he wanted was to figure out what was wrong with his daughter. He hated hearing her cry, knowing she was trying to tell him something and yet he couldn't help her.
Another hour and three bags of Flipz later, he finally got Abby in to see a pediatrician.
"Looks to me like an ear infection. It's common among babies. I'll prescribe some antibiotics and she should be fine in a few days," the doctor said.
"When we were in the waiting room all that time, I noticed she had a lump on her head. Is that anything to be concerned about?" Daniel wondered.
The doctor examined Abby's head.
"I wouldn't be too worried about it. Infants' heads have soft spots . . . bumps . . . you probably just didn't realize it was there, before," he explained.
"My daughter's head has always been perfectly round," Daniel argued.
"Trust me, Daniel. It's nothing to worry about," the doctor assured him.
"Could you tell me if this lump on my stomach is anything serious?" he asked, while he was there.
The doctor examined it.
"It appears to be just below the skin and isn't hard. I think it's probably a benign cyst, but without further testing, I can't say for sure," he told him.
"Good. Thank you," Daniel said before leaving.
A week went by and Daniel's lump was exactly what the ER doctor had said. Abby's infection cleared up, however, rashes appeared on her body and she developed unexplainable bruises. She was still very fussy, when she used to be a really quiet baby for the most part.
Daniel and Betty had finished hiring the staff for their magazine, and hoped they had made the right choices. It was hard to focus when all they could really think about was their daughter's health. The twins' checkup was that Friday afternoon, so they decided to ask about her condition then instead of making yet another sleepless trip to the emergency room.
"I will have to get the blood tests back to confirm it, but from what I'm seeing, it looks like Abby has leukemia," Dr. Peters informed them.
"What? This can't be happening. She was so healthy when she was born . . . sh-she can't –" Betty stuttered.
It took Daniel a little longer to process the news.
"Our d-daughter has c-cancer – our infant daughter has cancer? She's too young! How can she –" he trailed off unable to speak.
"I realize this is a lot to take in and that Abby is very young and small, but it can be treatable. The odds of her survival are a lot better than they were thirty years ago. Pending the results that I put a rush on, I'd like to refer you to a pediatric oncologist, Dr. Mendes. She's one of the best in the country and will guide you through Abby's treatment process and answer any questions you might have," the doctor said. "I'm very sorry."
"Thank you," they both told her and took Abby and Everett home.
"It's almost 5:00PM – there's no point in going back to the office. I just wish we'd get a call with the results," Daniel said, frustrated.
"She said she'd let us know before 5:00PM – why don't you try calling? I need to go see if Abby and Everett feel like eating," Betty said and gave him a hug.
He could tell how hard she was trying not to cry.
"Hey . . . it'll be okay – no sense in getting all worked up until we know for sure, right?" he told her, only he had a sinking feeling in his stomach that the results would confirm Dr. Peters' diagnosis.
Betty nodded, meekly, and went upstairs.
After making the call, he sat on the sectional just staring into space, repeating Dr. Peters' words in his head. Abby had cancer. His daughter had cancer. His baby girl had cancer. He was numb; he couldn't make himself do anything, think anything but those words. Then he felt a tap on his shoulder.
"Somebody misses her daddy," Betty said, putting Abby in his arms.
He took one look at his daughter and broke down.
"Daniel? Baby? Oh, god . . . So the tests were true?" she asked, sitting next to him, bewildered by his reaction.
He nodded, trying to catch his breath from crying.
"She has leukemia . . . acute non-lymphocytic leukemia . . . They, uh . . . they want to admit her to the hospital tomorrow morning . . . explain everything . . . start some type of treatment," he sobbed, kissing the top of Abby's head.
"Oh my god . . . No! No – this can't be happening – not now – not when we're just starting our lives, our new family . . ." Betty began to blubber, clinging to her husband and daughter.
They stayed that way so long, he couldn't remember. It wasn't until Everett cried that they went back to reality.
"I'll go check on him," Daniel sniffed, giving Abby to Betty.
As he rocked him in the chair he felt so grateful to have one healthy child, but so angry and unlucky to have something so horrible happen to his other child.
"What are we going to do, buddy? Daddy doesn't know what to do . . ." he softly wept as he held Everett in his arms.
Daniel walked back downstairs after Everett had fallen asleep to find Abby in the pack-n-play's bassinette and Betty in the kitchen, flour and eggs all over the place.
"Have you seen the cocoa powder? I know I put it somewhere . . ." she asked, nervously searching for it.
"Let me guess - brownies?" he assumed, handing her the tin that was right in front of her. "Betty, you don't have to do this – let me run down to the bakery and get some."
"No - I already started them – I-I need to make them – I- I –" she burst into tears.
He immediately took her in his arms.
"It's okay – it'll be okay. We've made it this far, right?" he tried to soothe her.
"Let's clean this up, and I'll go get us some dinner and as many brownies as you think you can eat," he offered.
"Thank you," she hugged him, sniffling. "You always know how to make me feel better."
"It's a gift, what can I say?" he joked, attempting to lighten the mood for both of them.
Betty giggled through her tears.
"Italian?" she suggested.
"Now who's making whom feel better?" he raised his eyebrow.
"We're a team, right?" she shrugged and took his hand. "I'll call Angelo's so it'll be ready when you pick it up."
"You awake?" Betty asked at two in the morning.
"Yeah," Daniel said. "How did you guess?"
"You keep tossing and turning," she answered.
"I'm sorry . . ." he apologized. He couldn't stop thinking about Abby and the next day . . . the future . . .
She turned toward him, propping her head up on her elbow.
"It's okay – I couldn't sleep either," she admitted. "I keep picturing the worst scenarios every time I close my eyes. Our little girl . . . our baby . . . she could die, Daniel."
"We don't know that yet, Betty. Cancer doesn't always indicate a death sentence," he argued, trying to convince himself as well.
"It was for my mom . . ." Betty maintained. "She got the news and s-she was gone a few years later . . . I used to think about her every hour of every day. Now I barely think of her – mostly on holidays, birthdays . . . What if that happens with our child? What if she dies – what if I forget how it feels when I hold her . . . or the way she coos when she's happy? What if we move on with our lives and it's like she never existed?"
"Just because the times you think about your mom have decreased, doesn't mean you love her any less – it's the same with my dad," he assured her. "And Abby? I remember when I cut the cord and the doctor placed my daughter in my arms for the first time . . . No matter what happens, I will never ever forget that or a million other moments – and neither will you. But we're not there yet – we're not even close. There's still hope and I'm going to hold onto that."
"You're right, I can't believe I'm even thinking like this . . . I-I'm a horrible mother . . ." she sniffled.
"No – Betty, you're an amazing mother," he insisted. "You're just terrified . . . So am I. But we have to be strong – for both of our children. They need us. Abby needs us. She's too little to fight this on her own – and I intend to fight like hell."
"Me, too," Betty agreed. "Daniel?"
"Yeah?" he said.
"Will you hold me 'til I fall back asleep?" she asked.
"Sure, baby . . . I think we both need it right now," Daniel told her, taking her tightly but lovingly in his arms while they slowly drifted back to sleep.
"So the best chance Abby has is a bone marrow transplant and Everett as her donor?" Daniel reiterated the information the oncologist gave them as they sat in her hospital room. "I don't know – I want us to get tested first – then my mom, your dad, Alexis, Hilda . . . I just don't want to put Everett through all of this."
"But Daniel, Dr. Mendes said Everett was Abby's best shot at surviving. Siblings – especially twin siblings are always the best match. Other family members are a last resort," Betty explained.
"And what if we go through with this? What if Everett's a perfect match and we go through with the transplant and he develops some sort of infection? What then? What if we lose both of them? Then what? Could you live with yourself, Betty? I know I couldn't," he argued.
"Daniel, bone marrow transplants aren't like organ transplants. The risks are very minimal – I looked it up online. Even the chance of getting an infection is next to nothing. We have to do this! For Abby . . . for our family . . ." she begged him to see reason.
Daniel shook his head.
"Start her on chemo . . . give her radiation . . . but don't take our son away, too! It's not fair to him. It's bad enough that Abby has to go through this. Don't make Everett suffer, too!" he insisted.
"I'm not trying to – he won't even feel a thing! The doctors would put him under anesthesia and he'd be back out in a couple of hours. The only way he'll suffer is if we don't do this! If he grows up knowing he lost his sister because you wouldn't let him help her – how could you live with that, Daniel?" she countered.
"I-I can't do this – I can't deal with this right now!" he snapped, running his fingers through his hair.
"We have to make a decision, Daniel – soon! Our daughter is dying – we have to do something!" she pleaded.
He nodded. He knew they had to – he knew he couldn't put it off much longer, but he needed just a few more hours to thoroughly process the facts.
"I'm going to go pick up Everett from the nanny. I'll see you at home?" he said.
"No – I'm staying. I'm not leaving Abby here alone in a strange place. She needs to know someone's with her – that we didn't abandon her. I've read way too many stories about sick children and hospitals and not enough staff and – and I can't do it – she needs me," Betty insisted, tears streaming down her face.
"Okay. Don't worry – I get it. I don't know what I was thinking. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, baby. I love you so much . . ." he comforted his wife the best he could. "I'll come back tomorrow morning so you can shower, spend some time with Everett, and maybe get some work done?"
"Okay," she said and kissed him as if she felt him slipping away.
"We'll get through this – I swear," he promised, resting his forehead against hers.
She half-smiled in acknowledgement.
He kissed his daughter goodbye and left, hoping the next day would bring him a better perspective.