Saving Becca, continued

“I have just about had it,” she says with disgust. “Enough is enough.”

AS THE LAST CHEMO DRIPS through her IV line, Becca is excited. The dose last month was so light, her hair actually started to grow back. A faint shadow covers her scalp, and wispy promises of brows sprout above her eyes, almost overnight.

“I might even have enough hair to start school without my wig!” she says. With her lanky build and funky jewelry, a smattering of hair will make her look like a hip punker, not a chemo patient. She wants new friends and classmates at Central Bucks East to know her as “Becca,” not as “the girl who had cancer.”

After this treatment, she will undergo a series of CT scans, skeletal studies and blood work to see if she has won her 10-month battle. If no evidence of cancer remains, Himelstein will remove her chest tube, and Becca and her family will begin reassembling their lives. Becca will undergo similar tests every month for a year and then, with diminishing frequency, over the next decade. There will be a lot of nail-biting, but Becca feels so happy right now, it seems doable.

Just days later, she is felled by a sky-high fever and the worst combination of side effects she has ever experienced. Emotionally, she feels destroyed, cruelly sucker-punched yet again.

“I’m never going to get better!” she wails to Sue and Bob. “I’m never going to get my life back! This will never end, never! I hate this, I HATE this!”

Valium relaxes her while her body does battle. Sue and Bob feel they could use some Valium themselves. It is simply unbelievable, this last assault. As Becca fidgets, it’s impossible to view the cancer as anything other than a vicious, spiteful parasite enraged at being evicted from its host. It doesn’t give a damn about Becca, about any of them. It will not relinquish Becca’s body without a final explosive reminder of just what they’ve been dealing with. No — make that who they’ve been dealing with. This offensive feels too personal to have been lobbed by anything other than a living, satanic being.


Leaving a sudden wide silence like the aftermath of an exorcism, the cancer flees. Could it really be gone? Gingerly, tests are done. They indicate no sign of lurking cells waiting to ambush again.

The cancer is nowhere to be found.

Free from the chemotherapy and radiation, Becca’s body begins to remember itself. Her hair — her fabulous, obedient hair — lengthens to downy fuzz. Her brows and lashes thicken, and the dark blotches burned on her chest by the radiation begin to fade. Her stomach does not regurgitate the meals she consumes with growing joy. Her naps grow shorter.