May 21, 1997

He Lifted His Eyes

Author Affiliations

Bellingham, Wash

JAMA. 1997;277(19):1502. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03540430014003

I felt sour nausea rise at my first glimpse of the flowering cherry trees that line the hospital driveway. I had made this trip so many times in the last two years, silent child by my side. That first night, Valentine's Day, 1992, she was a pale, bruised 3-year-old with a white blood cell count of 240 000. Michelle had unfortunately joined the ranks of children with the most common childhood cancer, acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

But today we had a different mission: port removal. Treatment had concluded, medically a rousing success. But the little girl huddled at my side, who didn't talk to most people and still had trouble with balance and sequential thought processes, wasn't feeling so lucky. She was scared.

Weeks before, she had threatened to "slice that thing out of me with a knife." She hated the port. She hated the way it made her chest look,