A nightmare

Precisely 50 weeks ago desperation lead our family journey to Memphis TN where we would participate in a clinical trial we were hopeful would buy Shannon O'Hara more time here on Earth.

It was a frightening leap of faith but with Shannon reporting new symptoms daily we had to try to keep the fight against brain cancer going for another round or two.  To use another sports cliche - it was 4th down and long.

We checked in at St Jude's Children's Research Hospital after a clumsy travel day and were assigned temporary housing on campus at Grizzlies House - modeled on the blueprint of a Hampton Inn.

As we checked in, we were tired, scared and each wondering separately "what are we doing?" - but afraid to say anything so as not to undermine the confidence of the group.  We unpacked and tried to make ourselves at home in room 208.  The difference between this "hotel" and a Hampton Inn is that Grizzlies House is purposely sterile with hardwood floors and high-test ventilation to clear the air of contaminants.  Sick kids fighting horrible diseases stay in these rooms every night.

Shannon was a first-born and like many new parents Jen and I often caved when - as a toddler-  she sold us on some lame excuse to crawl into our bed.  That usually lead to me and Shannon sleeping in the big bed and Mom relegated to the couch.  Shannon loved to press up against the parent she slept with - a human security blanket.  Jen likes her space when she is crashing so Shannon and I became snuggle buddies.

In Memphis, we were all scared shitless so it was decided that Jen and Erin would sleep in one of the doubles and Shannon and I would sleep in the other.  It was only then that I learned how scared Shannon really was.  Fear was an emotion she rarely let any of us see.  She would cry sad tears about her cancer diagnosis from time to time, but rarely did she admit she was scared.

Etched in my memory bank forever are Shannon's muffled screams that would startle her out of her slumber.  She would thrash around with her heart racing and breathing accelerated and ,still sleeping, reach a leg over to make sure someone was with her.  She would drift back to sleep only to be awakened by the next horror.  I never asked her about those dreams.

They continued in the Memphis apartment we moved into after a few days in Grizzlies.  I can still feel her leg pressing against me for comfort.

What I would give to feel that little girl next to me tonight...