As my son sleeps
I slip out to the waiting room, settle
into a vinyl chair and try to ignore
the home-improvement show playing
to no one.
In my lap is the flecked, photocopied packet
that is the plan of Eli’s treatment.
I feel I must educate myself about the five drugs,
with their unpronounceable names,
that will soon be careening
through my son’s veins.
The side effects are divided
into three categories:
Likely, Less Likely, and Rare
Along with the usual suspects
of nausea, vomiting and hair loss
in the Likely category are
red urine, sweat, tears and saliva.
I try to picture my son with
coursing down his cheeks.
It sounds like a horror
movie. I guess I’m glad they warned me.
I’m also grateful that
dark discoloration of the hands and feet and loss of nails
is on the Less Likely list,
along with seizures
and gonadal dysfunction.
On to Rare but Serious,
where the real fun begins.
Here I find a preponderance of the term
which includes such outcomes
as lung damage, cardiac toxicity,
kidney failure and coma.
But they saved the best
“A new cancer or leukemia
resulting from this treatment.”
So all the misery to come,
even if successful,
could ultimately beget
I put the paper down
with an unsteady hand,
and stare at the cheery
face on the screen
extolling the virtues of hickory cabinets.
I realize that I have made it through
only the first of the five
pages of side effects.
But this, I decide, will do