A Side of Red Tears

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

but Serious.

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

red tears

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

for last:

“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

for now.


6 thoughts on “A Side of Red Tears

  1. Sending prayers your way. What is your son’s name so I can say it when I pray? Cancer is so devastating. I can’t even imagine what you are going through. I hope you have a strong support system. Red tears, of all the weird side effects. I am so sorry you have to watch him go through this.


  2. I am so very sorry. I cannot begin to imagine what you (or your son) are experiencing, but I can offer up my love, prayers and thoughts that you both find a way to get through this. I hate how the pain seems to cut a little deeper when it’s something your child is experiencing versus the parent and I pray you find the strength to get to the light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you for sharing your very deepest thoughts on this…having gone through life-threatening medical issues myself, I can say that writing about them is very therapeutic for me. I will be thinking of you both. My love and prayers to you!


  3. I wish I had the right words to say. Our 21 year-old neighbor just went into remission with leukemia. One of the kids who my daughter (now six) was a baby with is laying in the hospital with a cancer that has attacked her central nervous system. I just do not understand why this horrible disease afflicts children like your son and the ones we know locally. It is a terrible disease and I pray you will have the strength to get through this.

    Please know there is a community of writers who will be here to support you on this journey. Just let us know how we can help.

    I’ll be thinking of you and your son as you engage in this battle.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You are going through what must be hell on earth. I cannot even imagine how you must feel, but I can tell that you are going to be all your son needs to get through this battle. I am so very sorry this is happening to your son and your family. You are very brave to put words to this experience. Sending you strength and prayers.


  5. To echo Stacey’s comment, our writing community can provide support as you go through this terrible year. I’m so sorry, and I’m with Margaret, praying and sending positive energy as you make your way through.


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