NPR logo 'There's a Child in There'

'There's a Child in There'

I was sitting in the radiation waiting room yesterday morning. It was crowded. The computers had crashed earlier and everything was running way behind schedule. Everyone else there seemed to know one another; they had been getting the treatments for a while. I was the new guy, but was immediately welcomed into that instant community of cancer patients. Everyone there was older. At 51, I was one of the younger patients.

And then one of the men said, "There's a child in there." The big, lead door had opened and he could see into the treatment room. Immediately, everything changed. The room got sort of quiet; people even lowered their voices. This was something terrible.

Everyone in that room was fighting his own battle. One man had said that the treatment seemed to be working for him — his tumors were shrinking. Another woman didn't know yet — she still had about 20 sessions to go. But all of that was quickly forgotten. "There's a child in there."

Sure enough, the door opened, and a bed was wheeled out. Lying there, apparently knocked out by anesthesia, was a young boy, probably about 7 or 8, certainly no older than 10. He was bald, probably from chemo. He was clearly very sick.

We all watched in silence as he was wheeled away. I can't imagine the agony his parents must feel. I can't imagine the agony he must feel. And then the man next to me said, "It's not right. We've all had long lives. That's not right."

You have to wonder what the future holds for that little boy. Will he survive long enough to learn to drive? Feel his first crush? Have his first kiss? Will he get to grow up? I don't know. I probably never will. But that man was dead-on. It's not right.