The Icky Witch

There is a plastic container on top of the refrigerator that is filled with medications. Anti-nausea pills, laxatives, pills for constant pain, morphine for breakthrough pain, antibiotics, hypodermic needles, cream to numb the skin for shots, alcohol swabs, and much, much more. There is a cardboard box, tucked away in the hall closet, with IV apparatus.

The girls, Kelcie age six and Carly age four, are playing dress-up. They are both wearing princess gowns, teetering on plastic high heel shoes, their heads adorned in tiaras and gauzy scarves. They giggle and squeal darting from one room to the other trying to escape the "icky witch." Under her gown, Carly wears an adhesive patch on her thigh and under the patch is a liberal daub of numbing cream. This doesn’t slow her down as she and her sister fly from the evil old witch.

The doorbell rings, and Carly runs to hide in her bedroom on the top bunk. Her sister, Kelcie, runs to their grandmother. The visiting nurse has arrived to administer the daily shot to little Carly.

Carly’s mother coaxes her down from the bunk-bed and carries her into the living room and the ritual begins. First, Carly, who has begun to tremble, peels off the adhesive strip and wipes off the cream with an alcohol swab. She takes her time and chooses her favorite princess band aid. She begins to moan, "Don’t hold me!" "Wait!" "Wait!" "Not yet!" "Don’t hold me!" Again and again Carly moans as the nurse softly reassures her and her mother whispers loving endearments. Kelcie clutches her grandmother and peeks at her sister and mother. Carly finally yells, "Okay!" "Okay!" And the nurse, faster than you would believe possible, administers the shot. Carly screams, jumps up and flails at her mother and with a shriek runs to her room. The door slams shut and Kelcie whimpers.

The nurse, mother and grandmother shake their heads and sigh. They hear Kelcie open the door and soon the giggles begin.

The nurse, the mother and the grandmother all know who the real "icky witch" is.

It is cancer.

Epilogue: When I was asked to write an article it brought back many vivid memories. My granddaughter's journey was relatively short, 9 months, compared to some of the other treatment protocols, but a lifetime for our family. There were many ups and downs, milestones achieved, set-backs…you name it, but what really stands out in my mind is the Icky Witch. The Icky Witch visited us for 8 to 10 days after every chemo treatment. It seemed to sum up the resiliency of the children who have cancer and the support they receive from siblings. But most of all it shows the utter loss of control that parents have to endure…every 3 weeks their child is brought to a hospital, toxic chemicals are administered through IVs into their little arms making them terribly sick, and at the end of each cycle the parents bring their children, to what they perceive to be the safety of their home, and then the Icky Witch visits. Over and over and over the Icky Witch would visit....