Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Little Toby

My friend Toby is three years old and he has a very aggressive form of cancer, recently diagnosed. I baked a chocolate cake for his parents and his brother and brought it to his house. I didn't expect to find him and his parents at home. They were told by doctors that they cannot stay there because the environment can be toxic for Toby, who is extremely weakened by chemotherapy. But to my surprise, they were there and Toby was awake and feeling better. He was arguing, refusing (with good reason) to take his horrible, disgusting pink medicine (who do the medicine people think they are fooling with the pink color?) and demanding cookies and orange juice.
Toby is a beautiful, gorgeous little boy. His skin is the color of caramel. His lovely soft brown curls are starting to fall, and he has lost 8 pounds, but he still is very, very handsome. He is also strikingly articulate for a boy his age. He talks beautifully. He is very smart. His mother told him I had baked a chocolate cake, a feat that left him unimpressed. He told me he likes vanilla better. He has very definite opinions, and not only about cake. I gather he has strong opinions about subway lines as well. I'd love to talk to him about this topic in more detail when he gets better.
Toby got a video made by his teacher at school, with all his classmates greeting him through the camera and listening to wonderful, silly songs that the teacher made up. I don't know if I can describe Toby's face as he watched his friends. A smile appeared that belonged to someone much older, someone like a very wise adult. A skeptical smile. A knowing smile. What was he thinking, this brave little boy, whose life has become an inexplicable nightmare? There are my friends, their normal selves in their normal, relatively carefree lives, and here I am. My world turned upside down. My life completely changed, my days and nights plagued with sufferings of all shapes and sizes. For no rhyme or reason. How unfair it must seem. How incomprehensible.
Toby's parents are heroic. I have only seen them twice, but they seem to have a steady, defiant calm I don't think most people could muster under the circumstances. I hope with all my might that they will soon see better days, and they will play with Toby in the sunlight.

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