The next morning Sammie awoke in bed with Steve lying beside him. For a moment he could almost pretend the last few months hadn’t happened. That Steve hadn’t left and wasn’t sick. But looking at Steve sleeping, Sammie knew it was all true. Steve’s gaunt pale face told him so.
He spoke quietly, not wanting to wake him from such a deep and obviously needed rest, but “Steve. Don’t you need to get up for work today?”
“Oh. Okay.” Sammie snuggled back under the covers. “Vacation?”
“No,” Steve rolled over, opening his eyes. “I haven’t been working for a week now. I’ve been too sick, and then with all the doctor’s appointments and tests… Well, they put me on sick leave for now, until I find out what’s wrong.”
“Oh,” Sammie wasn’t sure what else to say. “When is the biopsy scheduled?”
“I’ll come with you.”
“Sammie, you don’t have to. I can’t ask that of you.”
“I want to be there Steve.”
“We’ll talk about it more later, okay?”
“I need some coffee,” Sammie said as he climbed out of bed. “You want some?”
“No?” Steve never said no to coffee, he would drink it all day long.
“No, it upsets my stomach too much.”
“Oh,” Sammie nodded. “Well, I’ll skip it this morning too.”
Steve shook his head. “You don’t have to do that. Go fix yourself some coffee, really. I’m going to go take a shower anyway.” ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
After individual showers and a shared breakfast, which ended up being dry toast, much to Sammie’s dismay, Steve spent the rest of the morning telling Sammie his saga of doctors and tests.
“I started with Dr. Wallace, my regular physician. He ran a few tests and then sent me off to an internist, Dr. Schulte. He thought it was an ulcer or something. They did an upper GI. That was fun. Nothing showed there so I ended up back with Dr. Wallace. Next he sent me to a gastroenterologist, Dr. Johnson.”
“A gastroenterologist. I had never heard of one either. Anyway, he couldn’t find anything either, so from there they sent me to Dr. Ross. He’s an oncologist, and he’s the one that did the ultrasound and found the tumor.”
“And he thinks it’s cancer?”
“Yeah, he said I have a tumor on my pancreas. Thursday they will do an ERCP to know for sure if it is cancerous or benign.”
“What’s an ER…?”
“ERCP. Don’t ask me what it stands for, but they’ll put a tube down my throat and inject a dye into my stomach and intestines. Then they will x-ray me and also they will put a needle into the tube to get some of the cells from my pancreas, and somehow from all that they will be able to tell if I have cancer.”
Sammie frowned. “Steve, why didn’t you tell me about all this before now?”
“Why, so you’d take me back out of pity?”
“No, Steve, because I care about you, and you should have told me. Will you have to stay in the hospital?”
“For the ERCP? No, it’s done as an outpatient, but I’ll be there all day. I’m to be at the hospital that morning at six. The procedure is scheduled for nine and they said that after they’re done, they’ll keep me a few hours, so I shouldn’t expect to leave until late afternoon.”
“I’ll be there with you.”
“Sammie, are you sure? I can’t ask you to do that. I wasn’t even going to tell you about it; no one knows. I’m okay going by myself. I really am.”
“And why not? For God’s sake, you want to get back together but I can’t be at the hospital with you?”
“I didn’t know I had cancer when I was trying to woo you back. I just thought it was some stomach problems. I can’t ask you to sign up for this.”
“Of course you can, Steve, I can’t walk away. You need me now and you know it as well as I do or you wouldn’t have said anything now, right? I want to be there with you on Thursday. Case closed.”
“Thanks, Sammie. That means a lot to me.”
At that moment Sammie’s cell phone, sitting on the coffee table began to ring. He looked at the display and mumbled, “Oh shit.”
“Lisa, I’m so sorry. I’m on my way. I’ll be there in ten minutes.” Sammie jumped up and grabbed his shoes.
“Steve, I forgot I have a lunch date with Lisa. I’ll be back. Just stay here, okay?”
“You want me to stay here?”
“So have you talked to Tyler?” Lisa asked as they say down in a booth at her favorite diner.
“Um, no.” Sammie avoided looking her in the eyes.
“Um, Lisa, what I said yesterday? You need to forget I said it.”
Sammie sat the menu down. “Steve is sick.”
“Sick? Oh no. Sammie, what is it?”
“I guess we won’t know for sure until Thursday, but they think it’s cancer.”
“Oh dear. Cancer where?”
“Isn’t that what Michael Landon had?”
“Yeah, I don’t think it has a very good survival rate.”
“Shit, Sammie, what are you planning to do?”
“I don’t know yet, but I have to be there for him. I’m all he has.”
“What about his family?”
Sammie shook his head. “He hasn’t talked to any of them since he came out years ago.”
“Sammie, you can’t take him back out of obligation.”
“I have to, Lisa. I have to be there for him.”
“What about Tyler?” Lisa asked.
“There’s nothing I can do. I’ll still be Tyler’s friend if he wants, but I have be there for Steve.”
“Sammie, are you sure?”
“Yes, I am. He would do the same for me. He’s sick, Lisa, I can’t walk away. I can’t” ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
“Hey, I’m back,” Sammie said when walked back into the apartment. “Steve?”
“Hmm?” Steve answered, wiping his eyes and sitting up from where he had dosed off on the sofa.
“Oh, did I wake you? I’m sorry.”
“S’all right, I must have fallen asleep.”
“You look tired, why don’t you go lay down?” Sammie asked.
“I should probably go home.”
“Steve, I was thinking. Why don’t you stay here? At least until after Thursday, when we know something.”
“I don’t know, Sammie.”
Steve sighed, “It’s just, I guess I feel I’m imposing.”
“Hello? Steve. It’s me here. Come on, we’ve already seen each other at our worst. I’m your friend, remember?”
“But just for a few days” Steve said.
“Until we know what we’re dealing with.”
“Steve, I said that I plan to be there for you.”
“Yes, I’m sure. I want you to stay here. I figure you don’t need to be alone, and I’ll just worry about you, so...”
“That would be nice, Sammie. Thanks.” ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
Wednesday morning Sammie got out of bed when the alarm went off, leaving Steve sleeping soundly. This time tomorrow they would be at the hospital. Today, he had to face Tyler. He would have to tell him the truth, that Steve was sick and moving back in. He would wait until they got the diagnosis, but if Steve had cancer, then Sammie would ask him to move back home. He just didn’t see any other way.
“Welcome back, Mary. How was the vacation?” Jarred asked as Sammie walked in.
“Um, good. The vacation was good. ‘Shit hit the fan once I got home.” Sammie settled into his cubicle.
“What happened when you got home?” Tyler asked.
“Steve has cancer, or at least that’s what the doctors think. We’ll know for sure tomorrow after he has a biopsy.”
“Shit, Sammie,” Matt said. “I thought you two had split.”
“We have, but we’re friends. I mean I still care about him and all. We even still hold each other’s power of attorney.”
“Man, that sucks, Sammie.” Jarred said. “So what are the doctors saying?”
Sammie shook his head. “Nothing much yet. Maybe we’ll know more tomorrow. I guess I better go talk to Tom, see about taking tomorrow off.” ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
Sammie intended to work through his lunch break. He found he didn’t have much of an appetite and he definitely had plenty of work to get caught up on.
“You should take a break, get some air, even if food doesn’t sound good.” Sammie looked up to see Tyler standing at the opening to his cubicle. “Come on, take a walk with me.”
Sammie nodded and followed Tyler out. “Tyler,” Sammie started.
“Hey, it’s okay. You don’t have to explain.”
“This isn’t how I wanted things to work out.”
“Of course it isn’t. But things seldom work out the way we plan.”
“I have to be there for Steve right now. I want you to understand; he needs me, I can’t turn him away. I hope we can still be friends.”
Tyler smiled. “Of course.” A comfortable silence fell between them.
“Where is his cancer?”
“No. I’m it. I’m his only family, me, Joel, Troy, Lisa and Terri. That’s it.”
“What hospital is he going to?”
Tyler nodded “Let me know if there is anything I can do.”
“I mean it, as your friend I want to help. If it won’t upset Steve, that is.”
Sammie nodded. “Thanks.” ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
Thursday morning the alarm went off at four-thirty. They had to be at the hospital by six. Both men got out of bed and got ready to go with a minimum of conversation. Steve had been directed not to eat, and the thought of food was less than appealing to Sammie.
The night before had been quiet with Steve turning in early while Sammie paced the floor most the night.
They arrived at the hospital and Sammie sat with Steve as he filled out all the paper work. “You brought your papers?” Steve asked referring to his power of attorney.
“Yeah, right here.”
“Okay, good. Just make sure you have them with you in case.”
“Everything will be okay, Steve,” Sammie tried to reassure him
A nurse opened a door off of the waiting area. “Mr. Moore”
She led them back to a room. “Mr. Moore, we need you to change into this,” she handed Steve a flimsy hospital gown. “You’re a relative?” she asked Sammie.
“He’s my partner,” Steve answered.
“Okay, then he can stay,” she nodded. “Here is a bag to put your personal belongings in. I’ll be back in a little bit to check on you.” She left the room, pulling the door closed behind her.
“Shit, Sammie. This is for real.” Steve began taking his shirt and pants off.
“Here, let me help you with the gown.”
“Yeah, it’s quite sexy on me don’t you think?”
“Soon, they’ll be all the latest rage.”
“I’m scared, Sammie.”
“I know. I’ll be here.”
“Sammie, what I said, about being my partner. I didn’t mean… I was only saying that for them… I mean, I know we’re not…”
“Steve, it’s okay. I understand.”
“Knock, knock,” another nurse called as she pushed open the door. “I just need to get some blood.”
Steve crawled into the bed and Sammie took a seat in the chair as the nurse pushed in a cart with all sorts of tubes and vials. “Stick out your arm, sweetie,” she said.
For the next couple of hours it was a cavalcade of stars, or rather various nurses and lab techs in to hook up an IV, take more blood or vitals, or something equally as fun. Finally as the time to actually go in for the procedure approached, a nurse offered Steve something to calm him.
“Yes, please,” Sammie answered for him with a smile. “He’s driving me crazy.”
The nurse attached a syringe onto Steve’s IV and Sammie watched the stress drain from Steve’s face. “Feeling better?” he asked.
“Yeah. What was it you always said?”
“Building a better life through chemistry.”
“Yeah, that one.” Steve eyelids were starting to droop.
Another nurse came in. “Mr. Moore? We’re ready to take you now.”
Sammie saw a flash of panic in Steve’s eyes. “I’ll be here when they bring you back.” He patted Steve’s hand.
“You can follow us down the hall, I’ll point out the waiting room,” the nurse instructed Sammie. “We won’t be coming back to this room so you’ll want to bring all your personal belongings.”
In a matter of minutes Sammie was seated alone in a crowded waiting room. ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
“Hey, there you are.” He looked up to see Lisa.
“What are you doing here, lady?”
“Oh, I took the morning off. Thought you could use some company. I know how tedious it can be to wait for something like this.”
“Ah, thanks dear.” He smiled weakly at her and patted the set next to him. “Sit down.”
“You look tired, didn’t you get any sleep last night?”
“Not much no, I just couldn’t stop thinking about this. I mean, if it is what they think, Steve will probably die.”
“You can’t think like that, Sammie.”
“I know, I keep telling myself to wait until we know for sure, but shit, Lisa, have you seen him. He doesn’t look well, at all.”
She frowned and brushed back the hair from Sammie’s forehead. “I know, but you have to think positive.”
Sammie nodded. “You didn’t have to take off work.”
“I know, but it’s Steve, Sammie. I care about him too.”
He felt his voice hitch, “Oh God, Lisa, he’s always been there for me. I can’t imagine losing him.”
She took him into her arms, “Shhh, Sammie, I told you not to think like that. You’re not going to lose him.” She patted him on the back. “Here, sit back. I’ll go get you some coffee.”
Sammie sat back in his chair, wiping his eyes. “No, just sit here with me. I’ll quit queening out.”
“How long has he been in there?” she asked
“I don’t know, a half hour maybe?”
“How long did they think it would take?”
“A couple of hours. The doctor will come talk to me after the surgery and then they will come get me when he comes out of recovery.”
An easy silence fell between them, the kind that only close friends share. Lisa flipped through a magazine while Sammie dosed in his chair.
It was almost noon when a doctor walked into the waiting area. “Mr. Moore’s family?”
“Sammie,” Lisa whispered, nudging him with her elbow, waking him from his light slumber.
“Oh, yes, um, that’s us.” Sammie rose to his feet and shook the doctor’s hand. “How is he?”
“He’s fine, he came through the procedure just fine. He’ll be in recovery for about an hour, the nurse will come get you when they take him to his room.”
“What about the tumor?”
“We won’t know anything until the results come back.”
“When will that be?”
“Later this afternoon, you’ll know something before you take him home.”
Sammie nodded. “Thank you Doctor.” They shook hands again.
Sammie and Lisa sat back down. “Um, Sammie?”
“You need to get to work, don’t you?”
“Yeah, but are you going to be okay?”
“Yes, I’ll be fine.”
“Will you call me later and let me know that you’re home and how everything went?” Her meaning was a little too obvious but he let it go.
“Of course I will. Lisa, thanks for coming today.”
She stood and leaned down kissing him on top of his head. “No thanks are necessary.” ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
Sammie closed his eyes and tried to shut out the world again.
“Tyler. What are you doing here?”
Tyler shrugged, “I thought I’d check on you. How’s Steve?” He sat down in the chair Lisa had occupied.
“He’s out of surgery, in recovery.”
“Do they know anything yet?”
“No, not until the test results come back later this afternoon.”
“I brought you some lunch.” Tyler held up a paper bag. “It’s your favorite from that deli next to work.”
“Oh, Tyler, thanks, but I don’t have much of an appetite right now.”
“Have you eaten anything today?”
“No,” Sammie admitted.
“Well, humor me and take a bite or two. Please?”
He smiled; Tyler really was trying. “Okay, when you ask me like that, how can I say no?” He took the bag and pulled out the sandwich, unwrapping it and taking a bite. “It’s a long way out here. Did you take the bus?”
“No, Jarred loaned me his car.”
“Yeah, he and Matt are worried about you too.”
“It’s not me they should be worried over,” Sammie whispered.
Tyler nodded looking down. “Sammie, I meant what I said. If there’s anything I can do. I mean, if he’s sick, you are going to need all the support. Shit, this isn’t coming out like I meant…”
“Tyler.” Sammie reached out and placed his hand over Tyler’s. “I understand, and that means a lot to me.”
Tyler looked up at him as Sammie tried to hold the tears back.
“Can I call you later? To see how things are?”
“Yes, I’d like that.” Sammie noticed Tyler look at his watch. “You better get going, you don’t want to be late back from lunch.”
“Um, yeah. I’ll call you then, okay?”
Sammie nodded, the voice inside his head screaming to tell Tyler the truth. To tell Tyler that he and Steve were not back together, that even through Steve was staying with him, they hadn’t had sex since that first night. To tell Tyler that he had planned on telling Steve it was over, until this time bomb was dropped in his lap. But in the end he kept his mouth shut. Telling Tyler these facts would serve no purpose. The choice had been made for him. Steve needed him and he had to be there for Steve. Even if they weren’t getting back together Sammie knew he couldn’t try to start a relationship with Tyler right now. It would take all his energy to get Steve through this.
“Okay, talk to you later then.” Sammie said as Tyler turned to leave.
“Moore family,” an orderly shouted as he pushed a gurney with Steve on it down the hall by the waiting room.
“That’s me,” Sammie said as he gathered his stuff up and began following them. ëëëëëëëëëëëëë
“Wait out here while we get him settled,” the orderly instructed Sammie as they wheeled Steve into a room.
“Okay,” Sammie said stopping short as everyone else in the little entourage went through the door, the last closing it behind her.
A few minutes later it opened back up. “Okay, you can come in now,” a nurse said as she exited, followed by the orderlies.
Sammie peeked into the room. Steve was lying in the bed, his eyes closed. “Is he awake?” Sammie asked the nurse by his bed as she hooked up monitors for his vitals.
“Yeah, he’s awake, just still a little groggy from the anesthesia.”
“Sammie?” Steve croaked. “My throat hurts.”
“Here, you can give him some ice chips,” the nurse said, pushing over the tray with a pitcher of ice water on it.
Sammie gave Steve some ice, then watched as his eyes drifted closed again. He pulled up a chair and sat down.
“Frog?” Steve’s eyes fluttered open again.
“I’m right here Steve.”
“What did they find out?”
“We won’t know for a few hours yet. The results aren’t back yet.”
Steve dosed off and on for the next couple of hours, finally he became awake enough to ask for something to eat. A nurse brought him in some toast and jello.
“Food hasn’t been my friend lately,” Steve said as he nibbled on the toast.
“Mr. Moore?” the doctor stuck his head in the door.
“Dr. Ross,” Steve said. “Call me Steve, please. This is my, um, partner, Sammie.”
Sammie rose and extended his hand. “Yes, we met earlier.”
Dr. Ross shook Sammie’s hand. He turned to Steve, “We have your test results. I’m sorry I don’t have better news. The tumor is cancerous.”
Steve closed his eyes and swallowed. Then opening his eyes, “So, where do we go from here?”
“We schedule some more tests to see what stage the cancer is in,” Dr. Ross answered.
“Stage?” Sammie asked.
“The stage of the cancer will determine the prognoses and treatment. There are three factors in staging, location and size, evidence of metastases in lymph nodes close to the cancer, and evidence of distant metastases.”
“When will we do these tests?” Steve asked.
“I’ll have the nurse schedule them for you as soon as we can get you in. She’ll let you know when you’ll need to be back here.”
“Dr. Ross, what are my chances?”
“It’s too soon to tell… until I have more information.”
“I’d like you to remain here for a couple more hours before I sign your release papers. We’ll get the follow up tests have been scheduled before you go home. I’d like to see you take it easy for the next twenty-four hours.” He shook both men’s hands and left the room.
“Fuck,” Steve said.
“Yeah,” Sammie agreed.
© Melina Catts 2005