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The Fault in Our Shooting Stars

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If there’s one thing worse than being that kid with cancer, it’s being the kid that everyone knows has cancer.


I mean it’s kind of hard to hide when you’re at school. Popping a dozen pills a day doesn’t go unnoticed, and the other kids sort of form a giant circle around you – a five-foot radius because if they get to close they might fucking catch it. It doesn’t really help the fact that I got that before the cancer because I’m a ginger, and everyone knows that you can catch the ginger if you get to close to it.


So now I’m that ginger kid with cancer and home-schooling is where it’s at.


Sure you get all the cancer perks, free shit, priority entry to movies and theme parks and hell, sometimes even celebrities come down to the fucking South Side to visit you, but the perks don’t really outweigh the rest of it.


So here it is: Ian’s Big Fat Cancer Story.

I was diagnosed when I was twelve, Leukaemia. That’s a pretty common one for a kid my age. Only thing was, being on the South Side we had no idea how we were going to afford treatment. I mean, obviously we figured something out, I’m still here. Basically I just got too weak to play baseball, I passed out on the field twice and then Fiona took me to the clinic to check me out.


She wasn’t even an adult yet, seventeen and a baby on her hip – not hers, my mom had just bailed out on us for the fiftieth fucking time – taking her twelve year old brother to the doctors because our dad was too wasted to do it.


Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.


5-year survival rate is good, not bad anyway. I was slightly older than most of the kids who had this kind of cancer, but that didn't mean crap. It was cancer, I have fucking cancer.


I needed a whole bunch of crap done, I was in hospital a lot and a lot of the time I was alone. Fiona couldn’t be with me all the time, she had a home to look after. My other siblings were too young to be hanging around a hospital all day. Lip came to see me the most, he was thirteen when they first started my treatments.


Anyway, it spread to my lungs. I had a rough couple of months where they didn't think I would make it. I remember Fiona just sitting by my hospital bed and resting her head on my arm, crying and pleading with me to get better and that she would do better for everyone. I started wishing that I didn't have cancer not because I wanted to be better, but so she wouldn’t feel like she had failed us.


So there was a while there where no one thought I would pull through, I even asked if I could write down my last words. I was thirteen at that point and you have no idea how fast time can skim by when you’re sick. I think I made it through nearly two months not knowing that it had been more than a week. But I pulled through.


Sure, then I became that previously ginger, currently bald, oxygenated cancer kid, but I never liked any of the other kids in school anyway. So now some money-throwing foundation funds my education at home by sending a tutor in a couple times a week. I’m not complaining, hell, without that fucking foundation I would cease to exist, except in the memories of my family.


Yeah, sixteen and currently living with cancer is my gig, and I’m rocking it.


I’ll be seventeen in a few weeks, coming up on five years since diagnosis. The whole prognosis still isn’t good, but for now I’m holding steady.


Oh, and I might have forgotten to mention that on my last visit to the doctor I was diagnosed with Bipolar. Apparently constant sleeping and a crushing pain that refuses to lift from your chest is not a side effect of cancer or dying, but a side effect of my already tainted genetics.


Lip tells me I should start buying lottery tickets.


In some sick kind of way, I find that idea pretty amusing.


So the Bipolar was the last straw in this hay bale hell bent on bringing me down. Fiona tells me that I need to start dealing with all my shit with other people, not just our shit-show of a family.


She’s tracked down this sad little cancer support group for teenagers at one of the churches in our neighbourhood. When she told me about it I pulled a face. ‘You’re going,’ she had said.


No options about it, and she was going to take me there and watch me go in and wait outside to make sure I didn’t try to escape.


“My land speed record is equal to about that of a fucking two-legged cat Fiona, and I’m not so great for distance either,” I said as we sat in the car outside the place on the day of the first meeting.


She chuckled a little, “Ian, just do it. The doctors say it’ll be good to interact with other kids in your situation. Hell, you might even make a friend.”


“Well, at least they won't be afraid to catch cancer, even the ones who have it in their brains will be smarter than the idiots at that bullshit public school,” I said with a sigh.


“Would you just do this, please? Give me some kind of reason to believe you’re okay,” she sighed.


Fuck, how was I going to argue with that?


“Don’t expect me to come back singing fucking bible songs,” I said, opening the door and taking out my oxygen tank.


“Oh believe me, if you do, I’m locking the doors. Cancer or no cancer,” she grinned and pulled me in for a kiss, knocking the tube off my ear and then readjusting it as she pulled away. “Just, play nice.”


“Don’t I always?” I grinned.


It’s basically what you would expect it to be, cancer kids support group. A bunch of really unhealthy looking teenagers sitting in a circle while some survivor tells us their story and encourages us to do the same.


Same old, same old really. Leukaemia, tumours, mets in their livers, bones and brains. One kid even had a glass eye. If anything, the whole experience only made mine even worse, but Fiona seemed to think it was doing me good so I kept it up.


The cast rotated every week. Sure there were regulars, but then there were those who went from regulars to regular no-shows and every week Patrick, the brave survivor he was, would read us another name or two. They were the ones who weren’t coming back.


On about my eighth session I was sitting in the foyer with a book in my hand just waiting until the last minute to go in so that I could avoid talking to Patrick alone. I heard someone let out a loud swear from the door and looked up because that didn't happen often.


“Jesus fucking Christ! Would you just get your cancer-warped ass in here?!” her voice sounded angry and I hid half my face behind my book as I watched her walk in and fold her arms tightly over her chest.


“You know we’re in a fucking church right?” said a male voice, still obstructed by the wall.


“Shut up asshole, we’re going to be late,” she said, walking in without him and as I watched her go the guy she was talking to – yelling at – came into view.


He shook his head with an angry look on his face. “One of these fucking days…” he grumbled.


He seemed kind of short from where I stood, but definitely older than me, or at least the same age. His hair was jet black and his eyebrows were just the same, the defining feature of his face. At least they were from what I could see.


He had a pretty strong build for someone in a cancer support group. He was probably going to be the healthiest one here. He certainly looked it. He was very attractive, and not in an obvious kind of way. I mean, not everyone would see him on the street and just turn to look at him because of his radiant sexuality, but something about him just appealed to me.


He just looked so… something, I don’t know what. But I kind of want to find out.


He looked around a little and caught me staring. He leered at me, his eyebrows shooting up and his head tilting to the side as if to say ‘the fuck are you looking at’. I broke my gaze quickly and hid behind my book again.


You were not just staring at him. Rephrase that, he did not just catch you staring at him. Jesus fucking Christ Ian.


I heard him scoff to himself and then the scuffling of his feet, and when I looked up he was gone. It was almost time for the stupid session anyway so I got up and shoved my book in my bag.


As I wheeled my oxygen tank towards the main hall I made a mental note to sit anywhere but next to – damn, I didn't even catch his fucking name.