“Those brownies won’t help if you don’t eat one, sweetie,” said the nurse when she saw the zip-close bag beside the armchair I slumped in while she changed my bed.
The bleeding mouth sores that erupted during my first weeks in the cancer center were healing, but eating would have still been painful even if I wasn’t nauseous and everything didn’t taste like cardboard or latex. Brownies were the last thing I wanted.
She tucked in fresh sheets, then turned and draped a blanket over my aching bony frame, as I shivered in the new gown she’d rolled me into after cleaning off my vomit. My I.V. beeped, signaling an occluded tube.
“We won’t confiscate them,” she said of the brownies as she fixed the drip. “I never said this, but there’s nothing we can legally give you that will help as much with the nausea and the loss of appetite.”
My brain was foggy from pain, depression and the lingering effects of oxycodone. The last was what they gave me at mealtime to help me force down the protein shake ordered by the nutritionist alarmed by my increasingly cadaverous physique. The oxycodone was necessary because, despite my mostly-healed sores, the grains of nutritional powder in the shake still hurt no matter how well it was blended. Did she expect me to be able to eat a dry day-old brownie? It wasn’t until she continued on her rounds that I realized she’d assumed the brownies contained pot.
They didn’t. I was given the brownies the day before, while I was pushing my I.V. pole down the hall in the slow shamble that was my mandated daily exercise. An older and even frailer patient had peered from his room, then