Thomas pursued a miracle for his son. (Editor's Pick Spiritual NL 071013)
|The crowd buzzed with the usual chatter. People milled around the rows of chairs assembled like a miniature army facing the stage. An occasional rattle and scooting of chairs mixed with the slight echoes of the gym filled the air. Thomas dodged the small groups clogging the midway aisle and sauntered to the stage steps. He ascended, settled in behind the podium, and placed his notes under the microphone. He tapped the mic a few times, and the speakers reverberated each one.
Many glanced toward the stage and shuffled into the rows of chairs. The clamor of people sitting down added to the chaos. After a minute, the crowd settled with people finishing conversations on cell phones, opening up laptops, and scribbling notes.
“Good evening,” Thomas’s voice boomed over the loudspeaker. Feedback caused the crowd to groan in discomfort. The sound technician adjusted the audio level and gave him a thumbs up.
“Welcome. I’m not… uh… much of a speaker. I was asked by Dr. Benjamin to come up here and give a little background on the drug BC81189. I know many of you think of it as a miracle drug. I do too. But, I must say, not exactly in the same way that you probably do.” Thomas paused. He seemed to absorb the eerie hush that had fallen over the assemblage.
“The day was July 10, 1969. A wonderful event happened and that was the birth of my only son, Bobby. But something was obviously wrong after having him home for a few months. He had…” Thomas stopped and tears welled in his eyes. He slid his hand inside his suit coat and retrieved a tissue. He blew his nose and stashed the tissue inside the podium. “He had,” Thomas continued, “after several tests and x-rays what proved to be a brain tumor. The effects of which caused great pressure on his left temporal and occipital lobes.” Thomas flipped over a page on his notes and cleared his throat.
The air became heavier as the people sat mesmerized. They hung on each heart-felt word. A slight smell of cigarette smoke and light perfume drifted among them. Thomas scanned the audience and focused on a young woman whose eyes caught his attention. He guessed her age at 25. She held a notebook on her lap and her slender hands poised above the keyboard.
“I’m not a particularly bright man. So, don’t be impressed that I know these terms. I know them because year after year I heard Bobby’s doctors say them. I studied them. I wanted to understand what these meant and how they affected my son.
After a while, I did get to know them. The erratic behavior, the slurred and incomprehensible speech, mixed with the tantrums of frustration. My wife, God rest her soul, dealt with all of this daily. I guess I don’t blame her then for taking her own life three days after my son turned twelve. She was spent. The pressures of having a child like that just became too much. I’ve long since forgiven her. Even though that event was one of the lowest of my life and changed my life irreversibly, it only redoubled my efforts to find the cure. She would have wanted it that way.
In a strange way, her death would mean a rebirth of sorts for me. I began attending church and began leaning on the ladies there. They were, forgive any pun, God sent. They took me and my son – when he could attend – under their wing and comforted me. I even met my eventual second wife, Barbara who is in attendance today.” Thomas extended his arm and a fifty-something lady in the front row waved her hand in recognition.
Barbara stepped forward and cared for my son like her own. She bore a second child, my daughter, Karen, and instilled in me a courage to keep pursuing the one cure that eluded us. I talked to doctor after doctor, pharmaceutical company after pharmaceutical company. We tried new drugs, experimental drugs, and even two surgeries. One of those nearly killed Bobby, but nothing worked. Year after year I held out hope. I stayed at the hospital many nights, sleeping in chairs and cots. Waiting for improvement that never came.
Some of the drugs helped. They kept Bobby alive for another year, but the cancer was unrelenting. It grew so slowly. The pressure was alleviated, but never subsided. My boy still had tantrums, still slurred his speech, and communicated only at the most basic of levels. I never heard…” Thomas halted and reviewed the crowd. His eyes became sad and brooding. “I never heard my son say ‘I love you’. I never heard him say ‘Dad, come play some baseball’. The only hugs I received…” Tears streamed down Thomas’s cheeks and they tapped on the papers in front of him. He repeated, “… the only hugs I received were when I hugged him while he slept.”
Thomas’s wife raised her hands to her face, then covered her mouth as she sucked in a few breaths. Several ladies cried near her. They placed comforting hands on her shoulder. Person after person restrained their emotions by blinking and looking away from the stage. Thomas turned another page.
“For all intents, my son was uncontrollable. Some even said crazy. At long last, I was at the end of my rope. I could finally see that there was no hope for my son. I, Bobby's father, was about to give up.
I guess it was twenty five years ago that I sat in church and heard the most memorable sermon. Mark chapter 9 about a man who begs Jesus to heal his son who foamed at the mouth and fell to the ground uncontrollably. While I believe the child probably had some form of epilepsy, and Jesus as he often did, healed the boy the sermon was not about either of them. Rather it was on the father. The father approached the disciples earlier and the disciples failed to heal his son. Instead of giving up, the father kept trying. You see that father too, probably had never heard ‘I love you’ from his son either. Even though he brought his son to people who healed many, they still failed. So, I decided I had not brought my son to the right healer.
I searched pharmaceutical companies and found an obscure reference to Dr. Benjamin and after contacting him and discussing my son, he was sure that my son would benefit. I mortgaged our house and contributed all I had to his research. BC81189 was the result. He has often stated that without that final push of financial help, that the drug may not ever have been produced. The company was that close to scratching the project.
“Thank you so much!” a woman stood and shouted about halfway back the assembly. A mix of nodding heads and “yes’s” followed.
“Thank you,” Thomas replied, “I appreciate that.”
“In August, the drug was administered to Bobby. The trials were the most promising for an experimental drug for cancer in a generation. The drug would only be approved though this past month.” A polite round of clapping interrupted amid the emotional swell.
“The results, as you all may be aware and some have experienced yourselves were remarkable. The tumor, as large as it had ever been, began shrinking – significantly. Within three days, the tumor shrank 15%. After a week, it was down 25%. The doctors and I were stunned. Then on a Friday, I walked into my son’s room and he smiled at me. He smiled at me for the first time. He knew who I was. ‘Hi, Dad, he said.’ From that moment we talked for five straight hours. He hugged me. He remembered things I never realized he even knew. I couldn’t believe it. It was a miracle. I risked everything. Pursued every avenue. Like a burst of rain that fell after a long drought I was released from my torment. My son had been healed. He had a life, a future. Then the last words my son ever said, ‘I love you, Dad. Thanks for everything.’”
A hush swept over the crowd. The eerie silence from earlier returned.
“My son’s eyes rolled back in his head, and I immediately got the doctor. They injected him with blood agents and tried to revive him. But the tumor had damaged one of the walls inside the brain, and he had an aneurysm. My son died after having only five hours of sanity.” The young lady in the front row held her hand over her heart.
“I bought five hours. A miracle. I wouldn’t have done it any differently. After my son’s death, I redoubled my efforts. My son’s results were not typical. Most did not have such shrinkage of their tumors, but some did. I spent the next few years lobbying the FDA, and working with Dr. Benjamin in perfecting the dosage and delivery methods. While I’ve never been formally trained, Dr. Benjamin confided that without me and my efforts BC81189 would never have been approved.
I have read multiple letters now of miracles. Every time, I am reminded of my five hours with Bobby. I did it for all of us, and I will continue to strive for promising drugs in the future. I appreciate your attention and for coming. Thank you for listening.”
Thomas collected his damp notes and placed them back in his suit coat. The audience at first stayed silent, then like a wave, a round of thunderous applause and people standing and cheering crept across the gymnasium. Thomas nodded and smiled.
The young lady, along with many, shook Thomas’s hand as he sifted through the human throng.
“I’m Maggie and I have to thank you,” the young lady said as she shook Thomas’s hand.
“You are welcome,” Thomas said.
“You gave an excellent speech. Especially given such a short time after your son’s death.”
“Yes.” Thomas nodded, smiled, and kept walking.
Barbara came up behind Maggie and touched her on the sleeve.
“Oh, hello. Your husband is truly a remarkable man.”
“I just wanted to clarify something.”
“Thomas would never correct someone but, Bobby died twenty one years ago. You see, the drug is named after him, Bobby Cassidy. He died August 11, 1989. BC81189. I just wanted you to know.”
Barbara smiled sweetly, turned, and placed her arm in Thomas’s and strode out of sight.
Limited to 2000 words for a Newspaper Contest
Featured in the Spiritual NL 07/10/2013