Cured by her brother's bone marrow, Katie forges ahead
Stacy opens a number "2" candle and Katie sticks it on the sheet cake.
"Bring Bubba!" Katie demands. Christopher, whom the family still calls by his nickname, is in the Trebing backyard, jumping on the trampoline. "Bubba!"
A streak of boy runs through the screen door. He bounds onto the same chair with Katie. Older brother Calvin hovers behind them. Christopher blows out the candle, Katie kisses Christopher on the cheek and Christopher promptly sticks his finger into the green icing and into his mouth.
It's May 5, 2007, Christopher's second birthday party. This is the shindig the Trebings couldn't have last year when Bubba turned 1, because they were just two weeks from Katie checking into Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Manhattan for her bone marrow transplant.
"I can't believe it. It goes so fast," Steve says, taking a break from grilling hamburgers and hot dogs to join dozens of family and friends in the singing. "It seems like yesterday he was born, and now he's 2. We kind of lost that first year. We couldn't have people over. This is his first birthday party."
"Bubba gets the first slice," bosses Katie. "He's the birthday boy."
Stacy hands Christopher a plate.
"Happy Birthday to you!" Katie yells.
The Trebing celebrations continue all summer.
A few days later, Katie is a guest of honor at the annual black-tie Bone Marrow Foundation fundraising dinner in Manhattan, which raises $800,000 to help families with medical costs. Cameras flash in a cacophony of light as paparazzi shoot Katie posing with the evening's co-host Meredith Vieira, the evening's entertainment Rihanna, and finally Sarah Jessica Parker.
A waitress passes by serving caviar hors d'oeuvres. "Got any chicken nuggets?" Stacy quips. At dinner, Calvin, in a tuxedo, pulls a funny shaped mushroom from his salad plate and holds it up like a smelly sock. "Ew," he says, and Steve, also in a tux, shoots him a warning look. At 10 p.m., Katie is asleep on Dad's lap.
In July, doctors take Katie off all medications. Boulad delivers the news: Katie's Diamond Blackfan anemia has been cured. Katie has her first appointment with Charles Sklar, the physician at Memorial Sloan-Kettering who monitors bone marrow transplant recipients long term and will examine Katie periodically through puberty. Katie will have an increased risk of some cancerous tumors and will need to have follow-up bloodwork done to remove previously accumlated iron from her liver.
During August, the Trebings vacation at Steve's parents' Fire Island house. All five Trebings head to the ocean, on the same stretch of sand where three years ago, Stacy told Steve that although she was pregnant with Christopher, a blood test showed her hormone levels were low and it was possible she was miscarrying.
Where he'd kissed her belly and urged Bubba to hang on.
Today, Steve swings Christopher through the waves, as Katie darts through the surf shadowed by Hobbes, the family's St. Bernard, and Calvin skimboards along the shoreline.
In early September, in what seems to Stacy like the final sign life might be normal, Katie heads back to pre-school. Katie's almost 5 now. Stacy has made a construction paper chart that hangs on the refrigerator with pictures of chores Katie has to do before she leaves -- brush her teeth, get dressed, pack her snack. Katie is up at 7 the first morning of school three weeks ago, so excited she doesn't go back to sleep even though her program doesn't start until 10:30.
"It's my special day," Katie proclaims, all ready in a brown dress with pink polka dots, a lavender heart barrette holding back her now grown-in hair. "We're going to do painting, and play with Play-Doh."
"Let's check your backpack to make sure you have everything," Stacy says.
Katie sits on the kitchen floor. She sticks her head completely inside her backpack, pulling out first her lunch box and then her school folder.
She pokes her head in again, but sees she's already taken out everything.
She looks up.
"That's the end of the story, folks," she announces.