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Disclaimer is that I don't own them. . . .copyrighted Dec. 24, 2000

Burning Brightly
by Trish

The doctor looked at Starr with penetrating brown eyes grave with concern before he spoke. "The preliminary tests are back, Starr." The look on his face told her that the news was not good, that he was deadly serious. Starr stared at the familiar face of Dr. Thomas with disbelief, her hand clutching that of her aunt's.

"We thought it was just the flu," her aunt whispered.

"I'm sorry, there's not doubt about it, the tests point to cancer, specifically acute lymphocytic leukemia. It's the most common form among children. A bone marrow aspiration will confirm the preliminary diagnosis," his voice full of concern.

"You are going to be my doctor, aren't you?" Starr asked, her voice trembling. Don't cry! she plead with herself. Don't be a baby!

Dr. Jarod Thomas reached forward and took her free hand in his, looking deep into her blue eyes," Of course I will. That's why your family doctor recommended that you come here to Children's. We're specialists. . .doctors who only treat kids with cancer. . . hopefully we'll be able to help you fight this disease." He paused, sensing her distress.

Starr looked down self-consciously at her legs. The huge, angry-looking bruises glared back at her. They had been a road sign that lead her to Dr. Thomas, a road sign that said cancer. She had thought they were from cheerleading practice.

"So how long do I need to stay in the hospital?" Starr asked.

"You'll stay until we find a medication program that sends you into remission," Jarod said.


"Making the symptoms disappear and stopping the cancer from spreading."

"When do we start?" she asked.

"Today, if that's alright, with you and your aunt." Starr's knuckles were white from holding her aunt's hand so tightly." You'll need to go and pack, then I'll see you later, today."


Her aunt, Belle, paced around the floor of Starr's blue and white bedroom, Starr watched her. She sat on her bed, her arms clutching her knees to her chest. A soft breeze ruffled the curtains back and the sun streamed in the window. A menagerie of stars sat in a glass curio cabinet. There were little porcelain stars, all different shaped stars, and a very special one- a star nightlight. Her parents had bought that for her, just before they were killed. The last time she counted there were over a hundred different stars.

"Aunt Belle, tell people who come to see me, no stars, please. They're
"Oh, honey. I wish it was me instead. Like you haven't had enough happening in your life this past year." She put her arms around her. Starr shrugged, shaking her aunt's arm off.

"Well, it's not," she said irritably.

"You're at the best hospital, with the best doctors."

"What can they do? Can they make it go away? Will they make me well again? I want my mom and dad."

Starr looked at her aunt, she didn't answer her. Her face looked so grim. Starr realized that she wasn't being fair. "Sorry," she mumbled meekly.

Starr surveyed the room at the hospital with fear and wonder. It was a cheerful yellow room with a window. It scared her though. The nurse that help her settle in, chatted as she scurried around the room.

"Dr. Thomas will be in soon to talk to you and explain the treatment somemore. If you need anything let me know," she smiled at her. Starr responded with a smile. Dr. Thomas entered the room, and waited as she and her aunt were settled in chairs.

"I won't lie, Starr. If you have a question, I'll give you an honest answer. Okay?"

Starr nodded. "Good, the first thing that we are going to give you are some very strong drugs to kill the abnormal blood cells."

"If they don't kill them," she asked.

"We try to slow their growth then," he smiled." In fifty to ninety percent of most cases remission is acheived, Starr. Then you can go home and have a normal life."

Home, Starr thought. The idea of going home brought tears to her eyes, ever since her parents death, home no longer existed.

Jarod sat down on the bed and put his arm around her small frame. "It's all right to cry, you know."

Starr blinked very hard and angrily forced down the rising lump in her throat. " I'm not going to cry!" she told him through gritted teeth. "It won't help. It won't change a thing!"

"No, but hopefully the treatment will," Jarod said," that's why you're here. To beat this. It's not going to be easy. The drugs will make you sick. You could lose your hair. I or one of the staff will poke and stick you. If you get mad or sad that's all right too, believe me, we understand, but in the end, you'll go into remission, and survive. His eyes looked determined and Starr realized something as she looked into them.

Dr. Jarod hated leukemia. Like a person hates evil, he hated the disease. It comforted her to know that he was on her side. He was going to help her fight this horrible war that was going on within her body.


Waves of nausea washed over Starr in the bright warm light of the new morning. She struggled to sit up, unable to think about anything but the queasiness in her stomach. Dr. Jarod had been right. The medicine was making her sick. And there was still medication to take.

"Hi!" the voice from the doorway called, that Starr momentarily forgot her discomfort. She turned and found a cute blonde-haired girl standing there," It'll pass, it did for me. Dr. Jarod says to think of something pleasant. I'm Briar."

"Starr, " she mumbled as the nurse brought in the breakfast tray, a look of disgust crossing her face.

"You got to eat, or it's IV time," Briar said, as she entered the room.

"I know," she sat up a little straighter, swallowing the bitter taste in her mouth.

Later that afternoon, Dr. Jarod introduced the two girls to Dr. McCormick, a psychotherapist. She was helping the girls deal with the cancer. It was through her sessions with Dr. McCormick that Starr realized that her state of mind was just as important. In fact, it was Dr. Jarod who helped her decide what to envision during therapy to slay the cancerous cells, he would hum or sing, some of "When You Wish Upon a Star," so Starr started to picture the stars shining brightly and zapping the cancer cells with their brightness. The technique was most helpful when the chemotherapy made her very sick.

One night, the other kids gathered in the activity room and had a popcorn party that had gotten a bit out of hand. She remembered it not only because it was fun but that was the night that a long clump of her beautiful auburn hair fell out in her hand. One of the nurses had a friend come and fix the problem by cutting Starr's hair into a short bob at least for the time being.

The chemotherapy continued to take its toll on Starr. In six weeks she'd lost fifteen pounds. Her clothes hung limply on her five-foot six inch frame. Her bones and joints ached. Dr. Jarod recommanded a thick lambskin pad under her so that she didn't bruise while sleeping. A fine rash covered her arms and legs, a reaction to the combination of drugs. Her blood vessels erupted, causing deep purple bruises to appear like splotches on her body. Her skin took on a blackish cast as the drugs affected the pigmentation. Scabs formed on her lips, and she could no longer bear to look at her own reflection in the mirror.

"It isn't me," she lamented one day to Dr. Jarod.

"I know, but once you go into remission, you'll be your pretty self again. I promise."

Remission. To Starr, the word sounded like an unobtainable goal, a goal that she would never reach.

The war against Starr's cancer intensified. She took drugs by mouth and drugs by IV's. She even joked with Dr. Jarod that there were drugs in her food, when she could get it to stay down. Yet is was Briar that made the difference in her state of mind.

Without Briar, Starr was sure she'd never survive. They shared their hurts, their fears and their hopes. Within a few weeks they became the best of friends, linked by the bond of their illness and their fierce determination to beat leukemia. They days stretched into weeks.

Starr waited, accepting her therapy and taking her medications. She waited for that wonderful day when the bone marrow aspirations, the blood tests, the red count, the white count and the platelet count would all show that she was finally in remission.

The nurse interrupted her thoughts when she came in to the room to slip the end of the electronic thermometer in to her mouth.

"You have a fever."

"What's new?" Starr said weakly. The cause was the chemotherapy. The nurse's cool hands brushed Starr's brow, and her eyes looked worried and concerned. " I think this one's different. You may be coming down with an infection."

Starr's heart lurched. She knew it was dangerous to get an infection while taking chemotherapy. The drugs killed cancer cells, but they also killed and weakened normal cells.

"I'm calling Dr. Thomas."

In minutes, doctors seemed to materialize around her bed. Hands probed, voices whispered, sounds rose and receded all around her.

"Starr!" Dr. Jarod was calling her name. She struggled to speak, but no sound came out.

"Starr," his voice said from far away. "We're going to move you, Starr. We're taking you down to intensive care so that we can monitor you more closely."

There were machines and a curtain all around the bed. Someone attached little metal cups to her chest. Wires led from the cups to a machine next to her bed, a noise emanated as a thin green line journeyed across the screen.

"It's your heartbeat, Starr," Jarod explained.

The she felt something stick her in the arm and warmth spread through her.

Looking up, she saw an upside down bottle on the metal stand, filled with red liquid. Chemotherapy isn't red, she thought as a slow comfortable lethargy began to spread through her.

"You're blood count is low, Starr," Jarod said," so we're giving you some blood and antibiotics."

One day, Starr awoke, her stupor and half-consciousness gone. Everything hurt, but she was alert and aware and sore. As well as hungry. They removed a tube that had been placed in her throat during her stay in intensive care.

"Welcome back," Dr. Jarod told her. "You've been a mighty sick girl. But you're going to be fine now. We've licked the infection and you're recovering."

Her illness had set her treatment back by weeks, therefore, a new schedule of drugs for her began immediately. They were potent drugs and wonder drugs designed to stop the relentless spread of her leukemia. Her days melted into one another. They dissolved and disappeared into one continuous ebb and flow of time. Tests and more tests punctuated the hours. Drugs and more drugs splintered the day from the night. Dr. Jarod suggested that she keep herself busy as possible so she learned to knit and made a ski-cap for one of the little girls on the floor.

Then one week later, her tests came back with positive results.

"Remission," Dr. Jarod told Starr and her aunt. "I think it's safe to plan to send you home and make room for some sick kids." He smiled and her heart did a flip-flop.


That was six months ago, she still visited the hospital as an outpatient. They tested her blood and her bone marrow and evaluated her medicines and test results. Her remission was still in force. However, Dr. Jarod was no longer her doctor, he had informed her shortly after her remission that he had decided to go aboard and help children that were less fortunate. That was why she was on the oncology floor helping the children that were not in remission celebrate Christmas. Briar, Steve, Craig and a few other teens that were also in remission had joined her and were in the activity room singing carols, listening to the fears of those that had to endure the treatment needed to get well and waiting for Santa to arrive. There was a commotion out in the hallway that caused her to leave. At the desk, she saw a woman giving the nurses a rather difficult time. Approaching the desk, Starr overheard some of the conversation, but it was the picture sitting on the desk that caught her attention.

"Hey, that's Dr. Jarod," Starr said, as the woman turned to look at who had spoken.

"You know Jarod?" the woman replied.

"Sure, we all do." She pointed to the children standing in the doorway of the activity room. "He's not on staff anymore, though," Steve said," But we all keep in touch. When you fight the hardest battle of you life, you learn how important the people around you really are.""

"Keep in touch, how?"

Briar pointed to the computer that was set up in the corner of the room. "Doctor Jarod bought for us."

The sound of bells interrupted the little gathering as the younger children began to squeal and gather around the tree located in the other corner of the room. Miss Parker stepped out of the way as the man in the red suit exited the elevator, carrying a red velvet bag loaded with presents.

"Merry Christmas," he boomed," Has everyone here been good boys and girls?"Miss Parker groaned and rolled her eyes, but this was the first lead on Jarod in over six months. She wasn't about to leave without some idea as to were he could be. Maybe Santa had a present for her in that bag too. Jarod's present location. She watched as the little ones approached Santa when their name was called and opened the presents they were given, ohhing and ahhing over them.

"Starr," Santa called, and Miss Parker watched the girl that had recognized Jarod's picture walk up, a startled expression on her face. The box was small and wrapped in green foil paper.

"Come on Starr, open it," Craig said softly as he came and stood behind her. Starr slipped a finger under the flap, peeling the paper away. A small black velvet jeweler's box sat nestled in her hand. Slowly, she lifted the lid to reveal a delicate crystal star on a silver chain. Tucked in the lid was a small piece of paper, removing it, Starr opened it. It read: When you wish upon a star.

"It's from Dr. Jarod," she whispered, as she showed her friends and they in turn showed her the gift that Jarod had given them. Miss Parker was about to turn on Santa, demanding to know where Jarod was, when she found the man standing next to her, holding a gift out to her.

"He asked me to deliever it this year. Merry Christmas, Miss Parker." She stood there too stunned to move. Then she realized that the elevator door closed taking the closest thing to a lead on Jarod away.

"Are you going to open it?" Starr asked, as Miss Parker looked down at the gift in her hand. Parker nodded, slowly, finally able to comprehend the fact that he knew she would be here, that he was responsible for the lead.

"You could have told us that you were a friend of Jarod's," Steve said, as he booted up the computer," Guys, we got a video email from Dr. Jarod."

The children gathered around the computer desk as Craig opened the mail and activiated the video camera. With in minutes, Jarod's smiling face was on the screen with holiday greetings. Miss Parker stood off to the side, out of the line of the video cam, listening.

"So, guys, how's it going?" Jarod asked.

"Well, I got fitted for my new prosthesis," Craig replied," but hockey's still out of the question."

"Well maybe not for long, Craig. I've been working on it and just might have something for you."

"Are you serious? Oh man that would be so great."

"That's fantastic, Craig," the other three echoed.

" Starr, Briar, how are things with you two?" Jarod turned his attention to the girls.

"Going good, Dr. Jarod." the girls said in unison," We get to go back to school after the holidays."

"Hey, Steve, what's up with you?"

"I'm fine, no sign of the tumor in my last check-up " he said, smiling," I'm able to start swimming, again."

"Where's my little jewel?" Jarod asked, which startled Parker, somewhat.

"Jeweliet was rushed to intensive care this morning, Doc," Steve said, quietly.

"Infection?" Jarod leaned in closer to the camera, a look of concern on his face.

"Yeah, Doctor Clark's pretty worried. This is her third infection since you've left," Briar stepped behind the chair that Steve was sitting in.

"Damn," Jarod muttered," One of you make sure that Jeweliet gets her present. It's Eilonwy the unicorn." Parker's eyes fell upon the gift that was sitting by itself under the tree. The children had placed it there in somber silence when Santa had called out the name.

"You found Eilonwy for her," Starr whispered," Is nothing impossible for you Doctor Jarod? Finding four year old little girl's, their unicorns to help in the fight of their life. Where ever did you find one?"

"It wasn't easy finding a pink unicorn with a silver horn, so I had it custom-made. You make sure she sees it, right."

"We promise," the gang nodded in unison.

"Well, you all have a wonderful Christmas and I'll talk to you soon."

"Wait, Doctor Jarod, there's a friend of your's here. She's. . . ." The children turned in her direction, beckoning her to come closer.

"Why Miss Parker, not like you to stand in the shadows," he said, the trademark smirk on his features, although somewhat saddened by the previous news.

"Jarod," she looked at him.

"You haven't opened your gift, yet," he smiled," I hope you like it, because it's not returnable. Now I really have to go, guys. Later, and tell Jeweliet that I'm thinking about her." The screen darkened as the connection was broken.

"Well?" the four of them echoed.

"What?" she retorted.

"The gift, you going to open it or not?"

Miss Parker looked down at the oblong blue velvet box that she still held clutched tightly in her hands. Nodding slowly, she slid the gold bow and ribbon that encircled the box off, and let it waft effortlessly to the floor. Lifting the hinged lid up from the box, a scroll of vellum tied with a midnight blue ribbon lay nestled on white satin, greeted her eyes. Parker gingerly picked up the scroll, handing the box to Starr's waiting hands. Pulling the end of the ribbon, she unfurled the vellum. Her eyes widened and started to fill with moisture, which she blinked back, not wanting to cry in front of strangers, especially children.

"What is it?" Briar asked.

"A legal document, by the looks of it," the two boys said," Right?"

"Sort of," her reply was soft, a small smile upon her lips. Unbelievable, she thought as she read that scroll again," It's an ownership certificate."

"So, what do you own?" Chorused the children.

Walking over to the window, Parker looked up and there to the right of the moon, she found what she was looking for, Catherine and Faith, side by side, twinkling brightly in the velvety night sky.

"Magic," came the hushed reply as she closed her eyes and made a wish.


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