That Dragon, Cancer
That Dragon, Cancer is a video game created by Ryan and Amy Green, Josh Larson, and a small team under the name Numinous Games. The autobiographical game is based on the Greens' experience of raising their son Joel, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer at twelve months old, and though only given a short time to live, continued to survive for four more years before eventually succumbing to the cancer in March 2014.
- Fear is cancer's preservative. Cancer's embalming oil. And you, oh Accuser, are fear's oil salesman. You're a snake. A serpent. A dragon with snuffed out coal on his breath. Molting, talons broken from the struggle to free yourself of your own skin.
- What does Joel love? "Wah-wah". In cups and bathtubs, and the warm wet tongues and the cool fur of "Dahs". And, maybe the sweet "muahs" of daily affection and... "Bye bye"s. And blown kisses. And "more". Always "more". His full list of words. So few words.
- What is pain... without a word for it? What is hope, without a word for it? Or who is God? Or what is Joy?
- Ugh, her expectation is so maddening sometimes. Do you know what she wrote on the eve of Joel's first surgery? The one back in January when we first found the tumor? "I serious feel like a kid on Christmas Eve." I'm pleading for God to spare his life, and I'm tempted to despair because self-inspection leads me to conclude I shouldn't expect much of anything. [sigh] And yet my wife is expecting a surprise party from the Lord. Replete with presents and supernatural miracles. [beat] I envy her.
- So here we are. And the air is emptier without his laugh, and yet are hearts are still full. Though, with a different drink. And this road we've been on for so long is silent. And so also the Lord. [sigh] And so we sit here in this new silence. And long for the music to start again, and for the disc to spin again, even if it goes round and round for many more years. For at least we would be moving, and Joel would be laughing, here on Earth... and not only in Heaven. But in this space, I sense His silence is only because He is drawing His breath. And now we know love and longing, empty and full, all in one moment. And I am grateful that we loved him well. And that we miss him well. And I hope that in the Lord's next breath, He will whisper His love song to you, His beloved. And that you will know Him differently, and more deeply. But now, we grieve in silence. Yet, not without His presence.
- This terrible routine, watching you. Waiting for you to wake. Hoping you will never remember these days of illness and treatment. One day, I'll bring you here; show you your tiny handprints on the wall, and, you'll be annoyed that we all think of you as some big miracle. Cancer, will be such a small part of all you could grow to be. You will tire of hearing about it. You won't want to see the cards and notes I saved, and I won't mind at all. I'll hold the memories of this hard day. You, just leave it behind.
- Do you know how they celebrate off-treatment day, like when kids are done with their treatments? I... I guess maybe you don't 'cause you're in the clinic as much as I am, but on someone's last day they always bring in a cake and they sing "Happy off-therapy day to you!" Anyway, that happened today and... it happens a lot, but today I cried. I just wanted that day so bad, you know? And I'm just like, we're not ever gonna get that day—if he's better, we won't know that he's better, we won't get that day.
- I guess I'm going to cry after all because they love us. And they love Joel, and... we're very good at managing the pain and masking symptoms at the end of life.