Pretty in Pink

December 14, 2009
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My grandmother has many names she is called: A daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, a nana, a friend, and a survivor. On any given night you can find her wrapped in her pink breast cancer blanket, watching her favorite show, Barefoot Contessa while knitting something special in her leather recliner with her dog Charlie on her lap. You would never know she had battled breast cancer, or is now battling colon cancer. Behind the sweet face is strength and courage; behind the green eyes is a hero in disguise.
My nana is a 5’4’’, silver haired woman with green eyes and a bright smile. Her face and hands are worn from living for 62 years, though they are as soft as a baby’s bottom.
“Lotion! Lotion,” she’s always telling me.
She has the quiet strength. Doing things for her family, cooking, cleaning, picking her grandkids up from school on some occasions, all without complain. She’s lively and witty beyond all belief. Sometimes I am caught off guard by her wit, and we burst out laughing into a fit that we can’t stop easily. Her quiet strength has allowed her conquer many events, and will continue to help her throughout the rest of her life.
As a child growing up, my grandmother never had anyone to call grandma or grandpa, but not for the reasons you believe. No, her grandparents did not die before she was born. No, they did not move to another country. In fact, her grandmother and grandfather lived in the very same house she did in Kokomo, Indiana. She called them mom and dad.
Her biological mother, my great grandmother Liz Timmons, was a young woman, about 17 years of age, when she delivered my nana. About to be given up for adoption, my great great grandparents, Palmer and Rose Timmons, stepped in and adopted their first grandchild, Pamela Sue Timmons.
Later on, Liz Timmons married Pam’s father Harold Jackson. Pam soon became the oldest of seven siblings, four girls and three boys, all of whom she visited often at their home in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
“There was always a baby to hold. I love babies,” she said, speaking of her biological mother’s home.
As my nana grew older, she met and married her high school sweetheart Ronald Mullen. At 19 they welcomed their first child, my mother Angela Lynn Mullen. About two years later my uncle, Ronald Ashley Mullen, entered the family.
My nana’s life was altered permanently in April of 2000, and again in November of 2009. In 2000, Pam Mullen was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer. She went through surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation to help remove all of the malignant tumors. Along the way, her thick silver hair had all fallen out. She stayed strong throughout her body’s inner battle against itself. Unlike Odysseus, whose battle was external. But much like Odysseus, both had to stay strong to show just how strong they really are.
Throughout her internal physical conflict, my nana was surrounded by loved ones and people who cared for her and loved her unconditionally. Odysseus but both are just as difficult. When he was alone, it was okay for him to admit defeat at any time. To admit that he had given up and wanted to die. Pam couldn’t. People around her loved her, and if she ever had any of those thoughts she bottled them up so as not to upset her family of hurt the people around her. She claims to not having those thoughts though.

Much like Athena, God had a helping hand the day the doctors said four magical words, the cancer is gone. When my nana was told that the internal war was over, that her body had won, it must have felt like the homecoming Odysseus had, a celebration with the ones you love.
For nine years Pam was cancer free. Needless to say, it had changed her. Always that dull ache in the back of her mind that her cancer may return. Until one day, that dull ache became another struggle. In November 2009, Pam Mullen was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer. Luckily, it is easily treatable. For Odysseus, it would’ve been like being at home for nine years, then having to go back to battle at sea for another six months. According to the doctors, that’s how long the chemotherapy is going to take. Only this time, 80% of the people who take this chemo, don’t lose their hair.
On any given night you can see my nana wrapped in her pink breast cancer blanket, watching Barefoot Contessa while knitting in her leather recliner with her dog Charlie on her lap. She’s a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, a nana, a friend, a survivor, and a hero in disguise. Many people are heroes in disguise. It doesn’t take an epic to unmask who the hero is in your life.

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HannahM This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 16, 2010 at 2:17 pm
I loved this story. The imagery was awesome. I hope this appears in the print magazine. Good luck! ;)
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