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She Has Cancer This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category.


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She has cancer.

It’s weird to write that down. My mother has cancer. She found out last week but couldn’t bring herself to tell my brothers and me until today.

I knew it was bad news when my father called us down to our living room. I knew it was bad news when I saw the box of tissues conspicuously relocated to the coffee table. I knew it was bad news when my father prefaced his speech with “Your mother is going to be okay.” On Tuesday, I found out my mother has bone cancer.

On Wednesday, the phone calls began. Dozens of calls from relatives. Every time the phone rings, it’s someone spewing sugary words of encouragement, imploring my family to keep going, promising that everything will be all right.

My mother doesn’t answer the phone anymore. Ever since she told her sister, who told everyone, she pretends that the phone doesn’t exist, because that’s easier than pretending the cancer doesn’t exist.

My mother has cancer and she won’t pick up the phone to hear the feeble attempts at cheer and optimism from family members and friends who have resolved to be strong in our time of need. My mother has cancer, so I answer the phone for her and pretend that my relatives are right, everything is going to be all right.

She looks the same as last week, before I knew she was sick. The telltale signs of cancer that my doctor TV shows conditioned me for are missing. There are no sunken eyes, no frail body, and no bones poking out from under thin, crepe-like skin. There are no ghosts in this house, only five fully alive people. This cancer is never on TV – this part that consists only of sitting and waiting. My mother has cancer and I am waiting for something to look like it does on TV so I will know how to act. My mother has cancer and I am preparing the lines I have heard on “Grey’s Anatomy” and “House” because I don’t know what else to do.

I found out today that cancer has a smell. Since the rest of the world now knows about the cancer that has roosted in my mother’s body, flowers have been arriving endlessly. My mother has cancer and our neighbors think that a vase of tasteful calla lilies will somehow make it more bearable. Someone decided to put all of the flowers upstairs in the bedroom where my mother has taken up residence. I am afraid to go upstairs because the whole floor smells like calla lilies. Upstairs smells like cancer.

The air has changed in our house. Everyone holds their breath, tiptoes around. As if being quiet will make the cancer go away, as if it can hear every sound we make. My older brother has adopted the cancer vow of silence, like a monk praying for nirvana. He stands in my doorway at night while I lie in bed reading cancer-free books. He stares and stares until I invite him onto my bed and read to him. My older brother does not speak, but sits on the flowered comforter that seems too joyful for our now-cancerous lives. We listen earnestly to the gentle drone of the radio, allowing it to fill the space between us. No words can be formed from this diagnosis. My mother has cancer and my older brother is silent.

My younger brother does not understand. The word “cancer” deflects off his shield of innocence and he continues watching cartoons as if it were last week, before we knew. For him, my mother’s cancer means sugary cereals for dinner and as many cookies as he wants. Cancer means jumping on the bed and not brushing his teeth because no one can tell the child whose mother has cancer to do anything. My mother has cancer and my little brother thinks this is a vacation.

The normal activities of my family have been replaced by one common activity: eating. As the cancer that grows in my mother eats her alive, my family eats the endless procession of baked goods, casseroles, soups, sandwich trays, and other thoughtful items our neighbors have deemed appropriate for a family stricken by cancer, confusing our cancer-ridden silence for hunger. Someone took it upon themselves to create a schedule of meals to be delivered, and I suddenly feel like a first grader being doled out pre-made meals with stunning regularity and precision, except someone gave us meatloaf. My mother has cancer and no one else knows I don’t like meatloaf.

My mother has cancer, and the sun still rises. Cars filled with people still race past our house on their way to work in the morning and on their way home in the evening, like clockwork. The clock still has the audacity to tick and keep track of every moment that my mother has cancer. The world continues even though mine seems to have frozen over in this winter of cancer.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

This work has won the Teen Ink contest in its category. This piece won the December 2009 Teen Ink Nonfiction Contest.





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Magicwaffle said...
Dec. 12, 2013 at 7:05 pm:
I LOVE THIS!!  I have a very simmilar piece about a family member who has cancer. maybe you should check it out, TeenInk.com/hot_topics/health/article/596505/Cancer-Sucks/ I think that you will like it. 
 
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SkylarRae14 said...
Oct. 10, 2013 at 10:12 pm:
This is Amazing!  This is by far my favorite piece on TeenInk. Keep writing!! I hope everything works out okay though. You did great on this. :)
 
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bmwei said...
Aug. 19, 2013 at 3:07 am:
This is absolutely magical. For over half a year now, I've reread this almost everyday, and am still awed by it.
 
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Josephinecatherine1 said...
Jul. 24, 2013 at 4:07 pm:
Beautiful and poignant story. You're so brave. Hope everything will be ok. 
 
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DreamAngel said...
Feb. 11, 2013 at 6:05 pm:
Wow...you captured the essence of the situation so well. My Grandfather had cancer, and it felt like the same thing. Everything was different but not different. It was like living in a world frozen specifically to you. You made a truly empathetic piece that captured the feeling of a family going through this so well. I tip my hat off to you.
 
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VagialenaThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Jan. 10, 2013 at 3:39 pm:
The world continues! I hope that your mother survives and that you've gone through it... Loved your article!
 
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nerdyfishThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Dec. 30, 2012 at 4:23 pm:
This is so sad, yet sparks of hope are floating in my heart. Great use of diction and everything in your writing. I am sorry for your mom though and hope she survives. You have my support.
 
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TheSkyOwesMeRainThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Dec. 15, 2012 at 1:53 pm:
I love your ending, of how everything has changed and yet on the outside, things are still going on as usual. Good job! 
 
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jacob said...
Dec. 6, 2012 at 3:37 pm:
i just lost my uncle to cancer and he have a lungs cancer....but he don't konw that......he passed way .....this coming  december 10 he have a one year for his died.
 
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mrz.mixon said...
Oct. 11, 2012 at 9:55 am:
hello my name is dailanique jones im posting on your memoir because i thought it was ver good and intense. A little advice is to not repeat your word so much well extremely over and over because it could make your readers bored. Great story though
 
KIMMIE replied...
Aug. 2, 2013 at 4:58 pm :
I LIKE THE USE OF REPETSTIVE WORDS...MY MOM HAS CANCER...IT IS REPETATIVE HORRIBLE NARATIVE IN THE LIFE WITH A LOVED ON WHO i CANCER. i COULD FULLY REALTE TOIT AND IT WAS ONE OF THE MOST  POWERFUL THINGS IN THE STORY TO ME. tHIS ISNT GRAMAR ITS REAL LIFE, EMOTIONS SO MUCH MORE THAN
 
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Comedian in Training said...
Sept. 13, 2012 at 1:25 pm:
I feel your pain, my grandfather had cancer, and to know that there's nothing you can do to help is just pure torture.
 
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forgottenpenname This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 21, 2012 at 7:29 am:
This is... Wow. Amazing. I'm speechless.
 
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Ev.MKh said...
Apr. 28, 2012 at 1:20 am:
Dole . 
 
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Whitney S. said...
Apr. 23, 2012 at 1:15 pm:
I like this because I think many people can relate to it. It was also very descriptive and well worded. It brings a lot of emotion to the surface and I think it was done very well.
 
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mymakersdaughter said...
Jan. 4, 2012 at 11:53 am:
an absolutely beautiful and touching piece! my friend's mom just passed from battling colon cancer for 7 years. throughout those 7 years, she never once gave up hope or her faith in her Savior. i didn't know her mom too well, but know now that she is in a better place. i pray that you will find peace in the Lord Jesus during this time. God bless you and your family!
 
[F3AR]IxGOxHAMD1103 replied...
Mar. 29, 2012 at 1:06 pm :
my mom is fighting brice cacer dang
 
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Catch said...
Dec. 13, 2011 at 5:38 pm:
This remins me of when we had our reck I wrote a memior on it (not on here yet) everyone seemed to know about it over night . Your memior is so touching.
 
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niky said...
Dec. 9, 2011 at 12:52 pm:
i hope your mom is ok she is lucky to have a girl like u
 
Goerge replied...
Dec. 9, 2011 at 12:53 pm :
i thought that last commet was wierd
 
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