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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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This article has 78 comments. Post your own!

eflores85658 said...
Nov. 19, 2010 at 6:33 pm:
Georgeous and touching .....Great thing to write ...hope she feels better.....loving and from the heart♥ ♥
 
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MMGloria said...
Nov. 10, 2010 at 8:52 am:
I really like the way you repeat some selected things in this memoir. I also like that the tone stays the same all throughout this piece. Very well done.
 
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MillionGreenDroplets This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Oct. 21, 2010 at 7:24 pm:
Unveils the reality of what cancer's like for the family of a victim.
 
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lala said...
Oct. 13, 2010 at 3:14 pm:
A few people i know have had cancer and it's hard
 
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I Am IORN MAN said...
Oct. 13, 2010 at 2:25 pm:

i like your compassion for your mom

 

 
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columbine said...
Oct. 13, 2010 at 9:32 am:
i tsad for you and you anhd that she has cancer. i hope you ok
 
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oh my gersh!!! said...
Oct. 12, 2010 at 12:23 pm:
tht sux. but this piece was very good
 
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AlexandriaLea(: said...
Oct. 12, 2010 at 12:23 pm:
Im so sorry your mother has cancer. im not quite sure how it feels but my grandma had cancer and it has to feel somewhat the same, right? well im sorry about your mother and this piece is very good(:
 
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dezy2014 said...
Oct. 12, 2010 at 12:20 pm:
tht has to sux to go through tht
 
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DEVIN MADEFORD said...
Oct. 12, 2010 at 12:12 pm:

HEY CAMERON

I C U  LOL

 
D3V1N replied...
Oct. 12, 2010 at 12:37 pm :
im sorry if my LOL made any one mad i didnt mean it that way and im sorry that ur mom has cancer
 
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lil_gre said...
Oct. 12, 2010 at 12:21 pm:
it really was thoe
 
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devon j said...
Oct. 12, 2010 at 7:48 am:
thats varry sad
 
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kaleb 23 said...
Oct. 12, 2010 at 7:44 am:
i didnt really care for this story but it was pretty good and i want to go home
 
steven4210 replied...
Oct. 12, 2010 at 7:46 am :
dont be mean
 
badboy69 replied...
Oct. 12, 2010 at 7:54 am :
what is rong with you
 
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steven 4210 said...
Oct. 12, 2010 at 7:36 am:
it works wat ever flots ur boat
 
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bubblegoose said...
Oct. 1, 2010 at 4:48 pm:
the best one yet its very touching
 
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Pink_Ribbon said...
Sept. 7, 2010 at 1:40 pm:
So beautiful. I know how hard it can be to see family go through cancer. My own mother has survived ovarian cancer and thanks God for every day she has and I thank God for every day I have her. You and your family are in my prayers
 
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Misaz said...
Aug. 20, 2010 at 9:34 pm:
I luv this story and your writing. i can relate b/c my dad was diagnois with cancer. i will be blunt and say this...move on. there is nothing you can do nor your relatives nor your mom can do about this. this is life, move on.
 
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