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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 November 2009 Teen Ink Nonfiction Contest.




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steven 4210 said...
Oct. 12, 2010 at 7:36 am
it works wat ever flots ur boat
 
bubblegoose said...
Oct. 1, 2010 at 4:48 pm
the best one yet its very touching
 
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
 
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.
 
rhymertapperdreamer said...
Aug. 11, 2010 at 11:10 am
Oh my gosh.  This is beautifully expressed.  I wish I could say something comforting to you, but I know that would be annoying.  Could I just say that I'm proud of you?  For going through what you have, and having the courage to put it in writing?  Thank you for sharing this with us. It means a lot.  I will pray for your mom. :)
 
DiamondsIntheGrass This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 11, 2010 at 9:19 am
i can almost empathize.  i know that people go through these things.  but every time i find out about one is just sink into this shock, that anyone has to go through this.  god bless you and your family.
 
babygirl95 said...
Jul. 18, 2010 at 2:08 am
Very nicely written.
 
l3xi replied...
Sept. 15, 2010 at 1:50 pm
this was an awesome story! it was so nicely written and beautiful words used. im so sorry for your mom, hope u guys learn to cope with your life.
 
6788442g replied...
Mar. 29, 2011 at 1:58 pm
This was a very nice story
 
xLoVeLyCuTiEe428x said...
Apr. 2, 2010 at 9:45 am

This is really good.

I don't know how you feel, honestly.

I don't know how you felt when all this went on, but you expressed it beautifully, so keep writing and be strong. I'm sorry to you and your family.

 
snakie71 replied...
May 20, 2010 at 1:42 pm

that is sad.

i dant know how u mustve felt when you first heard the news

 
Wolfblade_01 replied...
Jun. 2, 2010 at 12:46 pm
I understand perfectly, my mother sied from colon cancer. Just so you know, someone else is out there that went through the same as you. Just be strong...
 
goog10 said...
Jan. 15, 2010 at 5:34 pm
i really relate to your story and think the way you wrote it gets the point across about how shocking it is when you find out your mother has cancer. for the first three days i wouldn't tell any of my friends but had to let them know because we were moving halfway across the world away from them. you are a very good writer, the best of luck to you and your family.
 
Margaret said...
Nov. 26, 2009 at 1:08 pm
I know How bad it is, because my mom has cancer too, and sucks SO much, your words describe really good how I feel, because the time or the world don´t stop just because everything for us right now it´s so bad and I wish that I could put some "hold -on" to everything because sometimes it´s hard to believe that life keeps going.
I really really wish you the best, for you and your family, please mail me if you want, I´m from Chile (sorry about my english)
 
Thefunk said...
Nov. 19, 2009 at 6:56 pm
This reminds me of a strong person who God is changing in a good way!!!!!!
 
Thefunk replied...
Nov. 19, 2009 at 6:57 pm
Awsome Witness
 
depresiion said...
Nov. 19, 2009 at 6:53 pm
Love it!! It so relate to me. Because I have epilepsy and Attention Deficit Disorder
 
Sarah I. said...
Nov. 5, 2009 at 3:49 pm
That was so good. I love the repetitive "my mother has cancer" It definately lets the reader know that cancer really changes every aspect of your life, even though many might not see that.
 
KassidyAnn said...
Nov. 3, 2009 at 4:27 pm
This is definitely touching. I feel like I know your family from descriptions, it seems like I can feel the silence of your household. It must have felt great to really let your pencil tell all your emotions to no one in particular. I'm sympathetic for your. I wish your family the best. Congrats on being published in the magazine.
 
emo_nina said...
Nov. 1, 2009 at 10:09 am
that was really cool that you can write like that wow and ummz i can realte to you 2 ppl in my family has bone cancer and another has the worst kind but my grandmother died of it and it broke me totally and completely changed me and it felt like no body knew my grieves except me and nobody could relate and that the world keeps going even though im in pain but you gotta know that this will make you stronger and when you get through this your going to treasure life alot more withought aking bones ... (more »)
 
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