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The Pink War This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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Almost every night, I go into my parents' room and tuck my mom into bed. I'll lie next to her until my father comes upstairs or until homework calls. We'll sit there and talk and I'll play with her hair, plug in her phone, and poke fun at her. She pokes right back. I'll turn out the light, kiss her forehead, pat her shoulder, and tell her good night. This is among my more peculiar habits, but her presence in mind and body is one of the most precious things in my life.

I remember it was an aberrantly warm day in February, especially for Vermont. The winter had been mild that year; the grass was especially green, and the sun was pleasantly golden, suspended in a cloudless sky. I skipped off the bus to find her car in the driveway. I knew then that something was wrong. My stomach clenched and my chest throbbed, lead feet eventually brought me to the door. She was crying.

My mother looked at me through raw eyes and said, “I have breast cancer.” We cried, we hugged, I sat on her lap. I was in fifth grade, scared and confused, just leaving behind the years of cooties, flips on the monkey bars, and bedtime cuddles. Five years before, my grandmother had had the same cancer. She showed me where metal staples held her skin together in the strangest way. Was that going to happen to my mom?

We cried a lot as my mom told relatives and arranged appointments and bought a wig for when chemo began. I went along to help her choose, although she didn't like the one I picked out and instead bought a short, curly wig a shade or two lighter than her normal hair. She stayed strong for us during this time that I have come to associate with tears.

It was March when Mom went to the hospital to have the tumor removed. I went to school, needing the distraction. Dad called my teacher during the morning with updates. Then, during our silent reading time, as I was sitting between my two best friends, my teacher smiled and said, “She's out of surgery.”

When chemo began, the warrior scarves and the pink ribbons came to mean something more than “support the cause” and became “support my mom.” That was also the time that our family hairdresser, a close friend of Mom's, came over with trimmers. We put a sheet on the floor, and in no time Mom's hair was a half inch long. Soon that half inch of fuzz fell out too, and she was left with a smooth, shining, pale scalp. Around the house she'd wear a wrap on her bald head. None of us liked looking at it. It took me a while before I could think of her bald without crying. Before all the hair was gone, I told her to put some of it under her pillow for the “Hair Fairy.” She agreed, to humor me. I snuck into her room while she was asleep and put a quarter under her pillow. My mom still carries that quarter with her.

She became distant, both in mind and body. I remember Dad telling my brother and me to play quietly because “Mommy needs to rest.”
I didn't feel like I had a mom that summer. She is absent in those memories, simply not there. She continued to work, despite the chemo and radiation, but was always exhausted. At home she was either asleep or on “chemo-brain.” She'd laugh off her newfound absentmindedness, saying she might even lose her head if it ­wasn't attached. Even though she would look at me and try to listen, she often wasn't able to understand what I was saying.

This spring, my mom is five years cancer free. Her hair has grown back wavy and not gray, as she had feared. She claims to still have chemo-brain some days, but now it really is just a joke. The wig is sitting on my shelf. Our warrior scarves are collecting dust. We still have pink ribbons everywhere. The remains of her war against cancer are spread throughout our lives like battle scars to brag about to the world. After that difficult year of tears, my mom is back and here to help me through the simple problems of high school.

So I don't fight with my mom. I don't ignore her intentionally, nor do I talk about her negatively. She is healthy and strong and present in every sense of the word. She's my mom again. Every night, I tuck her in, turn out the light, and kiss her cheek because I know that we are lucky; there are plenty of girls out there whose moms didn't find their lumps early enough. Never before have I been so thankful for my mother and so grateful that she is here with me.

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




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TaylorWintryThis 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. 4, 2013 at 6:52 pm:
My church has a youth night program, in which every Sunday we meet with a group of youth and two adult leaders. One of the leaders was Ms. Cindy, the strongest and most incredible person I have ever encountered in my life. She was diagnosed with breast cancer about 5 or 6 years ago, had a surgery, and went into remission. I didn't know her when she had the first bout, but I knew her when she got the second go round. The remarkable thing was that even when she was going through chemo, radiati... (more »)
 
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GreyGirlThis 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. 4, 2013 at 4:09 am:
Very nicely done. I'm glad your mom is better :)
 
EscapingfromReality replied...
Dec. 4, 2013 at 8:56 am :
Beautiful. I am happy for you and you're mom. :)
 
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