She Has Cancer | Teen Ink

She Has Cancer MAG

October 30, 2009
By Jane Danstrom BRONZE, Palatine, Illinois
Jane Danstrom BRONZE, Palatine, Illinois
4 articles 0 photos 0 comments

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.

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This article has 112 comments.

on Jan. 10 2013 at 3:39 pm
AnnabelLee423 SILVER, Somewhere, Other
6 articles 0 photos 22 comments

Favorite Quote:
Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr Creedy, and ideas are bulletproof.

The world continues! I hope that your mother survives and that you've gone through it... Loved your article!

on Dec. 30 2012 at 4:23 pm
nerdyfish SILVER, Peabody, Massachusetts
5 articles 2 photos 11 comments
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.

on Dec. 15 2012 at 1:53 pm
TheSkyOwesMeRain GOLD, Irvine, California
13 articles 1 photo 299 comments

Favorite Quote:
Life isn't measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the moments which take your breath away.

You are only as strong as your weakest link.

I love your ending, of how everything has changed and yet on the outside, things are still going on as usual. Good job! 

jacob said...
on 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.

mrz.mixon said...
on 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

on Sep. 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.

on Aug. 21 2012 at 7:29 am
forgottenpenname GOLD, Troy, Michigan
12 articles 0 photos 147 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Carpe diem."

This is... Wow. Amazing. I'm speechless.

Ev.MKh said...
on Apr. 28 2012 at 1:20 am
Ev.MKh, Riyadh, Other
0 articles 0 photos 2 comments

Favorite Quote:
" Happiness is not about getting what you want all the time . It's about loving what you do have "

Dole . 

on Apr. 23 2012 at 1:15 pm
Whitney Smith BRONZE, Scottsdale, Arizona
2 articles 0 photos 4 comments
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.

on Mar. 29 2012 at 1:06 pm
my mom is fighting brice cacer dang

on Jan. 4 2012 at 11:53 am
mymakersdaughter BRONZE, Cherry Valley, Illinois
2 articles 0 photos 5 comments

Favorite Quote:
"That which is striking and beautiful is not always good, but that which is good is always beautiful." - Ninon de L'Enclos

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!

Catch SILVER said...
on Dec. 13 2011 at 5:38 pm
Catch SILVER, Willow Springs, Missouri
9 articles 10 photos 31 comments

Favorite Quote:
Never ever give up! Don't listen to what people say they will just try to shove you in the dirt. Listen to your heart.

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.

Goerge said...
on Dec. 9 2011 at 12:53 pm
i thought that last commet was wierd

niky said...
on Dec. 9 2011 at 12:52 pm
i hope your mom is ok she is lucky to have a girl like u

on Dec. 5 2011 at 7:08 pm
musicgirl1998 GOLD, Littleton, Colorado
14 articles 12 photos 18 comments

Favorite Quote:
You don't get harmony when everybody sings the same note.

this is very touching.

on Nov. 25 2011 at 8:47 am
LifesIllusion BRONZE, Cicero, Indiana
4 articles 0 photos 127 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Don't let your fears slow you down. Instead, chase them down and beat them."

I don't even know what to say. But well done. Very moving.

on Nov. 24 2011 at 10:56 am
ava_friedlander BRONZE, New York, New York
2 articles 0 photos 1 comment
I just lost my mom to cancer and this piece describes how badly it can get. Cancer really changes every single part of your daily routine. And it sucks, this piece is just amazing

Mystiecub said...
on Nov. 21 2011 at 3:56 pm
No words for how clearly and perfectly this is written. 5/5

on Oct. 30 2011 at 5:48 pm
Godschild BRONZE, Duluth, Georgia
2 articles 0 photos 3 comments

Favorite Quote:
"And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love." Romans 8:38


my dad has cancer. Every single thing you said I can relate to right now. I have felt the way you do so many times. Thank you for having the guts, unlike me, to actually express it. you are inspiring.

Lit.rox BRONZE said...
on Oct. 30 2011 at 7:38 am
Lit.rox BRONZE, Kandy, Other
4 articles 0 photos 28 comments
Lovely...really touching...i hope you'd find something that can console you very soon.