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.

snakie71 said...
on May. 20 2010 at 1:42 pm

that is sad.

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

on Apr. 2 2010 at 9:45 am
xLoVeLyCuTiEe428x PLATINUM, Nanuet, New York
24 articles 0 photos 102 comments

Favorite Quote:
"To me, Fearless is not the absense of fear. It's not being completely unafraid. To me, Fearless is having fears. Fearless is having doubts. Lots of them. To me, Fearless is living in spite of those things that scare you to death."
— Taylor Swift

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.

goog10 said...
on 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...
on 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)

kissypoke said...
on Nov. 19 2009 at 6:58 pm
Totally agree

Thefunk said...
on Nov. 19 2009 at 6:57 pm
Awsome Witness

Thefunk said...
on Nov. 19 2009 at 6:56 pm
This reminds me of a strong person who God is changing in a good way!!!!!!

depresiion said...
on Nov. 19 2009 at 6:53 pm
Love it!! It so relate to me. Because I have epilepsy and Attention Deficit Disorder

on Nov. 5 2009 at 3:49 pm
curledupwabook BRONZE, Helena, Montana
4 articles 3 photos 11 comments

Favorite Quote:
Drama is just life with the dull bits cut out.- Alfred Hitchcock

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.

on Nov. 3 2009 at 4:27 pm
KassidyAnn SILVER, Manhattan, Kansas
9 articles 5 photos 5 comments

Favorite Quote:
“Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think."- Christopher Robin to Pooh

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.

on Nov. 1 2009 at 10:09 am
emo_nina BRONZE, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
2 articles 0 photos 2 comments
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 and so fourth sometimes it hurts to smile but sometimes thats all you have to do to cheer yourself up

eMiLyP GOLD said...
on Oct. 31 2009 at 11:26 am
eMiLyP GOLD, Jeannette, Pennsylvania
13 articles 6 photos 127 comments

Favorite Quote:
Life is short; speak your mind, say what ya wanna say, and do what ya wanna do (as long as you don't get caught!).

This article is so touching. I know it must be hard for you to deal with your mother's cancer. The way you write this was great. I liked how at the end of almost every paragraph you write "My mother has cancer and..." It was great of you to write this article. I think it probably helps everyone understand how life is for you. Congratulations on getting this posted in the monthly magazine. It truly deserves to be.