Changing Times

October 20, 2018

It was a bleak time for my family. My dad was between jobs, my sister was going into her junior year, and I was starting fifth grade. I was a small young boy, on the cusp of puberty, and I was growing up faster than I wanted to. Fifth grade was very scary for me as I realized that these were changing times. As a fifth grader at my school, I was given loads of responsibilities, or so I thought, that I wasn’t prepared for. All I wanted to do was go back to fourth grade and continue playing Mario Kart on my gamecube. Little did I know, I was about to receive the worst news I had ever heard.
A few weeks into my fifth grade year, my parents called my sister and me down to talk with them. Both of us hobbled down the stairs and blankly stared at our parents. I knew something was up because my mom looked worried. My dad calmly spoke to us and said the four worst words I had ever heard before, “Your mom has cancer.” My heart instantly dropped and my sister began to cry. My head was spinning as I slowly pictured a life without my amazing mother. Memories of her flashed in and out of my head until suddenly my dad looked at me and softly whispered, “It will be okay.” How ironic would could it be that the four worst words I had ever heard in my life were followed by the four most calming words. My dad had a way of reassuring my sister and me that everything was going to be fine.
The next week of school was the hardest for me. All I wanted to do was spend time with my mom. I wanted to recreate the old memories and create some more fantastic ones. Everytime a friend would ask, “Hey what’s wrong?” I would have to somehow spit out the same story again and again. My mom had officially been diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. I didn’t know how serious of a case that meant with me being so young. As my mom began her chemotherapy treatments, loads of families showed their support. They brought in pre-cooked meals, drove my mom to her appointments, and offered to drive me to and from school. Despite the overwhelming show of support, this was one the weakest points in my life. I remember my school having a walk-in freezer. When families would be so generous and bring us food for dinner, it would be stored in the freezer for me to pick up. This was devastating for me. Not only did it make me feel awkward walking past my friends with my families dinner for the night, but it reminded me once more of the torture my mom was going through.
As weeks turned into months, My mom continued to fight for her life. By this point, I didn’t feel ashamed to walk past my friends with dinner, I was proud. I was proud because the food reminded me that my mom was still alive and fighting viscously for her life. All of a sudden, I needed to face a new challenge. As fifth grade melted away and 6th grade appeared, I needed to get ready for middle school. Once again, I didn’t feel ready. Even more responsibilities were ahead of me. Just as I was getting ready for my first day of middle school, my mom decided to drive me to school. Her frail bones could hardly seem to stand the speed bumps and hold on to the steering wheel. When I was about to get out of the car, my mom stopped and told me something I’ll never forget. “Go have fun and have the best day ever. I love you.” I hugged her as hard as I could and said “I love you too,” back. I suddenly knew that my mom was was the strongest person I had ever met and even when death was knocking on her doorstep, she still cared so much about me that she put my needs before hers. She worried about how I was feeling rather than herself. I will never forget that moment.
Sixth and seventh grade seemed to fly by as my mom was recovering. She was on the back side of this illness and we were ready to celebrate. After my seventh grade year, my mom had her last surgery and finished her road to recovery. We celebrated her success and went to Hawaii to essentially “reward” her. When all was said and done, I once again realized that times were changing. However, I welcomed the change. This change brought my family closer together. It made me who I am today. I feel like I would be nothing without it. As for my gamecube, someone else can have it. I don’t want to go back to fourth grade. I want to stay with the changing times. Thank you mom, for showing me how to appreciate life and embrace your fears.
Zach Noel