Age 12 is a vulnerable time. The effects of cancer are tremendous toward those who suffer from it, but often people do not stop to think about who else it could be affecting. When I entered Jr. High, my biggest worries started with simple things like, “do these clothes look okay?” or “Is my acne too much, have I used enough concealer?”. About halfway through my 7th Grade year my mom got the call that no one wants to hear. She had developed cancer in her breasts. At the time, I did not realize the significance of this call, but later I would find out that she was in stage 3 and the next few years were crucial. My 12-year-old mind believed my parents when they told me through tear-soaked eyes that “things were going to turn out okay”.
The next year began with the treatments leading to my mom’s hopeful recovery. It did not, however, become real to me until I visited the hospital one night with my dad and my siblings. My mom was wheeled out of her room because she was too weak to walk, I saw her with a beanie on. I thought to myself, “this seems unusual my mom never wears beanies”. When she came closer to us, I realized what had happened. My sweet little brother asked her why she had shaved her head. And with a teary sigh she looked at me and said, “I didn’t like the way my hair looked, so I wanted to match your fathers.” We all chuckled at the harmless joke, but it seemed to hit me a little different then the rest of my family. You see when my mom went into the hospital for the first time I looked up what they do for cancer treatments. I read that the treatment could cause hair loss. I knew then that when I looked at my mom, no matter how beautiful she was, she would never truly believe she was beautiful.
Now, my parents were saints through all of this. They did what they thought was right. They never told us how things were going. I never knew whether my mom was going to make it through or whether she was feeling okay or if she was sad. Somehow no matter what she would say I could see through her happy deception. She was miserable. But she was trying to be strong so that her children would not fear. It worked for the most part. Me, I felt shut out. I did not think my parents wanted to tell me anything because things were looking bad. I had a sense for those things, I learned to see through people’s outer emotions, and within doing that I learned how to cover mine up. When I went to school I always put on a mask. Kids would tease me because of my mom. It sounds horrible but it was not bully teasing, it was innocent. I would hear jokes about her hair, or people would make jokes about cancer around me because they thought I of all people would find it funny because I relate to such an issue. The truth is by the end of my 8th grade year I was broken.
I did not know if my mom was going to live or not. I could hear her in her room every night with my dad crying. I could hear the arguments and I could hear the fears and everything they had tried so hard to hide from me. I could hear the terror in their voices as they talked with the doctors on the phone. Sleep had left me, I laid in bed crying and praying that my mom would wake up one morning smiling because it had been so long since Id seen her genuinely smile. I went to school and had no real friends. Everyone I saw knew me as the kid whose mom has cancer. I would get apologies in the hall, but they never made me feel better, they only made me feel like more of a freak. I would get kids saying that they were here for me, but when I would text them saying I need someone to talk to they would leave me on read. I learned to fend for myself. I turned to relationships with girls because I did not have a woman figure in my life anymore, I needed someone to take care of me, but no one wanted to. I would be left alone at lunch to eat by myself under my locker. Life looked so dark I considered the possibility of not living it.
But then, one fateful day I was eating my lunch. I stood up to grab something out of my locker, and when I opened it a letter with a pink ribbon tied to it fell out. The letter read, “You don’t stand alone, we support you.” At first, I thought it was another joke, but then the next day I got another letter with a ribbon this one saying, “If you fall down, we will be here to catch you, you don’t have to go at this alone.” I started receiving these letters daily. I never found out who it was, but even the next year they were able to find my locker somehow. Finally, my mom had officially beat cancer.
After that, the letters stopped. I never was able to find who had been writing them I assumed it was a group effort. But those letters got me through the hardest trial I had ever endured. It still affects me today, but the fact that someone was kind enough to send me words of encouragement quite honestly probably saved my life. To whoever that person was, Thank you. Thank you, a million times, over. You have no idea how much your words meant to me. You kept me going and I owe you everything. If someone is in need, reach out. We do not stand alone on this earth. We stand together and we stand strong. Be the support you want to have. Because who knows, maybe when you go through a tough time, there might just be someone slipping ribbons into your locker.