Saturday, November 17, 2012

My Mother's Story

Many years ago, my mother hand breast cancer. I will never forget seeing the words on my VCO phone and the fear that struck my heart. I remember telling myself to stay calm, to merely sound supportive, not panicked. That's what my mother needed, to know I would be okay. Because that's a mother's first concern: her child.

My mother survived and when the trauma and radiation was over and years went by, she told me her main worry was what I would do, how I would react, who would take care of me if she didn't make it. Even though we were miles apart, she supported me in so many ways.

And she told me how the relay operator said, "I'm so sorry" before relaying the message to my Voice Carry Over.

This touched me all over again and when I heard about anthologies seeking donations of stories about surviving cancer, I wrote Telling Tatiana. In a way, it's my mother's story. I changed names, but kept the basic story, the sister, the fish tank, the fear and thoughts she had. I also eliminated the VCO phone though as it required more explanation than I was willing to put in a short story, and this isn't about my hearing impairment, but my mother.

Anyway, I'm pleased to say the story in an anthology put together by Dawn Colclasure. You can download a copy here. Profits are being donated to an organization that helps children of cancer patients.

And here is an excerpt from my story:

“Ella, come on back here.” Dr. Smith’s voice was gentle as he waved me through the door. I looked back to my sister who slowly stood from the chair, wincing as the skin on her legs unglued itself from the plastic. All three of us filed down a long hallway with pictures of mountains and calming rivers and creeks adorning the walls. I was surprised when he led us not to an exam room, but an office with a cluttered desk and two chairs facing it. A fish tank full of exotic fish stood where most doctors would have a shelf of books.  
            Shit. This can’t be good. I borrowed some of my sister’s vocabulary as I sat down in one of the chairs. Bethany sat next to me and mumbled something about wearing shorts to doctor’s offices. I gripped the sides of my own chair and offered Dr. Smith a weak smile.
            “Ella,” he adjusted his tie nervously, “Dr. Cole called today regarding the spot on your mammogram.” I felt Bethany’s hand over my own. I felt a tightening in my chest and had a sudden shortness of breath. I’m going to die of a heart attack only to find out the spot was nothing. Sorry, Tatiana.
            I nodded at the doctor to continue, struggling to appear calm. My hands were not shaking here either. He cleared his throat and his blue eyes met my own. “It’s cancer.”
            The world went black. I couldn’t breathe. Bethany gasped. I heard an “oh no!” but I’m unsure if it came from me or from her. How do I tell Tatiana?

Thank you for your time. Is there someone in your life who has survived? Give them a hug today. Seriously.


  1. I just bought it. My husband survived prostate cancer this past year. Your generous donation will help all.

  2. Thank you so much, Kathleen. And I'm very glad your husband beat it. That's a cancer we all need to be more aware of.

  3. I survived it in 1992. Scary stuff.