Dear Cancer: A Son’s Point of View

by Lisa OrrSurvivor, Breast CancerJune 7, 2021View more posts from Lisa Orr

Dear Cancer: Letters to cancer written from the point of view of my oldest son, Ryan

January 3, 2019 

Age 3

Dear Cancer,

Mama was cleaning again this afternoon. She does this a lot when she seems nervous. Aidan was napping and I was so bored…I just wanted someone to play with me. I remember when Mama’s phone started ringing. She went to the kitchen and started crying. Dada ran down the stairs and was holding Mama’s hand. I’ve never seen her cry like this before. I felt so scared. I didn’t know what was happening, so I just kept playing with my toys. I remember hearing the word ‘cancer‘ a lot. I’ve never heard that word before. It doesn’t seem like a happy word, though, like ice cream or tickles… this word, cancer, makes my Mama and Dada cry. They didn’t leave the kitchen for a little bit…I just watched them from the living room. I heard them say that Nenny was coming over. I love when she comes over! When Nenny got to our house she didn’t look happy like she always does, though. Nenny started crying, too. I don’t like what is going on. What is cancer and why is it making all of my family cry so much? I remember Aidan woke up and just snuggled on Mama’s lap while she sat on the kitchen floor. I have never seen her sit on the kitchen floor before, that was silly. I remember that Papa came over, and even Titi, Uncle Dan, and Maeve! So many people I love were together, but it didn’t feel fun this time. I hope Mama and Dada smile again soon.

-Ryan

 

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January 10, 2019

Age 3

Dear Cancer,

I still don’t understand what you are, but I do know that I don’t like you. I know Mama and Dada say that I am not supposed to say that…that it’s not nice… but I just don’t. Mama and Dada have to leave a lot. They always say that they are going to “appointments”. That’s another big word I don’t understand. Nenny comes to stay with Aidan and me, which is nice…but I miss Mama and Dada. I miss hearing Mama laugh and having Dada joke around with me like he always does. I do like that Mama still loves to give me lots of hugs. We have been snuggling extra these days and I really like that. I still think Mama looks sad a lot, though… I think I will go draw her a picture now… maybe that will make her feel better.

-Ryan

 

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February 7, 2019

Age 3

Dear Cancer,

Well, today I learned what you are. I learned that Mama is sick. I learned that she needs to take lots of medicine to get rid of the cancer in her body. She told me that the medicine is strong and will sometimes make her feel yucky, too. Then she and Dada read me a book that helped me understand. The book told me that she may need to rest more and that even though she is sick, she still loves me. I don’t want her to feel yucky. The book told me that Mama might look different for a little while, too… that this strong medicine will take her hair away. I don’t like that. Will my Mama still be Mama without her long hair? When the book was over, Dada asked me if I wanted to help by choosing the first scarf that Mama will wear. He walked me over to the table where lots of colorful scarves were. I saw lots of colors that I liked, but I picked the one that I thought would make Mama smile… it had lots of colorful flowers on it. She told me it was time to do it now and asked if I wanted to help. I watched Dada cut Mama’s hair. I didn’t like it. I didn’t want to help anymore. When it was over, Mama put the scarf I chose on. She wiped her tears, knelt in front of me, and smiled at me. She gave me a big hug and then went upstairs for a little while as Dada vacuumed her hair off the floor. There was a lot of it. I know she didn’t want me to, but I could hear her crying upstairs. I think she misses her hair. I miss her hair, too.

-Ryan

 

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March 16, 2019

Age 4

Dear Cancer,

Today was a good day. I turned 4! Mama, Dada, Aidan, and me did so many fun things. We took 3 different trains to get to the aquarium in Boston! The first train was purple, then we took an orange subway train, and finally a blue subway train! The aquarium was so much fun! I saw so many penguins, fishes, and the biggest turtle I have ever seen! When we got home, I opened presents. I got my very own golf clubs! Mama made me a vanilla cake with vanilla frosting…my favorite! She even put orange sprinkles on it because orange is my favorite color. Mama hasn’t been feeling well these days but she still made my birthday cake and that was really nice of her. I think she was nervous to go to Boston with her scarf on her head. I saw her looking in the mirror in the morning and she was fixing it a lot. We had a lot of fun today, I don’t think Mama thought about the cancer in her body. I liked seeing my family smile today. Today was so special.

-Ryan

 

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June 19, 2019

Age 4

Dear Cancer,

Mama had her very last medicine today!!! This makes me happy because I know she doesn’t like taking the medicine. I don’t like taking medicine either, so I understand. When she was at her appointment with Dada today, Nenny and Titi came over to set up the house so we could celebrate together. I helped to tie some balloons to our mailbox! Me and Aidan put on our matching pink shirts for mama. Nenny made really yummy food for us to eat. When Mama came into the house she was very happy…I don’t remember the last time she smiled so big… her smile makes me smile. After we were done eating, Mama’s sister, Titi, gave her a present. I love presents! It was a bell! It made a really loud sound and when Mama shook it, she cried a lot…I think she was happy, though. Sometimes adults cry when they are happy, I guess. Mama handed me the bell next and I got to shake it as loud as I could. That felt good. All the kids rang the bell and I saw all the adults hug each other. I think ringing the bell is a good thing and I am happy I saw Mama do it. I know Mama isn’t done with cancer yet. She needs to go to the hospital in a few weeks and Aidan and me are going to sleep over Titi and Uncle Dan’s house! We are going to go to the zoo and I am very excited. Mama told me she can’t pick me up for a little while after she comes home from the hospital but that we can still snuggle carefully. I hope I see a tiger at the zoo!

-Ryan

 

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January 3, 2020

Age 4

Dear Cancer,

Mama has been done with doctor appointments for a little while now. I love having her home more. She still seems nervous a lot, though. I see her talking to Dada a lot about different parts of her body hurting her, but she never complains to me. She plays with us a lot and we do lots of fun things together. Mama’s hair is even growing so fast! I tell her everyday that her hair must be growing because I can see it getting longer. I want her to look like she used to look. She will soon, Dada says. Today we celebrated “life day”! That’s what Mama calls it now…the day the doctor told her she had cancer. She says every year we will spend lots of family time on this day and celebrate life…I like that!

-Ryan

 

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April 10, 2021

Age 6

Dear Cancer,

Thank you for not taking my mom away from me. I have to tell you that life feels so normal now…well, besides needing to wear a mask everywhere and staying home so much. I mean that I don’t really ever hear the word cancer in our house anymore. Sometimes Mom has days where she still seems nervous about her body and the cancer coming back, but not as much as before. We have celebrated two life days now… Mom says this is a really, really good sign. I hope we get to celebrate so many more together. Mom shows me how strong she is every single day and she is teaching me to be strong, too. She loves teaching us how to take care of our bodies. She says it is so important. Mom loves to exercise and sometimes I even join! I can do a pretty good push up. Mom’s hair looks just like it did before I even learned what the word cancer was. She got her first real haircut in a long time! I remember how excited she was that day. I don’t like getting haircuts. It is so nice to see Mom smiling more and laughing more and being silly with us. She still goes to the doctor sometimes, but not as much as before. I think she might always be a little nervous when she goes to the doctors from now on, but I understand why now. Cancer wasn’t fun for Mom. It wasn’t fun for any of us, but it is over now…we hope. I don’t even think Aidan remembers what happened to Mom, but that’s okay…I can teach him someday. Mom has a special pink ribbon magnet on the back of her car that I see every day. I think she likes looking at it, too. It says “survivor” on it. One day we had a long talk about what that word means. That talk made me very happy because it means my mom is still here with me and not in heaven like Nonna. I am so happy she is with us…I would miss her too much.

-Ryan

To read this letter and the other letters to cancer, click here to read and download the June 2021 Magazine

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