45: May’s Story

45: May’s Story

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just for Preteens

May’s Story

Cancer is a word, not a sentence.

~John Diamond

I knew that cancer was an awful disease. Cancer killed my dog. Some of my mother’s friends have had breast cancer. I’ve read books about people with cancer. But I never really knew how scary cancer could be until sixth grade.

I go to a private school — an all-girls middle school that goes from grades five through eight. On the first day of sixth grade, I was excited to see my friends who I hadn’t seen all summer. Some new kids had come to our grade, so I wanted to meet them too. The first thing I did was find May, a good friend of mine. We hugged each other; I went to greet my other friends, as well. People made friends with the new kids and greeted old friends. The teachers were friendly. Sixth grade was shaping up to be a good year.

In November, May wasn’t feeling well. She was tired. Her back and stomach hurt. One day, May wasn’t in school. It wasn’t like May to be sick. She never got sick, not even a cold. I got worried. When I got home from school, I called May right away. Her mother picked up the phone.

I asked her what was wrong with May. She told me they didn’t know. May was in the emergency room. I hung up and told Mom what Hannah, May’s mother, had said. Hannah called again because she thought I was worried and my mother talked for a while with her. My mom said they thought it wasn’t anything serious and that I shouldn’t call May so they could have a day to themselves.

The next day, Thanksgiving, I called and left a message. I was worried. My mother was baking Thanksgiving dinner while I played around. We were eating dinner when the phone rang. My mother answered it and sent me away. I heard something like “There is a high cure rate.” I knew it was about May. What did May have? I pondered the illnesses it could be. She could have anything. Mom got off the phone. “What does May have?” I asked.

My mother replied “May’s parents want May to tell you.”

“Is it cancer?” I said

“I can’t tell you that,” my mother answered.

“Does it have to do with organs?” I questioned. If it was cancer it would have to do with organs.

My mother went to ask my dad. Then she came back. “No, it doesn’t have to do with organs.”

I was puzzled. What could May have? The phone rang; it was May. I went into my room and asked her what she had. “Well,” May said, “I have leukemia.”

I was shocked, but my voice remained calm. I could not believe it. Out of all the possible illnesses, this was the last one I had thought of. We talked about how boring it was at the hospital and how disgusting the food was. Tears streamed down my cheeks, and my eyes turned red. I was so scared that May would die — the most scared I had ever been in my entire life. My dog had died of cancer; would my best friend die too? My parents comforted me. I thought of the good things I could do.

I visited her once a week. One day we tried to get lost in the hospital. It didn’t work, so we went to the cafeteria. May’s parents were irritated. It seems that we weren’t supposed to go out of the unit that May was in. That was just one of our hospital adventures. May was trying to find hats on the Internet, so we looked at hats too. Most of the hats that May wanted were funny, like one with cat ears and a red pom-pom on top.

I wasn’t allowed to tell any of my classmates or friends that May had leukemia, and it was hard. Nobody noticed that May was gone for the first two days. Izzy was suspicious and wanted to make a get-well card for her. I got scared and told her that maybe she shouldn’t do that. On the fourth day May was absent, I almost told another friend about her. Teachers were kind to me, and I ate with my science teacher before she went to visit May in the hospital. My fifth grade teachers hugged me and told me that I was welcome to come back to their classrooms if I ever needed a break.

During the second week, the teachers told the class that May had leukemia. People cried and gasped. The class was surprised. A nurse came in and told us what leukemia was. Some people came up to me and asked me questions. I said I didn’t know the answers to any of them. It was awful.

Later, the head of our school talked about how May was doing. I made a split-second decision and described to the class what happened when I went to the hospital to visit. I told them about trying to get lost in the hospital and the time when May had a little snowball fight with the nurse. Some people were laughing. Everyone felt a little better.

It has been four months now, and since then, May has been in school and having fun. A group of us made a video for her. We found out that another classmate has cancer, and we will support her, too. My sixth grade class is doing a project called Bike4aCure. We will raise money for cancer patients and improve cancer awareness.

~Mariah Eastman

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