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October is the month of many things. I’m not kidding, October has at least 100 meanings (nationaltoday.com, look it up, it’s fun). One of the many things this month stands for is Breast Cancer Awareness month. 

Now, this one strikes a chord. I was thinking the other day and was like, “oh shit my mom had breast cancer”. I realized I blocked it out of my memory. I’m not being insensitive. I never took the time to deal with the trauma it brought me and my family. I blocked it out without knowing. I blocked it out to not deal with it or accept that it happened. Poof, gone. Trauma is a powerful monster in itself. It moves in silence and does things without reason. I had to ask my best friend when it happened. I couldn’t even remember. I sat in my class and tried to pry into my own head. How could I not remember? I felt so guilty (I still do). I knew I could uncover what I have lost with one thing: poetry. Poetry rips open your head and finds the deepest memories, forgotten or erased and feelings so deep you can’t even describe them. 

My mom was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 2015. She had her last chemo on my 15th birthday. She has been cancer-free since. Here is what I wrote, a little personal but I hope sharing it does something and makes someone feel:

how can the thing that fed me and kept me alive

almost kill you?

there are lots of holes in my memory,

this one is monstrous.

it hurts to dive in,

the farther i go, 

the more that appears.

i see you in the hospital.

you looked so out of place. 

you don’t belong there,

you can’t be there.

the bucket of puke next to your bed,

the stupid minions poster we got you,

nana,

your unconvincing smile.

i see you telling us.

telling us you might die,

a kid’s worst nightmare.

i don’t remember what you said or how it sounded.

i can feel my skin burning from silenced sobs.

the apartment was frozen,

the air was afraid to move

because of the muffled tears.

i didn’t want you to hear but i heard you.

i hear the word chemo. 

selflessness is what comes to mind.

you were being pumped with poison and still slept 

on the pull out bed in the living room. 

“i’m ok guys. just tired”

everytime you would get up you would puke in the bathroom convincing yourself 

we couldn’t hear, 

sympathy meals from others,

uncomfortable silence and mouths craving the right thing to say.

i feel my body collapsing as you hugged dad.

your lifetime partner even though

you fell out of love and only talk through email.

i watched and listened.

frozen by the fear in your voice.

i remember your last chemo.

it was on my birthday, 

i don’t know which one.

it was snowing.

you told me about my birth story for the second time.

“it was a snowstorm. god it was beautiful. we almost didn’t make it to the hospital and the doctors were late because of it. but god was it beautiful. we stayed up all night and watched the ball drop. me and my little lovely.”

i feel guilty not remembering.

i guess it doesn’t matter.

i still have you.

god im so fucking glad i still have you. 

fuck breast cancer for almost taking the best woman

i will ever know.

i have lovely tattooed on my ribs.

you told me that you wanted the same on

your scars.

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Sloane McIlrath

Augustana '23

Hi! I'm a junior at Augustana College in Rock Island, IL. I'm majoring in creative writing and journalism with a minor in entertainment media. I have such a deep love for writing and all things creative. I hope one day I am able to create something as beautiful as many people have.
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