By Derek Frazier
With October being Annual Breast Cancer Awareness month, I wanted to credit this piece to my Grandmother, in honor of her bravery and courage while facing cancer.
“It’s ok to be angry,” my mother said. All my life I have tried to keep my emotions in check — I have a temper that I’m not proud of and it tends to be destructive when I loose control. I become agitated, and I yell, and I feel a strong desire to break things. I have had a pretty strong grip on my emotions but that control slipped through my fingers when my mother told me the news. My grandmother was battling breast cancer. “She didn’t want to tell you guys because she wanted you to focus on the last few weeks of your schoolwork,” my mother continued.
I’ve always been close with my grandmother. Closer now than ever before. This was because of her and my grandfather’s decision to move to Hagerstown with us almost a decade ago. Nana is the one who picks me up when school is over, and we have strong heart to heart conversations on the ride home. We talk about the weather, and politicians, and media when we aren’t trying to outplay each other in the “punch buggy” game. I couldn’t believe that my Nana was sick. I had grown so accustomed to her presence. Her laughter. Her wisdom. Her sarcasm. I couldn’t imagine a life without her.
My sister Evee was riding shotgun when Mom told us the news, I was in the back seat. It was easier for me to hide the tears that slowly trickled down my face. Though trying to keep my breathing steady was difficult. Mom could hear the uneven rasps as I tried to breathe just as she could see my sister’s tears.
” I know you guys are sad,” my mother said, “it’s ok to be sad. It’s also ok to be worried for her and it’s ok to be angry.”
It’s ok to be angry? I remember thinking. To me nothing about this was ok. I was angry at her cancer, and angry that we were having this conversation in a car. I wanted to scream. I have never felt so overwhelmed.
I had too many questions. How advanced was the cancer? When was she getting treatment? Will she be ok? Was the cancer terminal?
The worst part: I couldn’t do anything! Due to my height and personality my family nicknamed me “the Gentle Giant” and I was raised to always be positive, to help others. But it’s frustrating when this is something I can’t do anything about. I can’t combat it with cheesy one liners or humor. I can’t make the cancer cells go away with a hug or a warm smile. No matter how hard I try. The feeling of uselessness was unbearable. I don’t like being angry but that’s all that I seem to be right now.
I’m not mad at my Nana, with all that she’s been through, I don’t think I ever could be. I’m angry at cancer. I’m angry that it’s put her through hell. I’m angry that it decided now is the time to act up, when my family needs stability.
I’m so proud of my Grandmother. Nana has overcome so many challenges following her diagnosis. Hurdles and problems that I could never face and defeat in my wildest dreams. Her strength and resilience is the only reason I haven’t broken into pieces yet. Both her courage and my mother saying it’s ok to feel anger. I’m allowed to be mad and enraged because sometimes that’s the only way we can comprehend and handle things like this. It’s what makes us human.
I made a vow when my mother told us about the cancer — I promised myself that I would be strong for my grandmother. I swore to stand by her with confidence and determination as she has healed and fought these past few months. I would never let her see my anger, only my smiles. I hope one day that she reads this piece. And I want her to know that I will stand by her even after her last dose of chemotherapy, she has been my role model and an endless source of inspiration.
Derek Frazier is a Sophomore at Barbara Ingram School for the Arts