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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Childhood (09/03/09)

TITLE: Stinky Pirates
By Allison Egley


"Mom, why can't Michael come outside to play with us anymore?" William asked.

Mom sighed, and tried to explain to her son what she couldn't fully understand herself. "We've got to make sure he doesn't get sick. Remember when you got sick with the flu? Well, what happens in your body is almost like paying Hide and Seek, except there are lots and lots of people seeking. The flu is like the people who are hiding, and your body is trying to find them. Right now, Michael's body doesn't have any 'seekers' to catch the 'hiders.' So if he gets sick, even with a cold, it might really hurt him. The doctor word for the 'seekers' is 'immune system.'"

"Why doesn't he have any immune system?"

Mom wrapped her arm around her son and held him close. "Well, for this one, we have to switch games. It's kind of like 'Capture the Flag,' with one team being the cancer cells and the other team being Michael's immune system. Remember when the doctors gave Michael all the medicine to fight the cancer?"


"Well, let's pretend that there's already a game of Capture the Flag going, but the two teams wore the same color. Now lets say you and a bunch of friends are like the medicine, and you want to help Michael's body fight the cancer."

"But if the two teams wore the same color, we wouldn't know which were the good guys and which were the bad guys."

"That's right. For the medication to work, it has to tag all the players on both teams. That's the only way the medication knows it got all the cancer cells."

"It's not fair, mom. Why did he have to get cancer?"

"Oh, I wish I knew, honey."

"I know you told me we're not supposed to hate, but I hate cancer."

"It's okay to hate cancer. Cancer isn't a person. We just shouldn't hate people."

"Well then I definitely hate cancer. And I hate that you and Dad have to leave all the time to go with him to the hospital. And I hate that I can't play with him, and that Michael has to stay inside can't play, and that he has to go to the hospital, and...and..." William's words dissolved into tears. "Mom," he chocked through the tears, "Brandon in my class said his grandma died because she had cancer." The next words were barely audible. "Will Michael die too?"

Mom swallowed the lump in her throat. "I don 't know, honey. I wish I did." Mother and son held each other and let go of the tears they had been trying so hard to hold back. mom sniffled. "The best thing we can do right now is make sure Michael stays safe and can still have fun and laugh. I've got an idea. I know I haven't been able to spend a lot of time with you. Tonight, I'll ask Dad to stay home with Michael. Then, you and I can go out to dinner. After that, we'll go to the toy store. I'll let you pick out a new toy, and then we can buy some things for Michael too."

"I like that idea," William said. "Hey, I know! Let's bring the outside inside for Michael. We can have a pirate party, like Brandon had for his birthday. We can do an inside treasure hunt, and the treasure can be an indoor picnic. Maybe we can even have a 'duck pond' in the bathtub!"

"Now that is a great idea, William. We can even have a cake."

"Yeah. And I know just what to put on the cake too."

"What's that?"

"A skunk."

"Because," they said in unison, "Cancer stinks."

William leaped up from the couch. "I've got to go, Mom."

"Where are you going?"

"To make invitations for Michael's party. I'll need scissors, and glue, and paper, and...." William paused. "What should I put on the front, Mom? A pirate or a skunk?"

"What about a pirate holding his nose, because there's a skunk behind him?"

"Yeah! You can draw the skunk, and I'll draw the pirate."

"Why do I have to draw the skunk?"

"Because you're the one who takes Michael to the doctor to help him fight the stinky cancer. And I'll draw the pirate, because I'll help him have fun until he can be a pirate.... Whether it's for Halloween, or in heaven with God."

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Member Comments
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Noel Mitaxa 09/11/09
A great profile on family fun despite their pain and their struggles to understand. Totally credible characters come to life here.
Charla Diehl 09/11/09
Families that have to deal with cancer certainly carry heavy loads--especially when it's a child. I liked the way you presented this and how the brother showed such compassion for his sibling.
Ruth Brown09/13/09
What a great mom. Such bravery in the face of a cruel foe. I loved the little boys childlike faith!Well Done! Blessings, Ruth
Catrina Bradley 09/13/09
Even with the hints of joy, this is a very sad and moving piece. I love how the mother uses examples her son understands to explain what's going on in his brother's body. Good writing!
Joy Faire Stewart09/13/09
Many familes are dealing with similiar issues. I was glad to see a writing on the subject. The mother's explanations were excellent.
Joy Faire Stewart09/13/09
I meant "similar."
Chely Roach09/13/09
What a sad, charming story. Well done.
Jan Ackerson 09/14/09
This would be great as a booklet in a chilren's cancer ward!
Bryan Ridenour09/14/09
I agree with Jan. This would help younger kids better understand what cancer does to the body and what cancer patients have to endure. Creative take on the topic. Well done.