My Personal Cancer Journey — Wrestling with Emotions

My grandson, Zachery, just turned thirteen (13) years old in late May — a teenager?! His mother sent me a copy of a composition he did in English class a few weeks ago that has given me a kaleidoscope of emotions. I asked and received his permission to post his composition which his teacher described as “the best writing I have ever received from a student.”

My Plain Face

By Zachery Mazzie-Smith

I was walking to the Watertown Boys and Girls Club with my friend Joseph. The sun shining on my face, the wind whistling by my head when I got a phone call, It was from my mom. She told me that I had to come home immediately. I was confused because I usually went to the club on that day. I knew that I was probably in trouble but I could not remember doing anything bad. So I had to hope for the best.


I walked into my house, pushing open the worn-down wooden door, creeeeeeek. I felt a slight breeze when I entered. All I could hear was crying, my mom was sitting down on the couch with tears in her eyes. She told me to sit down. My mom then, with a sort of shake in her voice, told me three words that I will never forget…

“Pop-pop has cancer.”


And at the moment when the words left my mom’s mouth, I felt cold. I felt like time slowed down and I was stuck, alone. I mean I did everything with my grandfather. He was my role model. He took me to New York and told me about the history of the Statue of Liberty. He was a teacher at a high school in Johnston in Rhode Island where he lived. My grandfather is a very warm hearted person, He is tall with gray hair and he always wears a polo shirt. He loves golf and takes me to golf camp all the time. I would say more but I can’t talk about him because it makes me sad. My mom was crying, but I just sat there with a plain face. On the outside I was plain and boring but on the inside I was screaming. It seemed my mom was saying something but my eardrums were as shocked as I was.


My mind was racing of all the possibilities that could happen – will he die? Will he live? Will he look different? What will happen to my Pop-pop? As all of these things go through my head, I realized that there is a big possibility of my grandfather dying. My heart pounded and I felt alone. As I sat there I remembered all of the fun things I did with Pop-pop. We went to New York, we went to Nevada, he took me to basketball camp, but as I remembered all of these things I felt sadder and sadder. Pop-pop always told me that you need to live life to the fullest because life is short and now I realized how important life is.


Emotions flew through my body happy, sad, scared, angry, alone, but on the outside there was one thing that my mom and everyone else could see… my plain face.

I cannot read this beautiful piece of writing (from a sixth grader) without tears, but they are both tears of joy, that he has such high regard for me and that he considers me a “role model,” and tears of sorrow when I think about the internal agony that my grandson is experiencing as he tries to come to grips with death. I feel sadness that I am putting him through this trial, yet I relish the opportunity, this summer when I will see him quite often, to talk candidly with him about my cancer and my looming death. There will be more to come on this subject. . .

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