Story of family’s experience with cancer wins writing contest

Girl's essay describes mother's experience with breast cancer

  • Apr. 13, 2012 8:00 a.m.

Laine Collie, a resident of Alberta who spends much time in Summerland with relatives and friends, has won a writing prize.

Collie, a 13-year-old Grade 8 student at  Ecole Airdrie Middle School, was one of 25 Canadian winners in the Scholastic Titanic writing contest. Laine’s prize was an MP3 player loaded with $100 worth of Scholastic books.

Contestants wrote about a life-changing event, and Laine told about the changes in her life when her mother was treated for breast cancer.

Collie’s grandmother, Joy Frost of Summerland, submitted Laine’s story to the Summerland Review



People are always changing and evolving. Sometimes on their own but usually an event pushes them in a new direction. The turning point in my life was when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. I was only seven years old, but I was old enough to know what that meant. I have always thought it was ironic how your worst memories are always those that are the most vivid and accessible. I can still remember what we were eating, the colour of the sky and everything that had happened earlier that day. It was a pretty big burden for someone so young to carry.

Ever since I could talk I had been arrogant and slightly insensitive. I quickly went from unsympathetic to numb. So it wasn’t so much a turning point as two years of changes. It was almost frightening to see the transformation in my mom. She used to be the kind of person who would wake up at five every morning and keep on going until 10 at night. In the next few months my mom was very tired all the time and stayed home in bed. I had suddenly become very emotional and would cry at the smallest things. No one understood and, being second graders, called me a crybaby, even some of my friends. That changed my life socially. It changed me somewhat physically, because I had started doing much more in and around the house. I was tired but happy that I was helping. It was very confusing and I didn’t understand a great deal of most of the things going on. I began spending many of my weekends and school hours tagging along with my mother to the hospital. Most people describe hospitals as being too quiet, and smelling too clean. I feel that there are too many things going on all over the place for it to stay quiet and the smell is usually never clean, except for the occasional whiff of antiseptic.

People tend to treat you differently when you or a family member are ill, like you have a disability. Others will tell you that you’re being very brave. If crying and pouting are considered brave then the world is a sad place. The treatment went on a whole year after the cancer was gone. There was chemotherapy and radiation. Whenever my mom went to the hospital I would give her my teddy bear and she would give me her bracelet, almost like a promise that she would be back.

My father was probably affected the most; I could tell how scared he had been. My dad is the most patient and attentive person I know. He became very upset during the whole process. It was never directed at me, or my mom, but it was always there. I was angry too, I suppose, at whatever unseen force rules the universe. My mom has four sisters, and each of them was very supportive through the whole thing. My friends from school and other activities noticed how differently I was acting. My close friends adjusted as well as they could. My mom had asked me to keep quiet about the cancer, which I understand now, not wanting my schoolmate’s parents to pry. Most people, unfortunately, where not that considerate. The kids started making fun of me, how I cried so much, and when that got tiresome teasing me about my appearance and my name. That followed me around all the way to middle school. Overall, I think the whole experience made us stronger, not only as individuals but as a family it brought us closer. This was the turning point in my life; it has made me a more kind and accepting person. It made me appreciate my parents more than I think most kids do. Sometimes I think that life’s toughest events are thrown at you only to make you stronger.


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