A mean fish called Cancer: A new story by Amy Cahill

Fighting Words 2020: A short story by Amy Cahill, writer of My Mammy Lives in a Box


Name: Amy Cahill
Age: 17
School: Gorey Community School, Gorey, Co Wexford

A mean fish called Cancer

Amy Cahill
Amy Cahill

I heard my mammy crying this morning. I’m not sure why. I was lying on my bed watching TV, when Nurse Poppy came in and took Mammy outside the room. They only spoke for a few seconds, but whatever she said, Mammy really didn’t like it. She made a big gasping sound, like she was trying to blow out a candle. Then Mammy started to cry. She’s cried a lot ever since Cancer moved into my blood, but this type of crying was different. Mammy sounded like a wolf howling to the moon, getting louder and louder every minute.

Once I heard Mammy start to cry like that, I tried to listen to what Poppy was saying. What could she have said to make Mammy so sad? I tried my very best to hear their conversation, but with Poppy whispering and Mammy howling, it was very hard. The only thing I could make out was that Cancer had spread to my brain.

I don’t know why that made Mammy so upset. Cancer is just some mean old fish that’s lived inside me for this past year. Mammy told me that Cancer got too cold swimming around the sea, so he decided to swim around my blood instead where it’s nice and warm. Apparently when a fish does that it’s called leukaemia.

Because there’s no fish food inside me, Cancer has to eat the good guys in my blood, and that’s what’s making me so sick. Mammy and Daddy don’t like the fact that Cancer lives inside of me. They want him to go away, so they brought me to the hospital. Doctors really don’t like Cancer in there. I think they might even hate him.

Cancer is an awfully funny fish. At the start, the doctors made me take a bunch of pills to try to get him to swim away, but that didn’t work. I can’t really blame him for wanting to stay in my blood – the sea is very cold, but I’m sure I’m all toasty inside. I think I made Cancer very sad when I took all those pills. He must’ve thought I didn’t want to be his friend any more, but that isn’t the truth.

Ever since I started to live in the hospital, all my friends went away. Cancer the fish is my best friend now

Ever since I started to live in the hospital, all my friends went away. Cancer the fish is my best friend now. I wish he knew that. Sometimes I try whispering to my hands to tell him if he swam out of me, I’d keep him in a nice big bowl and feed him fish flakes every single day. I tell him I’d fill it with warm blue water. Surely, he would rather swim in blue water than in my red blood. I don’t think he can hear me though, because he never swims away.

After a couple of weeks, Cancer started to get angry at the pills I took, and he made me even sicker. Because the pills didn’t work, the doctors decided I needed something called chemotherapy. It’s really, really weird. First, Nurse Poppy has to put a huge needle in my arm. She says I’m a very brave girl because I don’t cry when she puts it in any more. Then the needle drip drip drips a bunch of medicine water into me, to try flush Cancer away.

Cancer hates chemotherapy. Apparently, it’s making him grow smaller, so I can see why he’s getting annoyed. I wouldn’t like it if somebody made me shrink either. Cancer tries his very best to make me stop having chemotherapy. He makes me super tired all the time. So tired that sometimes I can’t even keep my eyes open. Kinda like after you stay up to watch the Late Late Toy Show tired.

While I was having chemotherapy, he was super-duper jealous that I had pretty blonde hair and he just had scales, so he swam all the way into my head and made my hair fall out.

I was mad at Cancer when he did that at first. I look funny with no hair, sorta like an egg. But the more I thought about it, the sadder I felt for Cancer. He must be very lonely swimming around me all alone, so maybe he thought if he had hair, he could make some friends. Mammy told me I might be able to get a wig soon, which is super exciting. Then I can play dress-up again. It’s hard playing dress-up while you have no hair – no princesses look like you. I used to play dress-up all the time when I didn’t have Cancer. All my friends would come over to my house, and we’d put big, sparkly princess dresses on. I miss playing dress-up. I miss having friends.

I used to have lots of friends, back when I was in school. When I first moved into the hospital, they would come visit me. They brought me lots of flowers and chocolate. After a while though, they stopped coming. I think I might have scared them on accident. When Anna came in to see me for the first time after Cancer ate my hair, she screamed so loudly. She started to cry and ran over to her mammy. They haven’t come back since. None of my other friends have either. Now the only people who I see are Mammy, Daddy, Nurse Poppy and a gazillion different doctors.

It makes me feel not nice when people treat me differently because of Cancer. He’s just some silly fish. I can’t help the fact Cancer is inside of me. It’s not like I stole Dad’s fishing rod one day, caught Cancer and ate him or something like that. It’s not my fault at all. I’ve been trying my best to get him to swim away. Nurse Poppy says I can’t give up, and that I have to stay positive.

I want to go home so badly though. I miss my bed, with lots of fluffy pillows and soft pink sheets

It’s really hard to stay positive. Sometimes I think I’ll have Cancer forever and I’ll never get to leave the hospital. I want to go home so badly though. I miss my bed, with lots of fluffy pillows and soft pink sheets. Here the beds are all white and scratchy. I hate it in here so much. All day I’m just stuck in bed. It’s no fun at all.

Cancer is a confusing fish. For some reason it’s super dangerous for him to be in certain parts of your body. By the sounds of it, having him in my head is really not good. I wonder why Mammy is so upset about Cancer swimming into my brain. I think it could even be a good thing, he might be able to figure out a way to swim out of my ears. That would be really cool. Maybe he’ll want to be my pet when he comes out. I sure hope so.

Now I can hear Daddy out in the hall crying too. That’s really strange. He never ever cries.

But after Nurse Poppy got the doctor to come over, they all went a bit bananas.

The doctor said something about me having only a few days left with Cancer. But why is that such a bad thing? Is that not what they all wanted? Adults are very strange sometimes. I really don’t get why they’re so upset.

I only have a few hours left with Cancer, then he’ll swim away.