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    BWS Stories - Contest Winners

    Contest Winners - Before There Were Pink Ribbons
    Sharing Memories from the '70s with the Kids Winner!

    Sandy Kelps - Born on the back edge of the Baby Boomer era, Sandy’s favorite decade has always been the 1970’s. Sandy currently works as a copywriter for an industrial supply catalog. In her free time, she is a member of the Village Vocal Chords, an International-championship chorus based outside of Chicago.

    Before There Were Pink Ribbons
    Sharing Memories from the '70s with the Kids Winner!

    In the spring of 1976, when the entire country was gearing-up to celebrate the Nation’s bicentennial, my mom was gearing-up for the fight of her life. She was diagnosed with breast cancer, which was essentially a death sentence in an era where mammograms were not yet invented, and foundations like Susan G. Kommen were not yet established.

    My mom, a young woman of 38, spent long stints in the hospital: a desolate place where rules were strictly enforced by stern women wearing white tights and thick-soled shoes. Not unlike a librarian whose primary function was to ask, “Did you check the card catalog?”, a nurse’s main responsibility was to monitor patients’ rooms to ensure there were only two visitors at a time, and to verify visitors were over the age of 16.

    As a twelve-year-old, I was pulled out of school and forced to endure endless days at my aunt’s house, bored out-of-my-mind doing gratuitous amounts of homework and watching the soaps on cable-less TV. The evenings were no better, as after dinner we were certain to watch a rerun episode of Star Trek before retiring to the 3000-piece puzzle that had a permanent home on a card table in my aunt’s basement. Day after day, night after night, I grew weary of this life and missed my mom terribly.

    I am not sure what prompted my aunt to make a drastic change to my routine one day—it may have been my state of depression, or it may have been bad news from the hospital—but regardless, my aunt called me into her bedroom and started selecting clothes from her closet for me to try on. She mumbled something about the need to appear sophisticated as she cracked open a plastic egg containing a single pair of L’Eggs pantyhose, then asked me to hold still while she applied eye shadow, blush, and lipstick to my face. Before long, I was sitting in her station wagon listening to her fail-proof plan for sneaking me in to the hospital.
    I was shaking as we blew past the front desk—partly because I was unstable in my aunt’s high heels, but also because I knew we were supposed to obtain a pass before proceeding. We rode the elevator to the third floor and were almost in the clear; that is, until a nurse stopped to question me. After a few smooth words from my aunt, the nurse conceded and escorted us to my mom’s room. As the nurse pulled the curtain back to reveal my mom’s bed, she said with a wink, “Mrs. Bresnahan, I’d never believe you were old enough to have a 16-year-old daughter if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes!” My mom extended her arms with a big smile and the nurse quietly left us alone. I crawled into bed with my mom and she held me for the last time in my life.

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