Do you have small kids and don't know how to talk about cancer to them? In my experience, a story could be the solution.
The first time I heard the word "cancer" I was 9 years old. My grandmother Priscilla had just been diagnosed with colon cancer and metastases in the liver (the same type that Lalo had) and she was about to start her battle against cancer. Even though at that age I did not understand what it meant to "have cancer", one of the ways I found to deal with her illness was to write a story.
My childhood was a happy childhood. From my dad's side, I am the oldest of 10 cousins; and from my mom's side, I am the one in the middle. I grew up surrounded by lots of cousins and of Fridays at "Grandpa's house" where we did everything and never stopped imagining. For this and many other reasons, "Grandpa's house" is my happy place.
I wrote this story in one of those many Fridays at "Grandpa's house" and then I edited and updated it to show it in the homage of Lalo (whose ashes we plant in a beautiful tree for him to live forever).
"The Elixir" is dedicated to Lalo and grandma Priscilla.
My López Family
Illustration by Sarely Rodríguez (sasa_lop)
It was a typical Friday at Grandpa's house. The adults were gathered around the table having a good time while we (the children) invented new games and let loose our imagination.
The kitchen's telephone began to ring insistently. My grandfather answered, listened carefully and after a while, hung up.
"We have to go to NASA. They say it's urgent, but I do not know anything else."
At NASA we were received by a blond-haired astronaut named Sebastián.
"López Family, we need your help. A group of scientists created a virus called Pisces with the power to destroy planet Earth and only you can stop it."
Sebastian started to tell us about the mission. We would have to go through the solar system searching for the elixir against Pisces and bring it back to Earth before the virus mutated, since our children cells were the only ones that would resist traveling at the speed of light.
They led us to NASA's fastest and most powerful ship, the Panda-T1516. We were shown the scheduled route for the mission and the basic buttons of the ship. Before the adults had time to get over the surprise, we were on board and ready for the adventure.
10... 9... 8... 7... 6... 5... 4... 3...
"Remember to do it the best you can!" my uncle Lalo shouted at us.
3... 2... 1... We took off!
We were going at the speed of light and we felt our faces deform.
"Wuuu! This is so cool!" said Pacho.
We arrived at Venus at night. We carefully parked the ship and we climbed down with fear because we did not know what to expect.
"Aaaa! Something moved over there!" shouted Paola.
"Aaaa! It's an alien!" responded Pacho.
"Aaaa!" the alien shouted back and we all ran to hide behind a big bright rock.
"Hello alien! What is your name? Can you help us?" asked Dany "We do not want to hurt you. We are just looking for an elixir."
The green alien with four arms was called Nicolás and he turned out to be friendly. His two antennas translated any language and that's how we got to communicate with him. He took us to the closest store and bought us a jar of a glass-like material.
"On Venus, we do not have elixirs, but we make flasks with the ability to store any substance. I hope you find it useful and good luck!"
We thanked our new friend and boarded again the ship to resume the search.
We landed in Mars in the middle of a heavy sandstorm and ran to a cave where we thought we would be safe.
"Fire! Someone is throwing us fire!" shouted Paola.
"Get out of here! This is my cave! Get out!" was saying an angry Martian with one eye.
"Please Mr. Martian, let us stay until the storm passes. We will not stay long, but we are looking for something very important," Ximena told him.
"Please! Please!" we all asked.
The Martian agreed to our pleas and stopped throwing fire.
"Hello! My name is Emiliano. Who are you and what are you doing here?" the martian asked.
We introduced ourselves and we told Emiliano our important mission. Because he had certain affection for Earth, he decided to help us.
"Since the lakes and seas evaporated, here in Mars there are no elixirs. However, I know where to find a very rare item that can exponentiate any substance. Let's go!"
Emiliano guided us through some caves to a gigantic cave that was well illuminated. In the center, golden bubbles floated harmoniously. Emiliano took three with his hand and put them inside the jar that we acquired on Venus. At the time of falling, they became a liquid and red substance.
We returned to the ship very excited because we were getting closer to finding the elixir.
On the way to Neptune, we passed in front of Saturn and its rings delighted us with a spectacular view and music. The "bambinas", Saturn's aliens, approached our ship flying and although they told us that the elixir was not there, they gave us saturnian music to cheer up the Earth.
At last we arrived to Neptune. It was the most populous planet in the entire solar system and was full with fountains of stars and flying fish.
We met two aliens named Mateo and Patricio who took us to the largest elixir source on the planet. They filled our jar with a silver liquid that, when it came in contact with Mars' substance, turned into a phosphorescent pink.
"I'm thrilled! We are going to save planet Earth from its destruction!" Dany was jumping and shouting with joy.
"But remember," Mateo and Patricio warned us, "the substance will only work if it is poured into something that will live forever."
We boarded the Panda-T1516 and headed back to Earth.
At NASA they congratulated us for successfully completing the mission, but when we told them about the neptunian aliens' warning, their faces went from happiness to worry.
"Something that will live forever? We are lost" said Pachy.
At that moment Lalo and grandma Priscilla turned to see each other with a smile.
"Not necessarily," said Lalo. "All we need is a tree."
"A tree?" asked Alejandro.
"Yes. A tree is infinite because its roots connects us to the earth at the same time that its trunk rises towards the sky. It is seed. It is fruit. It is the cycle of life, transforming, endless and eternal" answered grandma.
"With the magic elixir, the tree will heal all the wounds of the planet. It will let us play forever in its branches and rest under its shadow. Those who embrace it will connect with all living things on all planes of existence," Lalo said.
"And there will be no absences," added grandma Priscilla.
Lalo and grandmother Priscilla poured the pink substance in a beautiful green tree that in a few seconds catched the beats of all the hearts gathered there and shone with the light of the stars.
You can watch the animated story here (dialogues are in spanish):
NOTE: Thank you all who participated. Thank you Sarely Rodríguez for all the illustrations and the animation of the story. Thank you Sound Machine for helping me with the audio.