Boyle teen’s poem about grandmother’s cancer wins competition

Published 5:57 pm Monday, January 21, 2019

A Boyle County teenager’s poem describing her childhood memory of her grandmother’s battle with cancer has won first place in a statewide-and-beyond competition.

Mary Isola, 18, is a senior at Boyle County High School and wrote her poem, “Sewing and Coffee Fall Victim to Winter,” about her grandmother, Linda Lenox, who passed away in 2011. The poem placed first in the poetry division of Gilda’s Club of Kentuckiana’s annual contest, “The Write Stuff.”

The contest invites middle and high school students to submit essays, poetry, 2-D artwork and videos on their perspective on what it’s like to live with cancer — either their own or someone close to them. Gilda’s Club is a cancer support organization headquartered in Louisville.

Photo submitted
Mary Isola poses for a photo with her first-place award for her poem.

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“She was a big part of my childhood,” Mary said of her grandmother. “She was like my daycare when I was little.” Living right next door, Mary would stay at her grandparents’ home every day after school while her parents were at work.

“Cancer-wise, I never really understood it. My grandmother had always been so strong. She never got super ill,” Mary said. Even though she underwent a couple of surgeries during her eight-year battle with cancer, “it wasn’t something I worried about because she was so strong. I knew she would come through.”

When Mrs. Lenox underwent chemotherapy, Mary said she remembers her grandmother saying she had “the chemo bug.” She also remembers her grandmother lying down with a scarf wrapped around her head, under blankets with a hot cup of black coffee on the table as she watched daytime television shows.

A line in the poem reads, “The black coffee smell grew as the pills expanded, her tired eyes were kept open only by the strong coffee.”

Mary said she enjoys writing fiction, fantasy fiction and poetry. “All of my poetry I like to write from heart, not something that I imagined happening. It’s something that I feel.”

Mary is currently working on a poem about school shootings. “It’s always in the back of my mind,” she said.

Mary’s ambition is to major in English and history and become a copyright attorney.


To read “Sewing and Coffee Fall Victim to Winter” and other contest winning entries, go to