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Eighteen Ways of Looking at Cancer: A Featured Piece

Posted on Feb 4, 2007 by

EIGHTEEN WAYS OF LOOKING AT CANCER
by Eleanor, Louise, Lydia, Nell, Rosetta and Sandra

I
I love my mother, my brother and my grandmother
But I’m not ready to go and be with them yet
What about my three children?

II
Questions:
How are we going to proceed?
What is my chance of recurrence?
How did this happen to me?
Why am I even in this picture?

III
A lot of people think, “Why me?”
I never did go through, “Why me?”

IV
Pure and simple fear
Fear of what?
Pure and simple fear of pain
Fear of the next thing, and the next

V
Depression.
Sometimes you don’t recognize when you’re depressed.
There are some days when you just don’t want to talk on the phone.

VI
I felt like a marionette
My strings being pulled in every direction
They want me to have this scan, and this test,
And this bloodwork.
Where do you want me now?

VII
I left my body and the treatment
And the doctors–
I left them to the guidance of God

VIII
The whirlwind, the disruption
The chaos it created in everyone else’s life—
My husband’s, my three sons, their families, my friends, and mine.
Like a tornado had come through
It kept getting bigger

IX
When is this going to end?
Where is the end?

X
Lost in this never-ending struggle or tunnel
The struggle is the tunnel
On and on
Never-ending
Dark

XI
I want to say something about sickness
Not being able to keep anything down
Sickness on top of sickness
Complications of a weakened immune system

XII
So much information
Overwhelmed with information
Three bulging grocery bags
(And you’re sick. When can you read?)

XIII
Sleep
What’s a good night’s sleep?
Waking up exhausted
The lack of energy is indescribable

XIV
Burning,
Burning
And more burning
During radiation

XV
So tired doing basic things
Will I ever be normal again?

XVI
With all of that you have to deal with generalizations
And stereotypes:
“Oh, you still have your hair?”

XVII
Other people’s insensitivities:
“We’re not talking about cancer.”

XVIII
Other people’s kindnesses:
A bag of tomatoes
A rotisserie chicken.

[This piece was written at Cancer Services in Winston-Salem, North Carolina at a writing and healing workshop in 2004.]