Auntie A and I

Waiting room stomach cramping

Dry lips and trembling hands hidden

Underneath a hospital green gown

Keeping modesty intact

But letting in the cold draft of the xray room

Mammogram for mama day

Breast sandwiched between icy steel slabs

Indifferent machinery radiation playing eye spy

Hide and seek with your tissue

Is it lurking here

Or there

Days pass

Phone rings

We need a closer look

It’s probably nothing, a handbook soothing phrase

Heart racing, it can’t be…no it’s not.  I won’t go there again this time

But you do

You see it again

A day from long ago

Auntie A showing Ma her mastectomy

You are ten and it’s a mystery

You ignore the order to stay in the kitchen with your innocence

Instead you rebel and sneak a peak in the crack in the bedroom and see hell

It’s a black hole where Auntie A’s right breast used to be

And the devils name is Cancer

And it is killing her

You hang up the phone in the present

Don’t say the word, you don’t have to, everyone else is thinking it too

We need to bring in the special forces of the ultrasound

Waiting room stomach cramping

Dry lips and trembling hands hidden

Beneath the plastic garment bag holding

A bra you may not need again

Two cups one breast

You start to panic

This way please you are directed down the narrow walk

The nurse says  your name too kindly

Your file is too thick

Cold table, dimly lit room

Romantic lighting for a sterile love/hate affair

Metal paddle sliding, probing

Settling on a black blob the size of a pea

Or a button

Or an aspirin

Or a tumor

Don’t say the word, you don’t have to, everyone is thinking it too

We’ll need to remove this and test it

You can go now

We’ll contact the doctor

You go home and think of that word, but this time you will say it and make it small

Just in case it’s there this time

Cancer

It’s like saying death

If you say it, it will scare it off

And it does

Until you go to bed and it lays there beside you

A hateful appendage like the breast you pretend isn’t there

The breast you have been terrified of for five years

Since they took out the cyst that wasn’t cancer

But wasn’t normal either

The one that put you on this twice yearly rollercoaster from hell

Needles aspirating

Lumps dug out

Biopsy

Safe this time

You leave the office feeling cancer free

You arrive home seeing the gaping hole that used to be your aunt’s breast

And you wait for it to get you too

Cancer

Yesterday was a particularly uplifting day. A beautiful woman I know told me that her cancer was shrinking, that her oncology reporte was positive and that a new treatment was working. Afterward I reflected on the glow of joy in her eyes and felt positive about my own struggle with the cancer fear I live with daily. On behalf of my friend, and many others who live with this hammer hanging over their heads, I urge you to donate. There may be people undergoing this very ordeal, people that you know who keep it quiet but nonetheless soldier on and by sending in even as little as ten bucks to cancer research, you are affecting their lives in a positive way.  More importantly, there are inspirational souls being tossed about in the sea of chemo, radiation, surgery and the ensuing physical suffering who may need a hug, so give them one.  Your encouragement means a great deal to someone fighting insurmountable odds in order to remain alive. Life is precious, enjoy yours, love others and remember that we are all mortal and the cash donation or hug you give today could be an investment for you or a loved one in the future if cancer knocks at your door. Pay it forward beautiful souls.

As an aside, ‘my own little lump,’ as I’ve come to affectionately refer to it, is the size of a small pea. It is directly underneath the scar tissue of the last surgery I had, to remove what was determined to be a precancerous growth (abnormal cells that haven’t yet turned into cancer) and for a while it was shrinking but now it isn’t. I will have ye olde mammogram in December and if it is the Big C I’ll do what I always do, and keep you updated, write a shit load of poems about it and generally puke it all out for art sake. If it’s not the Big C I’ll still do the same. Either way, take care of your health, love each other, say what you need to say to whom you need to say it and know that this moment is all any of us really has. All the rest, well it is utter bullshit.

Donate here:

Canadian Cancer Society 

American Cancer Society

British Cancer Research

Australian Cancer Research Foundation  

World Cancer Research Fund