(Note: The person in my life recently diagnosed with cancer wishes to remain un-named at this point. If you know who it is, and some of you do, please help me keep it a bit hush hush for now. Thank you for your support.)
And then one day cancer arrives
on your doorstep,
like an awkward party guest no one thought to invite.
In the form of a cluster of cells
in the breast of someone you love very much.
A worrisome pattern
on the grainy image of the mammogram.
Some dots, some lines,
Dot, dot, dash.
Dash, dash, dot.
A morse code
from a far off land,
a signal that something is wrong.
No larger than a grape,
it rattles the windows,
and bangs on the doors,
this strange illness, this awkward guest,
so that everything is the same, yet changed.
The couches and chairs in the same spots,
the refrigerator humming in the kitchen.
But suddenly everything looks different,
and even as you play, and make dinner, and take the dogs around the block,
there’s something lurking in the periphery,
a shadow darkening the corners,
the cold wind of worry on a hot, sunny day.
But I understand it, in a way, this cancer.
I hear its message loud and clear.
Something is very wrong with the way we are living,
poisoned water, poisoned air, poisoned soil, poisoned food.
Chemicals that change our DNA,
damage the delicate double helix strands that make us who we are,
that make us what we are,
so that the very building blocks of life are toppled
as if by a toddler’s chubby hands,
and we are left with scars and missing pieces
where we were whole before.
I can think of no stronger message
than our own cells turning against us.
Bones, and breasts, and organs, and brains, and skin, and muscles
fighting for survival.
Bodies turned battlegrounds.
Civilization strikes again,
this time very close to home.
Thank you for listening,