When You Find a Lump: A cancer poem

I was fortunate to be invited to read some of my poetry May 5, 2017. I shared the stage that evening with a very good friend of mine. It was the first time we’d read together so that was exciting. We had a really good turnout of over 50! That’s a phenomenal amount of people to show up for a poetry reading on a Friday night without a big headliner.

I read a mix of new and old work. I was so happy that I started producing work again. It was a real struggle to do anything other than exist while I was going through treatment. The poem I’m posting today is one of the new ones. It is written in the vein of the children’s book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. The premise of the book is that if you give a mouse a cookie, he’ll want milk. If you give him milk, he’ll want a straw, and so on. It’s an ever escalating cycle that, of course, ends with the mouse asking for a cookie. I thought that it was a perfect way to describe how it feels to be ill.

When You Find a Lump

When you find a lump in your breast, you go to the doctor.
When you go to the doctor, the doctor says, Huh.
When the doctor says, Huh, you get a mammogram.
When you get a mammogram, they say, Yep, there’s a lump.

When they say, Yep, there’s a lump, you see another doctor.
When you see another doctor, they order more tests. 
When they order more tests, you see another doctor.
When you see another doctor, she tells you that you have cancer.

When she tells you that you have cancer, you get to choose your 
     treatments.
When you get to choose your treatments, you realize there’s no 
     choice at all.
When you realize that there’s no choice, you start chemo.
When you start chemo, your hair falls out, you feel tired & nauseous. 
When your hair falls out, you feel tired & nauseous, you know the 
     chemo’s working.

When you know the chemo’s working, your doctor talks about surgery.
When your doctor talks about surgery, you get to decide if it’s one 
     breast or two.
When you decide if it’s one breast or two, you go to sleep & hope 
     you wake up.
When you go to sleep & hope you wake up, you’re a little sad you did.
When you’re a little sad that you did, you smile anyway, and say, 
     What next?

When you smile and say, What’s next, the answer is radiation.
When the answer is radiation, you’re going to burn.
When you’re going to burn, the doctors wince. 
When the doctors wince, you know it’s bad cause who the hell 
     makes their doctors wince?

When you make your doctors wince, you know treatments are nearly over.
When you know the treatments are nearly over, you become filled with 
     anxiety.
When you become filled with anxiety, it’s because you know, you’re not 
     in control of cancer coming back.
When you know you’re not in control of cancer coming back, the shadows 
     become just a little darker.
When the shadows become a little darker, you’ll always fear a lump 
     in your breast.

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