The Cancer Patient Talks Back

Molly Redmond

From The Cancer Poetry Project (Karin B. Miller, editor), Fairview Press, 2001

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No.
I don't want to hear about your uncle
and how he lived three years
after being diagnosed.
And I don't want to hear
how many times your cousin threw up
when she had chemo.
Nor how your neighbor's baby
had twelve toes
maybe from radiation.

And I don't want your sounds of pity
simpering about my situation.
Pity separates us and
with one out of three getting cancer now,
pity won't keep you safe.

I have suddenly crossed the boundary line
of the risky circle called cancer.
It has made me public property, like being largely pregnant.
People invade - an assault of connections -
for reasons fair and foul.
Strangers on elevators. Acquaintances.
The medical cadre, too.
Either way,
I am covered with fingerprints, with labels.

Yes.
I will take hugs, help,
plus anger, strength, and love.
But the only person I want to hear about
is your Grandma Ruth,
who was diagnosed at fifty
and died at ninety,
skydiving.

Otherwise,
hold your tongue.

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