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On Receiving Results of a Biopsy | Survivor Man

April 2023 Vol 9 No 2

“I was diagnosed with stage II B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma, an aggressive type of cancer of the lymphatic system. Luckily, my prognosis is good. These poems are a selection of the many I wrote while undergoing chemotherapy and other treatments for this cancer. My most recent book of poetry is Running from the Reaper (available on Amazon). Between 2016 and 2021, I was the Inaugural Writer-in-Residence of the Charter for Compassion, with more than 5 million members worldwide.”
—John Smelcer, PhD, CAGS

Creative expression is uniquely part of the human experience. It is our pleasure to present this month’s Inspired Creations.

On Receiving Results of a Biopsy

“Cancer,” she said before hanging up.
And just like that, my world was shattered.

A single word,
the one they told me I probably wouldn’t hear.

“If it was cancer,” the previous doctors had said,
“it would be bigger by now, and you’d be in more pain.”

But they were wrong. They were all wrong.
The woman on the phone said it was aggressive.
I don’t like the sound of that.

For a long time I sat with the phone in my lap,
stunned, mumbling the word over and over,
each time the word becoming more real,
my future less certain, as if I was standing
before a cavern.

For the first time in my life, I understood
the way Noah must surely have stopped his labor from time to time, wiped his sweaty brow,
and gazed fretfully at the dark, rolling clouds.

Survivor Man

In my life I’ve survived
     a bear attack,
     a wolf attack,
and a bull moose that nearly drowned me
when it dragged me across a river while sleeping in my tent.

I’ve survived falling into a glacial crevasse
by clawing my way out with pitons;
and my brother and I once almost slid
off a mountain.

How bad can cancer be compared to what I’ve already been through?
I can tell you, cancer ain’t nearly as scary as that bear and them wolves.

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