The Color of Cancer

For this the beginning of Breast Cancer Awareness month, we the stage four terminally ill are allotted one whole day, October 13th. I was diagnosed de novo (from the beginning), as my genetics, dense breasts, and missed diagnoses led me to my prison cell on death row on March 25th, 2015 at 4:30 am. I remember that moment like a mother remembers the time she gave birth to her child. And the moment we’re born our life begins ticking away – life is terminal. Yet I know what it feels like to know I’m going to die and from what. It’s no abstraction like it is to someone who has said to me, “well, we’re all going to die someday.”

You’re right. But the truth is you can make long-term plans, can envision your future, can see a purpose to your life. I’m jealous of you. Don’t talk to me about your unhappiness over your wrinkles or getting old or having a breast reduction. I don’t want to hear about it – be happy with your beauty. Beauty lies inside all of us. Accept the joys of aging with grace, just as I’ve accepted my death sentence. I may have a week or a year or seven. Who knows. But don’t steal my #hope. Don’t take away #love. Don’t leave me in #isolation. Look deeply into my eyes, where beyond how good I look you’ll really see my #pain.

So in honor of this “pinktober” I leave you with my poetry. My writing defines me now as does my stage four cancer. I hope it’s a poem that stays with you because I’ve laid it out without much metaphor to hide what’s inside and hurts with pain so deep it’s beyond the soul. Peace peace, beloved body heal thyself I pray each night… as a dear woman I knew would say while holding my tear soaked face. She dedicate her life to healing those with terminal cancer and we lost her two years ago – she’s with the other angels who love us along with those we’ve lost. And one more is one too many.

My ugly secrets hide beneath my thin skin. Am I disdainful, dreadful? I must die from my sins.

Infinitely fighting in my lonely final tour, I miss the cut by a late stage four.

A survivor staring into the eyes of the dead, guilty for it’s them and not me instead.

Now home I’m stitched together a drain in my gut, my heart beats in inside the death of a thousand cuts.

Side by side in an endless parade, seeing you lockstep the line shorter each day.

Fading away in the testbeds of science, fitted with armor in a dangerous alliance.

Open up our uniforms – we’re memorialized by pink scars that magic potions materialize.

I return home to live like a bird in a cage, with an open door I won’t fly…too afraid.

Try to coax my mind from this prison by tying pink ribbons. Those around my trunks – drawn scars from incisions.

Please just turn tearfully away from my door. It’s your fear of emptiness, leaving burnt offerings a taste I deplore .

I found a card you’d attached to the devils food cake. The note simply said: “with love, please keep the plate.”

In the suburban foliage I am incinerated, by the needle of agent orange my body’s obliterated.

With unsteady eyes I scan the papers for new a strategic position. Yet hiring the dying requires expensive supervision.

I find work as a suicide bomber and spend my days toiling in my pajamas.

I want to wear my cancer on my head, and I turn up my collar, so you won’t notice the scars I wear medals of honor.

My arms decorated by kisses of needles and iris colored bruises that came with my freedom.

Yet I cover myself in an empresses’ new clothes, embroidered with test results and dyed the color of roses.

I’m too ugly for a bouquet of flowers that I’m too pretty to receive in the 11th hour.

And ‘neath all this painted on beauty for which you judge me: Looking too good you begrudge instead what you can see.

My lies hide inside tunnels, only discovered in pink undertones, which light up and contrast with my beautiful bones.

Your eyes downcast rolling inside your shaking head in disbelief, stealing the last of my pride like a thief.

To you I’m just another junkie begging for a day without rain, without any pills that ease my pain.

You find me anonymously in an infusion chair , sitting and sweating and praying you only stare.

I am the Marine who comes home in a body bag without any glory, no pink procession, no honorable discharge, no war stories.

How you turn and march away, goose-stepping in formation waving goodbye to my face with your dollar donation.

I bravely smile at you searching blindly for another word for death as you back away, guilty.

Looking down my rifle’s sight, I find myself in the mirror, knowing I may not find tomorrow.

Don’t wonder where I’ve gone and don’t answer my cries, instead live on in my legacy and say, “goodbye.”