Category Archives: Remembrance

Cancer is Like . . . A Cancer

This is an excerpt from “See You Next Year, Maybe,” on I Am Not Making Up: Everyday Experience And/As Art.”

I often think, “cancer is like . . . a cancer.”  The disease provides its own metaphor, one that reflects its peculiar and deadly manner of effecting decline through abundance.  For various reasons, I do not feel shocked or traumatized by my own cancer experience; I’m more curious and intrigued than I am frightened or repulsed.  I’m interested in impermanence and dismemberment, spiritually as well as physically.

In a poem called “Cell,” Margaret Atwood describes cancer as ravenous and fanatical about its own life:

It has forgotten
how to die. But why remember? All it wants is more
amnesia. More life, and more abundantly. To take
more. To eat more. To replicate itself.

I like that idea, that my tumors might be—might have been, I mean—a sign of excessive enthusiasm more than of decay; though the truth is, despite the oft-stated notion that after cancer “every day is a gift,” I do not always feel that way.  There are various reasons for that, and they change over time.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Impermanence, Poetry, Remembrance