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I Want It Back

by Erika Sanders

Life cut me short a heartbeat. From "True Notebooks" by Mark Salzman

In a phone call. In a sentence. In a breath. My heart skipped one beat. Paused. Stuttered. Waited. I processed the concept of ambush in an instant and realized my response is all primal, but where do you hide when it's life as normal, friends expect a smile, family keeps telling you everything will be okay? Who do you fight? What do you fight? A cell is so small, and under a microscope even beautiful. Housed up in me, it's hard to imagine going to war. To fight myself. Shoot, isn't that what it's always been about? Cancer is nothing new then. The oldest battle known to man -- the one he wages in the dark, alone. Demons and dreams. Memories and wishes. I could thrash about in my moist, dark insides with whatever weapons they give me, but what if I hit something important? The collateral damage is me. Heart and lungs. Blood vessels and lymph systems. Lymph, like nymph. Tiny fairies, good and bad, moving along with my blood and fluids, trying to keep it all in balance.

It's not science, its magic. Find me a circle of mushrooms out in a field and I'll sit in it until I'm well again. Until my rogue cells come to their senses and defect back to the good side. I want my heart beat back, the beat that was -- free and loose and jamming to its own rhythm. The beat that had time to sway slow, to kick back, to groove late into the night. The beat that didn't give a damn if it was good enough, if anyone would remember it when it was gone, if its thump, thump, thump in the end would mean anything at all to anyone. No kidding the blood pressure is high. Physicians, the kings of the understatement. Find me my lost heartbeat, I demand of them. I want it back.

Erika Sanders was diagnosed with Stage 2 melanoma when she was 27 years old. Two years later she received her MFA from the Solstice MFA Program at Pine Manor College, Boston. She teaches writing to prisoners and blogs about her experience at www.teachingontheinside.wordpress.com. Her writing is inspired by the small but often life changing moments that happen each and every day and too often go unacknowledged.