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Cancer World

by Kee MacFarlane

I never wanted to be an astronaut 
when I grew up
(though it was a popular dream at the time).
I loved my own little world too much
to long for the uncertainty of space.
I have traveled all over the world;
working, playing, giving lectures.
It was fabulous.
But I was always glad to come home
to my own world.
One place I never planned to visit 
was Cancer World.
I knew people who made that journey,
usually to visit others.
But, with a healthy family and friends,
I never took that trip.
I didn't have the proper passport;
didn't apply for the visa 
or read the guidebooks.
It wasn't popular
as a retirement destination.
It never made my bucket list,
that's for sure.
One thing is certain,
I had no intention of moving there.
And yet, 
here I am.
My relocation is almost complete.
My baggage, 
emotional and otherwise,
was packed up and moved with me - 
or put in storage, I'm not sure.
I didn't realize at first 
that you can't bring your family and friends.
They do get visitation rights
but they don't actually live in here with you.
You must find residents of this world
to share your journey, to be your family.
You enter involuntarily with a diagnosis;
it's stamped on your new passport
where it stays with you forever.
It defines your new role, your work,
your place in Cancer World.
There is no return date stamp.
(I suspect that you never really get to leave
even if you do get out alive and well.)
I was slow to embrace the whole concept,
that day in the emergency room
when the white coats came in 
with Kleenex and faces full of dread.
I told them they were in the wrong cubicle.
"I'm the one who fell; not the one with cancer."
They said I was the one with both.
"But shouldn't you say it's a 'spot'?, I implored;
a shadow, perhaps... something suspicious?
Something uncertain at least, something
that leaves some room for hope?"
Their voices become increasingly garbled.
I watch, without comprehension,
their lips moving:  BlahBityBlah. 
A white coat pushes the Kleenex in my direction.
I understand that it would help with my eyes -
and I think about reaching for it - but I cannot.
I decide to focus on my breathing 
which has stopped.
I try to swallow but my tongue is stuck
to the sound of a train roaring in my ears.
Finally, they give up and leave me alone.
I am quiet and weightless;
floating above an alien landscape,
attached to the world by an intravenous tether.
My intercom must be off but I ask:
"Is this NASA? "
"No", answers the universe, "It's CANCER."
Alone in the dark, I begin to make resolves:
I will do the homework, the treatments,
wear the suit, the masks, the bald hairdo.
I will fight, and embrace my fear;
face the terror of the dark unknown.
I will bravely go 
where no one I've known has gone before.
My God, 
I've become an astronaut after all.