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Recombinant Hearts

by Carol Dorf

The card I turn over and hide in my deck, ready to pass to the next person the way you do in hearts. This is a game you don't want to play with your friends, but you do -- all the time, it's your friends and you are grateful that in the move from recliner to hospital bed, the time is short.

Recurrence, that's what we fear if we are able to reach the point where the traces of cancer are gone. Those percentage charts and who is to believe which side your case falls on.

I want to stop talking about cancer, and the way a swollen gland makes me think "Recurrence," So, I'll pass the card along, preferably to someone I don't know; though at this table, everyone poses with cardboard cutouts of the ones they love lined up behind them, so that you'll feel loving-kindness and a bit of sympathy and not pass that card along because the last thing we can do is say, "you take it -- you take this death," once we've seen their face.

Nothing to lose means you don't mind dying when you get down to it. Who can say they have nothing to lose, once they've seen their death averted.

Surgery, saying yes to surgery and tubes and scans means you believe there's plenty to lose. When I was young, I thought I had nothing to lose; that I could walk into death as a way to preserve dignity; or avoid pain; like those who escaped the gestapo, courtesy of a cyanide capsule. Maybe death would preserve an imagined self, successful, energetic and fashionable -- the kind of person who was pursued by jobs and lovers.

I didn't see the boy/man who shared my bed or the friends on the other side of the lattes.

It wasn't until my child quickened that I could see all there was to lose. That life, and all who were tied to me through landlines, and the brush of a hand at the door, and the husband pressed against me in the darkness. When my child was born I knew I was the only mother she would ever have, and that I needed to do my best to keep going,. So now I accept the violations of surgery, and all the rest.

Carol Dorf has had work published in Feminist Studies, Runes, Five Fingers Review, New Verse News, The Midway, The NeoVictorian, Edgz, and elsewhere. She has one school-aged child and teaches at a large urban high school. Her "cancer year" was in 2005, and she is doing well now.