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Cancer as Fire

by Joan Moeller

This is my moment. I languish languid and safe, stretched on a floor with a candle burning, alone with shades still drawn in a darkest-before-dawn-darkened room, to practice positive imagery: my daily delight.

I can see an autumn ember illuminate a jeweled spark in a pile of withered leaves as I close my eyes to join The Cancer Caravan again, Gypsy that I am; but this time I journey through my thoughts, through my mind's eye, and against the backdrop of Santa Ana winds I've never felt nor seen. I know the Kona Winds well tho, have felt the delicate stroke of their familiar fingertips lifting the locks from my neck, like a lover searching for the softest sheen of skin to bend and kiss behind my back. Ignited now the pile of lacy autumn litter takes flight in that deadly Santa Ana wind, void of the tropical rains a Kona Wind leads.

I can only watch, helpless to catch and stop it while the bird-wings of debris take spiral flight in an ashen sky only to dive again, glowing and searching like a colony of cancer cells dividing and subdividing the error it is... a fire ball falls to earth the way my spirit sank when I heard the cancer news, now churning and hot against the earth, charring and cloning on the parched ground taking root there in spite of the weary Santa Ana wind that spawned it, glowing and flaming fire from center to seeking-edge... raging... boundless... oblivious to the thing that bore it the way the tumor defied the body that begat it; nurtured by the wind but no longer subject to its laws, the way Cancer roots in the body but ignores its mechanisms and feeds off it instead.

I watch the fire fuelled by an air where no water can fall and where nobody can stop it bare-handed, rampant in its destruction and impossible to touch or hold or absorb and finally, even defiantly, flaunting a life of its own. Cancer Incarnate.

The only water I can find anywhere at first, to snuff it out, is dripping from my own eyes slammed shut against the vision, the tears of One Woman not enough to stop it, not any of it, not the fire nor the cancer not the double down of generations from the first breath of it to windswept Life: the secondaries and thirds and then fourths scattering thru the southern region taking root themselves and each burning a new hole in the landscape that my meager tears cannot extinguish, daring a gypsy band from my history to fabricate a seam somehow and I am overcome by the heredity of it all... Considering Cancer as generations of wildfires that are born in hours and burn unclaimed side by side for days.

I can hear the fire roaring to life in my interminable Chemo Aftermath like a terrible song, ringing in my ears like some waterfall that must have vanished before I was even born and I cover my head with my hands to stop it. In the silence there I am wondering what they would do to me and my Motley Crew of ancestors and survivors if we broke the law and the levees, a gypsy jaunt of dam breakers who flooded everything instead so that what remained would only be soggy and soaked, but not Gone.

"Been There Done That," my god whispered, pointing to New Orleans on the map, and I know for sure that again a balance has been lost for now. This is my moment. I lay stretched on a floor with a candle going out and dawn's sunlite beginning to steal thru the louvered windows, watching my meditation.

I prayed for the Kona Winds then, that lover's breath which heralds tropical rains to wash a kiss and a tear away; and I thanked my god and the Santa Ana winds both that only my kidney is gone but that my heart still beats strong and my hands can still tremble in trying to reach thru the gossamer confines of body and geography and disaster reaching still to grab a stranger's hand in tears and hold on....

Then in my vision the slick yellow plastic suited firefighters begin to troll thru the flames in repeat queue's, trudging and marching looking like a spit of bumble bees teaming to work for their queen, serving salvation and promising it, determined that The Stuff might be consumed but The Life can be saved, firefighting the way my Chemo Barons fought to finish off the alien Intruder Cells, and still save my life.

I can watch rotation after rotation of fire fighters toil to exhaustion for the people they serve and I wish I was there and am so glad I'm not, all at once.

I know my place. I am here in the north, safe in my gypsy spirit with the audacity to pray for a tropical rain in the middle of October at the backs of survivors to the south.

This is my moment. I languish languid and safe on a floor where Cancer has touched me like a wildfire destined to smolder in the end and where still I am alive again, witness to a world where the flames promise to die instead of me. I open my eyes to join The Cancer Caravan, Gypsy that I am, and waken to daydreams of blissful boisterous explorations made with a crew of rain-drenched Wistful Wanderers. I waken alive and supple and liquid-languid and on the floor, a gypsy refugee of The Cancer Wars.

Joan created this piece in the wake of the San Diego Wildfires, while participating in the Stanford University Blake Wilbur Cancer Center Concierge Service's ongoing Cancer Writer's Workshop: "Writing Thru Cancer." "Cancer as Fire" is excepted from THE CANCER WARS a collection of unpublished essays by Joan Moeller, ©2006, all rights reserved.