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Cancer Woman Rising

by C.A. Emerich

Look. She rises. She was brought down low, as low as a woman can be. She was poked, mammogrammed, sonogrammed, photographed; she was scanned, cored, biopsied, filled with dye. She was shot with radioactivity, prodded, jabbed with needles, her blood was sucked, and sucked again. She was laid silent on the table and slashed, precious parts that formed her image of herself hacked away, with some unseen parts, too. Then, before she could begin to recover, she was jabbed and bloodsucked again, and fitted with a tube in her veins, in preparation for the poisoning.

She was poisoned twice a month for a third of the year. She was poisoned then shot in the stomach with antidote, and poisoned again. She endured, though she looked down the long tube of suffering and saw herself diminished, her soul a tiny fragment in a whirlwind, shrunken, weak, helpless.

When she believed she could shrink no more, she was tattooed, laid on a harsh table, and burned with radiation for twenty-eight days, five days a week, a dozen zaps a side. At last, when she was further reduced, they released her tiny, flattened self, and she hid herself away for a while in the depths of stolen beauty, where she grieved, and waited like a cocooned moth.

But look! She stirs, she looks around her, and slowly at first, she rises! She rises with a fire growing in her desperate eyes, a flame spurting like dragon's breath that dares the world to just try to deny her! She rises like a Phoenix, a burned out shell growing sudden feathers and shaky wings that she spreads, first cautiously, then with brilliant determination. She shakes herself, moves her wings, and they make a great rushing sound that startles her, and frightens her family, her friends, and strangers passing by.

Who is this Phoenix Woman with the burning eyes? Why is she at once a flaming Phoenix and yet, her voice is soft, her smile is a peace rose, gentle and sweet. She is Cancer Woman Rising. See how she rises, possessed of a beauty most won't understand even if they are able to see it. She knows this, but she can't help but see it growing in herself as, day by day, moment by moment, the once flattened woman takes a new shape, fills a new space, and see how she rises! See how she rises! See how she rises in the bright blue morning of the spirit, in the shining, silver fire of the now.

C.A. Emerich has been a teacher in Santa Clara Valley, CA for twenty years. Writing has always been part of her life, as has music, particularly song. She was diagnosed with stage III breast cancer in January, 2008, and looks forward to the end of treatment, but knows that the journey never really ends, that once one has been through cancer, one's life is forever changed.