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Medical Humanities

Cancer is a Weed

Sara Martin


June 26, 2015


Weeding in the hot sunshine
is harder than it looks but still
Papa likes to weed; he takes pride
in his immaculate garden.

But esophageal cancer is much
harder than weeding and makes weeding 
nearly impossible.

So I am weeding in the hot sunshine
while Papa sleeps in the dark, cool house.

The clover is tenacious, growing
in the dark beneath the lavender
hidden, asymptomatic
until it branched into the hot sunshine.

The clover spread locally 
to invade other plants
seeding smaller clumps of itself
like metastases.

Though the largest clump has deep roots,
the smaller clumps are more
difficult, there are…  so many
metastases all around.

Anger rises in my throat;
I shred green clover and pull white roots.
Grabbing at innocent plants
my fury justifies clean margins
I must eradicate all of the clover.

Papa had clean margins
through surgery and chemo
 – therapy, when
patients bond over
the possibility of death 
and the burden of living. 

Papa left the hospital today
with survivor’s guilt in his eyes.

I feel guilty that I do not feel 
survivor’s guilt. Instead I am
happy that – breathe – 
That he might be lucky, that
he might laugh a few more times,
And live a few more years.

I feel guilty that I feel 
no guilt, I feel guilty
on my knees
I continue
Weeding in the hot sunshine



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