Last February, my doctor called,
her voice shaken as she told me
I had cancer. Not an oncologist,
not the sort of news she often
delivers, and to one so relatively
young. It was a few days, or maybe
weeks — everything blurs already —
before they gave me a prognosis.
They’d caught it early, the dice roll
in my favor, everything would
(probably) be fine.
So here we are, halfway through
a year of treatment, the disease
mostly gone. From this point on,
it’s prophylactic, searching for any
microcancers, waging war against
the possibility of recurrence. Let us
starve and poison the beast, let us
cut and burn the ground, denying
it re-entry. That’s the hope.
My birthday, and the kind wishes
are pouring in. Hopes for many
happy returns, and I am grateful,
remembering that February day,
the cold wind sleeting outside
my office. I sat alone with the news,
waiting until I had stopped shaking
enough to drive safely home.
That day, I did not know if I
would live to see this birthday.
Cancer is the second leading
cause of death in America, right
after heart disease. One or the
other will likely get me, get you,
in the end. This is what it is
to have a birthday — we come
with expiration dates as well.
All we can hope is that between
beginning and end, there lives
a great exuberance — of friends
and family, love and laughter,
balloons and presents and cake.