Cancer

RADIATION REFLECTION

By Victoria Rivas

1.
On the table, not permitted
to move, a huge gleaming silver
linear accelerator
radiates me. I must have been
abducted by aliens. I
secretly wiggle my fingers.
Will they notice, restrain my arms?

The highly focused beam targets
emptiness where cancer once lived.
Thirty-four days for five minutes,
my daily dose–killing rays that
damage cells, destroy genetic
material that controls how
cells grow and divide–has begun.

2.
Radiation machine
white noise over
quiet, I linger
in my thoughts,
list people with cancer.

Anna’s husband,
a recurrence of
blood cancer,
back in the hospital,
stem cell transplant.
Wayne, rejects colon
surgery,
won’t live with a urine
bag. He lives with
the cancer instead.

Two-year-old
Conner’s Facebook saga,
from glazed eye to
empty socket sewn shut,
Conner smiling.

Five-minute treatment, time
for all that. Still
imagine my own

death over
and over and over.

3.
A new alien
appears on day six, large
tan square with green
laser line
that cuts its center.

Is that a mouth? Or eyes?
It starts clicking.
I take it
to be their language.
The daily alien

with its round head,
green crosshair
eye scans, surrounds my
body. Hums, whirrs, buzzes
as my arms lay

encased in
a plastic mold made
especially for me.
More molds hang like
dry cleaning

on circular racks,
waiting to be picked up.
I wonder how
many more
have been abducted.

4.
Every day
I get up, dress,
drive 20 minutes.
Five minute treatment.
My body

artificially tired,
I will go home, sleep
an hour, maybe two.
Half my day
consumed.

I sit
wait to be called.
Radiation patients wait,
converse.

One woman
had six lymph nodes removed.
One won’t wear wigs
post-chemo.
Another collects them.
One shows us
her burnt, peeling skin.

I had
no lymph nodes removed,
no chemo.
Just bad temper,
fatigue, irritated
by time spent.

I leave,
go home,
decide to cherish
my half day,
cross off
calendar squares,
nine more to go.

5.
My right breast
went on vacation
without me.
My left nipple pink,
the right one
brown. Skin red, sunburned,
evidence
it sunbathed alone
on a beach
I don’t remember,
its private
itinerary.

6.
I escaped the aliens,
a covert operation.
No, that’s a lie.
I did not escape,
but no longer need
to pretend,
make my mind

withdraw, keep my body still,
resist the urge
to shudder as I lie,
my hips twisted,
awkward on the cold table
while beams
penetrate my breast.

Recovery, follow ups,
mammograms,
still to come,
but mostly I return to normal life,
my breast somewhat smaller,
a bit puckered,
scarred.

 

 

Victoria Rivas is a retired math/computer science teacher who now runs a martial arts school for a living.  She takes writing poetry as seriously as karate training. Her poetry has been published in many journals and anthologies. Her poem Keisha’s Gone, placed in the 77th Annual Writing Competition’s Rhyming Poem category and her poemYoung Adults took 1st honorable mention in the 2011 Split This Rock Poetry Festival contest. She has one chapbook, Doing Laundry, and is currently submitting a second book, Yo Miss! I Need a Pencil!, which includes both prose and poetry.

 

In order to learn more about radiation therapy for cancer, please visit the American Cancer Society or the National Cancer Institute for more information.

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