A poem about a two-year encounter with advanced cancer of the head and neck.
As a psychologist specializing in clinician-patient communication, Greg has worn a few hats: university professor, associate dean, foundation executive and independent consultant. Diagnosed in January 2014 with high-grade carcinoma of the head and neck, he underwent extensive surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatment over the next five months. He and his wife Suzanne reside in Connecticut and are profoundly grateful to all the oncology professionals, staff and survivors who treat and support them.
Scorching embers soar aloft,
miniature torches in thick clouds of smoke,
driven by a fierce summer wind
that toys with the wildfire below.
Like fireflies, the sparks float away,
igniting more of the dry, wooded canopy as they land.
Cancer cells cast off sparks that float away,
inside the canopy of human physiology.
Riding along lymph, nerve and blood lines,
these fireflies create malignant hot spots,
too small to be seen as images,
too well disguised for the body to attack.
Once found, they require powerful regimens —
some massive and blunt, others small and precise.
The forest floor shows the first signs of rebirth.
Fragments of brush, grasses and seedlings take shape.
Over time the forest recovers.
From charred roots, rotted limbs and nourishing ash,
new growth feeds on the debris of the old.
Cancer care also moves on,
advancing its science, mourning its losses
and raging against the fire storms
while its recurring cycles endure:
sickness and health, relapse and recovery, death and rebirth.
Personal narratives endure as well in a community
of patients, families, trusted friends and healers.
In support groups our stories evoke nods, grimaces and soothing laughter.
Eyes once drained by surgery and radiation are misty.
Hopes rise, fall and rise again.
How fire flies.
How we yearn, and fight, for fresh new sprouts —
the seedlings of life.