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An Ode to the Oncologist Who Died From Cancer


A cancer survivor who is now in remission writes a poem dedicated to the oncologist who helped save his life but later died from brain cancer.

Dr. Oliver Press (University of Washington Medical Center, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance) was a social friend, a fellow lap-swimmer whom I got to know at the local public pool. When I was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and it came time to be treated via chemotherapy, “Ollie” was assigned as my oncologist. I have been in full remission for seven years. Dr. Press died of a form of brain cancer in September 2017. I saw him for the last time at the pool in June 2017. I live with the irony that the man who arrested my cancer died of cancer himself.

An Ode to Dr. Press

He’d burst into the room,

With energy he’d zoom —

A full-sized man of power,

Career fully in flower.

A top doc in the nation,

A cause for celebration.

If he can’t make you well,

There’s nothing left to tell.

Let me give him a plug:

He gave the magic drug.

He broke the evil spell

That was my deathly knell.

He always was on time,

His manner was sublime.

He always was my friend

Right to the very end.

Nobody worked so hard,

Blood cancer to discard.

He worked like 20 men.

He reached his peak and then —

Befell the dreaded blight,

And he was forced to fight

Into the cancer ward.

As lived, died by the sword.

A tumor in his brain —

It must have caused such pain!

His doctors tried to treat,

But all led to defeat.

As I was up about,

He was emptied out.

It’s easy to opine

He gave his life for mine —

And those of many more

Who had slow death in store.

Our lives had greater length

As he was sapped of strength.

We met before he passed,

So very near the last

Time he could take a swim —

That man was barely him.

He wandered in the lane,

Not sure he knew my name.

But he was kicking on

Till energy was gone.

If life on Earth were fair

Instead of losing hair,

He’d carry on apace,

And I’d die in his place.

He made me fully free,

He made the cancer flee.

How can I him repay?

I write this ode today.

This poem was originally submitted for the CURE® 2021 Poetry Contest.

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