We Don’t Get Cancer

My Beloved And Much Longed For  grew a thing on his face last year.  It was just a little thing, the same color as the rest of his face; his doctor didn’t mind and, come to think of it, it had a kind of De Niro charm.  He looked like he’d been somewhere. 

Then, just a little while ago, it looked different.

“I’m gonna get this thing off.” He said before he made his appointment.

Weeks later, he came home with stitches in his face, where the dashing mole had been.

I approached for inspection, worried that it might ache.  “So, you good?” I asked.

“Yes, they’ll tell me what’s up in a few days, when I get the stitches out.”

“Tell you?”

“The results of the biopsy.  They’ll let me know if they find anything.”  He kept taking off his coat, and I reached for the wall to keep my balance.

“Anything, like what?” is what I said aloud.  Inside, I said, “NO, NO, NO.”

His hat went on the top shelf of the closet.  He didn’t answer.

We’d had our share of trouble already.  I was thinking that our Traumatic Event quota must surely be full. It’s got to be full, right?



I wanted to kick him, the messenger and potential patient.  I thought maybe I’d cold cock him, throw him in the trunk of the car, and drive until we got somewhere frozen, where the sun shines least of all.  We could make an igloo and I’d go out ice fishing to find sustenance.  In the evenings we’d tell stories by some kind of whale oil lamp and drink Nordic healing tea.  They must have that.

But, we have house notes and gardens and work and school and he feels sad when he’s been out of the sun for too many days.

Riding the River Road

Riding the River Road

Instead, I turned on God.

“Are you freaking kidding me?”  I thought. “We get Cancer, now?  For better or for worse should mean that once you get some Worse, be it fire or flood or pestilence, you get to float on the stream of Better and live happily ever after.  That’s how it goes. Because I say so and not you, Dude. 

We. Don’t. Get. Cancer.”

I married him because he taught me how to tread water.  I figured I was doing just fine single, and if I’m supposed to yoke myself to someone else for the rest of my life, he’d damn well better be able to teach me something, especially things that’d previously made no sense.  Treading water was at the top of that list, along with driving a stick shift and what makes wind happen. Then one day he explained why I can tread water, not how.  Then he insisted I try, and you know what?  I caught on.  The fact that I could trust his logic and reason to defy my fears and manage the unthinkable… well, it made me believe I should keep him around a while.

Now, if he can do that, he can’t get cancer, because his genius had already made him Mr. Wonderful, and bad things can’t happen to Mr. Wonderful.

But they can.  And his thing was cancerous.

I heard his wedding vows, taken from The Song Of Solomon.

You have ravished my heart, my treasure, my bride.

You have ravished my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one bead of your necklace.

He still carries these words in his wallet, behind the tuck money.

His mouth was moving, saying other things, probably things like he’ll be fine, given the nonchalant gestures his hands were making.  But I could not hear.  I was thinking of Cape Cod, and the long naps we’d take on the beach, in full sun.  We’d wake up parched, our skin nearly turned to dust, only going inside for a sip of cool water.

And the cigarettes!



We seem to love nothing more than fresh carcinogens.

We’ve lived as if we like cancer.  Like we’d love nothing more than to lose a good thing like us for nothing more than nicotine and hot breakfast.

He was waiting for me to say something, it seemed.  But I was speechless, dumb even.

How sweet is your love, my treasure, my bride.

Your love is sweeter than spices.

“Shell?  Are you even listening?”

“No… yeah.  I got it. Basal cell carcinoma. Happens all the time.  Dermatologist appointment.”

Things come up.  Small at first, and may add a little dash.  And then, the thing becomes a larger, more threatening thing.  And then, time collapses.  Am I listening?

So, it’s only a thing; one more in a series of things which might be designed to remind us of our vows.  Remembering them, we know we can get through whatever might be thrown at us, minus the whale oil.

And then, life goes on.

Thanks, amen.

About thanks amen

Michelle is an artist from Milwaukee, Wisconsin whose professional experience spans working as an educator, nonprofit executive, and consultant. She has a fear of clowns and pecans, and works every day to listen at least twice as much as she talks.
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4 Responses to We Don’t Get Cancer

  1. Ernestine Griffin says:

    C-answer is the answer for something great. It only has the power that we give it. Send it back to its native nothingness. You have a great life, enjoy it. Let nothingness be just that, nothing.

  2. Eunice Lockhart-Moss says:

    And, it is just that. Nothing. Love life, every precious moment, by precious moment . E

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