“I’m a bit concerned about your x-ray … here’s why …”

He flicked on the light box and snapped the film into place.  And instantly – instantly – I saw it.  To this day I can’t remember if it was a gray mass or a gleaming white mass – but it stood out – as ominous as a pit leading straight to the center of the earth.

The doctor rambled on – somewhere in the distance – but to this day I don’t remember his words, either.  My face and toes and fingers had gone numb, and I was swallowing – swallowing – swallowing – trying not to throw up.

[In the BONE?  No.  No.  NO!]

“Wait,” I gasped, and the doctor fell silent. “Cancer?”

“I believe it’s some sort of neoplastic activity.”

“You don’t want to say cancer.  But I want the truth.”

“We don’t know yet.  But it’s possible.”

The rest of that visit is a blur.  I remember a handshake, some hugs, and some crying.  I remember a few people trying not to look like they were staring.   I remember very loud fluorescent lights – humming – and a cold feeling that would not go away.  I remember clutching a fistful of paper till my hand bled.

And somehow I ended up on a bench in the hospital lobby during a torrential rain.


The wail rose in the back of my throat but could not pass my clenched teeth.  I could only sit and rock in mindless terror, while an endless stream of cars rolled through the rain.

raindrop sinking gone haiga


Carpe Diem Haiku Kai: Raindrops

raindrops at curb



32 thoughts on “sinking (haibun)

  1. When I reached the Monty Python I had to chuckle “typical Jen!” 🙂

    But really the whole piece is typical of you, not only because of the honesty but also the sheer craft and control shown in the writing: it’s so dramatically ‘honed’, right down to the haiku, which couldn’t be more minimal and yet needs nothing more.

    Whether or not she realises it yet, I think your aunt is very lucky to have you on her side. All the best.


    • Thanks Blake — if she can keep her sense of humor along with her fight she will have a chance of beating this.

      So difficult to write this piece — I felt sapped for quite a while afterwards. So — again, thank you. 🙂


  2. Just revisited this post – was on my mind to add to my ”searingly honest” comment, that I read your fairy tale afterwards which was so good, and sort of made the previous comment almost irelevant! It was such a strong piece though. We lost someone a year ago, on Valentine’s day, in her very early twenties. Not being able to do anything was not a good feeling at all. I think outlook, yes, and staying away from poisonous minds.


    • Oh — I’m so sorry, Hamish. I remember your writing about it — that’s heartbreaking.

      Yes. Outlook is everything. And in terms of “poisonous minds” people need to avoid folks who get the “pity, pity, poor you” mentality too. You NEED compassion and sympathy – but you need strength – and you need people won’t give up on you too. I left a doctor who’d given up on me. Best thing I ever did.

      But on to the other comments. 🙂
      Thanks so much — I’m glad you liked the fairy tale too. Sort of “felt” that one – saw the images – but like a good fairy tale I’ll let everyone sort out the meaning for themselves 🙂

      All the best to you —


  3. Good for you! One, for pulling through. Two, for gathering the courage to write about your emotions that instant. Three, for sharing such a personal, private part of your being with the world. Good for you!


  4. It is a reminder that every day is precious…life is too short for all the spite and viciousness people indulge in. I am glad you are fine now. Any of us could get the C news and we all know someone who has. Always look on the bright side of life….dum dee dum ….:)


    • True. Your life could change forever in the span of a day – or even an instant!
      Thank God, I’ve finally hit that 5-year cancer-free mark!!!!

      All the best to you –


    • Hello Gemma —
      I wasn’t too brave *that* particular day — but it took a bit fight to write about it. 🙂
      Thanks so much for the wonderful comments and encouragement 🙂


  5. Wow dear girl … you described your feeling of that moment with such poignancy it was like being a ghost sitting beside you. This has got to be the most powerfully honest post I’ve ever read .. and the only thing that keeps the tears at bey is that I know you are now safe … what a fantastic woman you are.


    • Oh, thanks, Georgia 🙂

      I’m not fantastic by any means (!!!) I was just backed into a corner and had to come out swinging for the kiddo’s sake, if not my own. Thank God though — still here after ten years! Never would have believed that after seeing the x-ray. Took a heck of a lot of mind-shuffling and pep talks to feel hopeful.

      Hope it was okay to leave the post with Monty Python — couldn’t leave it on such a down note. And hey, humor kept me alive.


      • Monty Python is a fantastic uplift … you did well and humor is a mighty powerful medicine. That must have been harrowing to look upon … I think you’re fantastic for the way you brought this story home to us … and of course you had an inner strength few would have had to face something like that being cast upon them … the x-ray was not a lung x-ray I’m thinking … I’ve read you speak of the problem with your lungs … I’ve never quite been able to put the two together though.


        • Oh, it took a while to get that inner strength – starting out I was a total wreck! But an oncology nurse [ahem — you reading this, Kristjaan?] told me that 1) she’d known people with decent prognoses who let a bad outlook kill them, and 2) she’d known people considered “terminal” who were still around – after ten years – laughing at that “terminal” diagnosis! So I’d better get my act together! And she was right. No guarantees that humor will pull you through it — but a bad outlook WILL kill you.

          This particular x-ray was the initial leg x-ray. But the lung problem? Well … I’ve had 5 recurrences. One year had 3 recurrences. (Lung lobe removal, the leg amputation, and a lung resection.) Then a break, then two more lung resections. Plus there was chemo before the surgeries. So it’s been a hell of an ordeal. :O

          Glad you liked the Monty Python – again, I felt bad – couldn’t just leave people hurting, you know?


        • I’m so happy you found that nurse on your path! I’ve seen people who’ve had a lot less to go through than you just give up, lost my bridesmaid like that, one wonders if perhaps she’d still be with us if she’d just had more fight in her.

          You’ve certainly been through a lot and I’m stunned to see how much! Absolutely stunned .. which makes your story even more poignant and inspirational. Bravo for having the strength to tell it here.

          Monty Python is always fun to watch … and you did well to give this counter balance to your testimonial … humour, is one of our most important weapons to overcome life’s tragedies .. yes it might not resolve all your problems but without it you lose a lot of strength before even beginning.

          Thanks again for sharing all of this.


        • Well, the one lobe was just a TEENY lobe … and having scars was the *perfect* excuse for getting that “cover up” tattoo.
          So it’s all good, right? 😉

          I’m so sorry you lost your bridesmaid, Georgia. Some people just give up … had family like that too.
          But you can’t give up. Never give up, never give in, never, never, never.

          Hugs, Georgia


  6. Oh Jen you have described such an awful moment in anyone’s life. I do so feel for you in that circumstance. You have written this well and explored the emotion of that time with great clarity.


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