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  • Martha Rasche

My Cancer, Past Tense

Earlier this month, my medical records at Community South Cancer Center were changed from non-Hodgkin lymphoma, diffuse large B-cell, to “history of lymphoma.” With a few strokes on the keyboard, my oncologist put the malignant cancer that upended my life when diagnosed in March 2015 into the past tense.


My cancer, history.


At the time of diagnosis, I felt uncertain, scared, anxious. “Why?” I wondered at the time. “Why me?”


I was declared in remission in September of that year, and the cancer showed no sign of recurring from quarterly appointment to quarterly appointment and then semiannual appointment to semiannual appointment.


In 2018, a friend was diagnosed with the same kind of cancer I had. Early in her treatment, she died. Less than two months ago, a friend just starting chemotherapy for breast cancer died.


“Why?” I wondered with each loss. “Why her?”


While I have moved farther and farther away from my cancer, numerous relatives and acquaintances have been newly diagnosed or have had recurrences of theirs. “Why?” I wondered each time. “Why them?”


Conversely: “Why not me?”


Five and a half years looking back, my cancer seems like no more than a blip on an otherwise uneventful medical timeline. At times I feel guilt about that.


Why me, why not me — I don’t know. But grateful for the inexplicable, I now try to live each day without worry, resentment, anger or self-induced stress. I try to be present in the moment and aware of the people and things around me.


On the two-hour drives to and from the cancer center two weeks ago, on the kind of sunny autumn day that we in the Midwest hope will outnumber the rainy ones, I took note of the bursts of colors surrounding me. Fall always has been my favorite season, and I recalled a Helen Hunt Jackson poem: “O suns and skies and clouds of June, and flowers of June together, Ye cannot rival for one hour October’s bright blue weather.”

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