The Oncologist and Her Ghosts

The Oncologist and Her Ghosts
by Donna Trussell

Her nightmares are blizzards.
Wind swallows words,
and faces freeze
beneath ice and snow.

She wakes with a start.
She rises, lies down, comforts
herself with memories
of another time

before cities, before textbooks
before patients who smiled
and joked and died.
No matter what she did, they died.

She recalls a night
on her father’s farm.
Southern gusts swayed
the moon-tipped trees

and above her were the only
gods she knew. She made a pact:
The stars would protect her
and she would save lives.

She was just a child then,
and even in Nebraska
summer seemed endless
and full of promise.

First published in Chance of a Ghost

Included in What’s Right About What’s Wrong

Ed. note: My poems are often just as fictional as my short stories, but I suppose it’s a point of reference that my oncologist Verda Hunter was both a victim and the heroine in the tragic saga of Kansas City pharmacist Robert Courtney, who was, in 2002, sentenced to 30 years in prison for diluting chemotherapy drugs. Although the rage against Courtney was justified, the sad truth about ovarian cancer is that it doesn’t need any help from greedy pharmacists to kill women.

From wikipedia: “In 2010, in the United States, it is estimated that 21,880 new cases were diagnosed and 13,850 women died of ovarian cancer.” That there is some discouraging math. Furthermore, “while the overall five-year survival rate for all cancers combined has improved significantly: 68% for the general population diagnosed in 2001 (compared to 50% in the 1970s), ovarian cancer has a poorer outcome with a 47% survival rate (compared to 38% in the late 1970s).”

Approximately two percent of women will get ovarian cancer, and most of them will die of it. There is no effective screening test. Ovarian cancer is usually discovered after it has spread. Symptoms include bloating and other types of gastro-intestinal discomfort. The cause of ovarian cancer is unknown, but women with a family history of breast or colon cancer are at higher risk. September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. The ribbon color is teal.

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About Quixotic Chick

I write. I take pictures. I survived cancer.
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