Cancer Is So Limited? Ha!

If you’ve ever googled cancer poems, you’ve come across this:

What Cancer Can Not Do
by Anonymous

Cancer is so limited…
It cannot cripple love
It cannot shatter hope
It cannot corrode faith
It cannot destroy peace
It cannot kill friendship(s)
It cannot suppress memories
It cannot silence courage
It cannot invade the soul
It cannot steal eternal life
It cannot conquer the spirit.

Ya gotta love the attention to detail on “friendship(s).” A copyeditor must have shown up somewhere on the Internet daisy-chain.

Cancer is so limited? What bullshit! Miss Anonymous, I want to have cancer on your planet. On my planet, cancer acts like a serial killer who’s got plenty of ammo and is just getting started.

It cannot cripple love. Tell that to the woman whose boyfriend dumped her after she got sick. (RIP beautiful Marnie Rose.)

It cannot shatter hope. Cancer doesn’t kill people. Cancer cells kill people. Cancer doesn’t cause despair. Cancer prognosis causes despair. I’m glad that’s cleared up.

It cannot corrode faith. Faith in what? Faith that I wouldn’t get cancer if I exercised and ate right?

It cannot destroy peace. World War I, World War II, holocaust, segregation, Vietnam, Middle East, et al. And that’s just the 20th century. Or is the poem referring to peace of mind? I assure you cancer did me no favors in that department.

It cannot kill friendships. People who are scared of “catching” cancer will drop you. People who figure you’ll soon be dead and/or useless to them will drop you. People who haven’t faced their own mortality will drop you.

It cannot suppress memories. I remember…uh…I think I remember reading that the effects of chemotherapy on cognitive abilities might be permanent, not temporary, as once believed.

It cannot silence courage. I wasn’t aware that courage made any sound. Sorrow, fear and anger, on the other hand, can make quite a racket.

It cannot invade the soul. How can anyone prove or disprove that?

It cannot steal eternal life. Again, how do we know? No one has called me up from the other side to say, “Yep, I arrived safe and sound, eternal life intact, despite the cancer.”

It cannot conquer the spirit. Then why do cancer patients have twice the suicide rate of the general population?

Here’s my version of the poem:

What Cancer Can Not Do 2.0

It cannot put a tiki mug on ebay and then take the money but not send the mug.

It cannot accumulate calcium deposits. Or resentments. Or negative home equity.

It cannot be John Edwards.

It cannot send you threatening letters if you fail to grasp Chicago’s wacky toll exits during heavy Friday afternoon traffic.

It cannot run skimming operations while broadcasting commercials of extravagant weddings, joyous graduations and private meetings with architects in Aspen while the best-friends-forever financial advisors smile approvingly.

It cannot go away. Not really.

But if you’re lucky, it might settle down for a long, long time.

[ed. note to readers: If you disagree with this post and explain your point of view with civility, I will welcome your comment. As for the haters: Feel free to move along to the next blog. If you choose to leave a harsh comment, I will publish it, and return your vitriol with interest.]


About Quixotic Chick

I write. I take pictures. I survived cancer.
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55 Responses to Cancer Is So Limited? Ha!

  1. First off, I *love* your style. Second, I write as a fellow survivor reaching out to introduce myself and my organization, the I’m Too Young For This! Cancer Foundation, the nation’s largest advocacy, research and support organization empowering young adults affected by cancer. I am a 12-year survivor of brain cancer and would enjoy having you as a guest on my radio broadcast, The Stupid Cancer Show, which has many thousands of listeners. I hope to hear from you soon. Rock on! Matthew Zachary

  2. Thank you so much! I love your site. I’d be honored to appear on your show.

    I watched your video. I too was appalled to learn that survival rates for ovarian cancer had barely budged in 50 years.

    A few days after my surgery, a volunteer brought in a cute little bag with the cute little label “Cancer Answers.” I sensed then I was going to be fighting two battles: the cancer, of course, and the cancer-patient demeanor that would now be expected of me.

    At one point I started writing a book: The Bad Girl’s Guide to Cancer.

  3. Catherine says:

    Thank you for posting Matthew’s website – I will definately check that out. I, too, have blanched over this poem before, people like sending it in get-well cards. I wrote a poem titled “How Cancer Taught me to be Childlike”, and it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. It’s about having someone give you a bath or waiting on somebody to cut up your food and spoon it in your mouth.

    Anyways, I like your humour, and would love to read a Bad Girl’s Guide to Cancer. If you have time, and the inclination, please read through my “the C-word” poetry on the above website. People either love it or hate it. Those who hate it write to tell me that cancer is not funny, or they are offended by my ‘angry with God’ moments. Well, I find much in life to laugh about and I was still living when I had cancer. Also, not looking for sainthood.

    Thank you for the smile…

  4. Thank you, Catherine. I couldn’t find the poem you referred to, but I like “It Begins.”


    Re Bad Girl’s Guide: Books are hard to sell these days. And besides, the Internet is a better conduit for this kind of information. I can link! My “Everything Changed” essay was OK in The Kansas City Star, but here I can post it with a link to SCTV’s Edith Prickley. (Prior to first office visit, my oncologist’s name Verda conjured up some strange ideas in my head.)

  5. Jim Howard says:

    Bravo, Donna. Your version rules.

    The day’s not off to a great start here, but I hope to get my shit together enough for a salon evening.

    Hope to see you and Robert there….

  6. Pingback: October 1, 2008 « Julie Martin

  7. kc says:

    What a shame to have such hate brewing inside a person. Maybe it wasn’t the food but the toxic attitude that caused your cancer.

    • hd says:

      IP Indiana

      • To kc and hd: And yet here I still am, nine years in remission despite my awful survival statistics. I know you’d like to live in a world where “nice” people don’t get cancer or don’t recur, and “mean” people do, but that’s simply not the world in which we (people over the age of three, anyway) live. Sorry.

      • Furthermore, I’d love to see the scientific, peer-reviewed study that proves “toxic attitudes” cause cancer. I eagerly await your links. Thanks!

  8. Roger says:

    I just got back from Utah visiting an in-law going through her second bone marrow transplant who was truely inspired by that poem. So instead of bashing the hope of others who may benefit from this, maybe you should focus on what makes you feel better in your life.

    Here’s my version for you…

    Spreading negativity will not get you in heaven
    Having a website does not make you an expert
    Wear reading glasses does not make you smart
    Looking on the bright side is not a crime
    Spreading hope might change your life
    Texans need to rempent for giving us W (oops, wrong blog)

  9. Roger: To each his own. Perhaps your friend will start a blog.

  10. Kurt Koffer says:

    An aunt of mine died of cancer and I will always feel guilty for I never made up with her before she died. The fact that she forgave me before her demise will haunt me for the rest of my life.

  11. Faith says:

    I believe that this poem is used to encourage those that are battling through cancer. My mother was diagnosed when I was thirteen years old with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma-Stage 4. There was little chance she would survive yet she fought. I was sixteen when she passed away, after giving it all she had, however, she was always happy throughout her battle. This poem explains it all……

    Cancer is so limited…
    It cannot cripple love—Those that truly love you will be with you throughout your battle. This love will never fade.
    It cannot shatter hope—This is a tough one, but if you must believe that someday there will be a cure.
    It cannot corrode faith—God will get you through this, you just have to believe in him.
    It cannot destroy peace—Peace as in when your sitting with your family enjoying the day, the minute, the second that your loved one is there.
    It cannot kill friendship(s)—Again, your true friends will always be there for you, through everything.
    It cannot suppress memories—Even if your loved one passes away (like my mother did) I will always remember the caring, loving, kind person that she was.
    It cannot silence courage—ALL survivors have courage because once they hear the words, “You have cancer” they fight.
    It cannot invade the soul—Your soul is the part of you that will never be tarnished. Cancer can not touch that.
    It cannot steal eternal life—Even if you have cancer, you will receive eternal life, (unless you do not ask for forgiveness of your sins)
    It cannot conquer the spirit.—You make your experience with cancer. You can fight back and win or give up.

    My mother fought until she could not fight anymore, because God decided her time was up. I am not bitter losing my mother, she has taught me a lesson.
    “I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith”-2 Timothy 4:7

    Although my mother passed away from fighting cancer, I continue to fight helping with the American Cancer Society through Relay For Life, Daffodil Days, and many other programs they offer. I fight for people like you so that you can live your life cancer free. I’ve been a caregiver and have witnessed the horrible fight of cancer.
    God Bless.

  12. Pete H. says:

    This send-up of the “cancer is so limited” pseudo-poem lifted my spirits. Thank you for the snark. The version that appears on the wall of the Cancer Center where my wife goes for treatment ends with something to the effect that cancer can’t destroy your immortal soul. This, it seems, ties the whole thing together, and as someone who has no faith in the existence of an immortal soul, I have always found it off-putting. I have always wanted to put an extra line at the end of the poem to render it this way:

    Cancer is so limited…
    It cannot cripple love
    It cannot shatter hope
    It cannot corrode faith
    It cannot destroy peace
    It cannot kill friendship(s)
    It cannot suppress memories
    It cannot silence courage
    It cannot invade the soul
    It cannot steal eternal life
    It cannot conquer the spirit
    All it can do is f&%@ing kill you!

  13. Donna, your acerbic wit is just the medicinal joy juice for ALL of my loved ones with cancer who have an unfathomable time choking down that first line particularly: “cancer is so limited.”

    Seems to me cancer is pervasive lately and taking its toll on all ages-n-stages to the point where it makes me lift an eyebrow at our food supply/environmental shifts over the last few decades, and epidemiology far beyond genetics. (esp. w/few tracebacks in several lineages of pals…)

    Thanks for the smile, (and now this blog link, which will be Skyped to all who need it very much!)

    I also plan on doing a story about Matthew’s site “I’m too young for this” since it’s right up my alley at Shaping Youth (I’ve been covering Drew Olanoff’s cool social media campaign that gives us all a way to channel that helpless feeling:

    Appreciatively, Amy

  14. true friend says:

    My dear Child,
    I will always love you. yes, you have cancer. yes, you might die. but do not fear this death. Do not fear that which can kill the body, but rather that which can murder the soul. you have allowed yourself to become bitter and resentful- both to others and to Me. but remember this, no matter where you run to, I will follow. no matter how long you curse Me, I will always love you. I am knocking at your door, will you let Me in? I want so much to usher you into you Eternal home. I know you may not want to hear this, however, I will always love you, and I will never leave you. Remember, when the going gets tough, I will be there to carry you.
    Your Loving Father

  15. true friend: Hey, whatever floats your boat. Just don’t expect others to agree with you. Big world out there. Many beliefs, many philosophies.

    I find it interesting that it’s always the most religious people who leave the nastiest comments. Doesn’t the Bible say by their fruits ye shall know them?

  16. Daughter of the King says:

    that’s true” by their fruits ye shall know then.” I am a follower of Christ. I try to act like it. there are some who give us a bad name; and unfortunately, those are the ones everyone else hears about. I honestly do not care if you agree with me. I want you to believe as I do, because I believe that I have found the Truth. the Bible also says that ye shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free. I have found freedom in Christ, and I would love it if you could do the same. ok, end of sermon. if you want to talk about it, I’d be glad to, or I could send you to someone who has more answers than me. otherwise, God Bless you and Keep you.
    with Love in Christ,
    Daughter of the King

  17. Eric says:

    I just posted a rant against another similar poem. After I wrote it I searched for someone posting on the What Cancer Cannot Do poem since it is much of the same BS and found your post. I thought you might like to see what I said, its at:

  18. Mona says:

    I love your version so much, thank you for sharing it. I have stage 4 metastatic breast cancer that has spread to the brain and the original poem may be fine for some, but I’ve not liked it since I first read it. Thank you for posting a more accurate view of what cancer can and cannot do.

  19. Ashley says:

    I love this poem. It helped my family get through my grandfathers death.
    He loved the poem before he died. My gran then got cancer.
    She took the poem we bought 3 years ago with her.
    I had cancer removed. And it reminds me of what I went through. And what my whole family when through when I was 15.
    Its a brilliant poem. As you said… Each to his own. I just think that if it helps one person it can help another!

    • Hi Ashley. Good for you (said with a smile, not sarcasm). And you’re right: To each his own. It’s just that when I was diagnosed in 2001, there was all this information about what a great experience cancer was, and very little on the reality.

      That’s why I started blogging three years ago — to stand with those people who find themselves in despair. Today, fortunately, there are more organizations with an irreverent, but helpful attitude, including Stupid Cancer and Voices of Survivors. I’m so glad they’re around.

      Thanks for your comment.

  20. Kirsty says:

    What hatred and bitterness!!! My mother survived breast cancer, my granny died from hit and both women used this poem as a source of inspiration. We had it painted as a reminder that no matter what we overcame togather. You are a sad twisted little person. Im terribly sorry you had cancer, no one should have to – but Im also sorry that you had to go through it with the bitter hateful attitude you have now. Couldnt have helped much. Free speech is all very well, but dont atack publicly a poem that has helped so many others…

    • Hi Kirsty! Do I detect some bitterness coming from you, a total stranger, to me, a blogger? “You are a sad, twisted little person.” Lovely. For someone so full of praise for an inspirational poem, you sure are handy with the insults. Don’t let your satisfaction at avoiding cancer yourself (so far) fill you with hatred and fear of survivors, no matter how they choose to process their illness, OK?

  21. formerlyrainbow68 says:

    Donna: I am a born-again Christian who really is inspired by the poem, especially now as my mom is fighting cancer. At first I was horrified by what you wrote and was going to say so.
    A few moments later, I decided that you were so much more authentic than many people and have such a clever sense of humor that if you lived nearby, I might take you out for a pizza! While the poem helps me and my mom, I can see how others can see it as trite and simplistic.

  22. lisa h paden says:

    Donna: A “friend” of mine just sent me a copy of the “original” poem. I knew it couldn’t be her words because she’s just not that profound enough of a person to write those sensitive words. After some searching on the Internet, I knew it…low and behold, it was a “cut, paste and drop”.

    I read your “revised” version of the statement and while some may be offended, it’s so true. As a 3 year survivor of a Glioblastoma Multiforme Stage 4 Brain Tumor AND breast cancer, Cancer may not take those things away but it can surely take a huge bite out of life and how you live it. As all survivors know, you live with it every day, every moment, every second. (I have been lucky enough to actually be able to count “years”.) You learn how to somehow find a new ‘normal’ as you will never be ‘normal’ again. The scars, the radiation, the chemos, the meds, the MRIs, on and on and on…

    Thankfully, I have been blessed with a positive nature and attitude, a loving, supportive husband, children, family and friends. And no matter how much you “accept” it, it’s still very scary…every single day!

    Thank you for your version as it is more true to life.

    • Hi Lisa. Thank you! Some readers miss the fact that I’m not against positivity. I’m for honesty. I’m for acknowledging reality. I’m for improved quality of living for cancer survivors, even if they don’t have much time left. Cancer patients need all the help they can get. Trivializing this disease only puts the burden back on the patient’s shoulders. Doesn’t the patient have a big enough burden already? You have pain? Oh, you must not be meditating correctly. Or something.

      If it’s any comfort, my five-year survival statistics were abysmal — about 15 percent. Even so, in September I will be ten years out, and in February I’ll celebrate ten years in remission. I know glioblastoma is serious, but if I’ve learned anything in the last ten years, it’s that you can’t predict what your cancer will do. I wish you a meaningful — whether long or short — survivorship, and a heart as light as your mind will allow.

  23. kate says:

    Donna, I find your poem cynical, not funny. The words of the original highly regarded poem, were meant to up lift and inspire cancer victims and their loved ones.Your cynical attempt at cleverness on the matter makes me sad. You managed to turn a beautiful poem into a self righteous bitch fest.” Lets all complain about how crumby we have it” Im pretty sure self loathing and cynicism don’t breed healthy habits or inspire change. Being critical of hope and faith and love makes for a pretty empty heart, capable only of bitterness and distrust. On the “planet” I live on, we strive to be great, NO MATTER THE CIRCUMSTANCES. We believe in hope because without it how do we inspire or dream. We believe in Love because it helps us to hold on, push through and Let go. And with out faith, then hope and love cannot exist. I am 34 and a fighter of cancer, a two time survivor, I and have a 6 yr old son and a Wonderful husband. I lean on my family and friends when things get rough, and find strength in my faith. I CHOOSE to embrace cancer and use it to make myself a better mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend. Cancer can be a gift, if you can find a way to be grateful for having it. Im sure you have heard the saying” Smile, and the world will smile back”
    If you are just too cynical to believe in optimism, and are dead set on remaining the majorette of the “shit parade”, you could at least try to write your on self loathing ,pity me because cancer sucks worse that anything you could ever face poem. Rather than ripping the joy out of poem you had NO hand in writing. That way, those of us who google the title of the original poem looking for inspiration wont stumble upon your utterly depressive, self deprecating blog. from one survivor to another…… really?????
    Kate Kendall

    • Ms. Kate Kendall, you are entitled to your opinion, and I’m entitled to mine. Why don’t you start a blog of your own? Then your blog entry will trump mine in Google searches, and thereby you will make the world a better place. Good luck! By the way, your judgmental tone does NOT help your case. At all. It’s one thing to slander an anonymous poem. Quite another to slander a human being. Which is what you just did. Hard to best me in the bitch department, but you did it, girl! Congratulations.

      • kate says:

        Ms. Donna Trussell,
        Lets not get overly dramatic….. I did not “slander” you. I reprimanded you for being so irresponsible with your words. . I simply challenged your way of thought, Its out dated. Wallowing in pity and sorrow is the least helpful way to get on with life, whether you are sick with cancer, AIDS, MS, or whatever. Instead, we should be encouraging acceptance and finding ways to inspire and up lift. You have a following, you are a leader, people look to you for comfort. I should not have to tell you that constant complaining is hardly the responsible way to encourage and guide your followers.Cancer survivors are embracing change and challenging pessimistic ways of thinking, and it IS changing the world. I judge, because I see how involved you are in our cancer community. You could be INSPIRING LIVES!! instead of enabling patients, survivors, and loved ones to stay stagnant and just complain about it. WE ARE SURVIVORS, the lucky ones (today). We encourage, support, listen,and care. I don’t want to blog….. I want to live with every once of passion that is in me. I want to DO more, LAUGH harder, and LOVE with all my heart for the rest of my days!!!!!!

      • If I’m as bad as you say I am, I doubt I would have any following whatsoever. And if you are as wonderful and happy as you say you are, you wouldn’t be wasting your time leaving caustic comments on blogs. Before you accuse someone else, Ms. Kate Kendall, look in the mirror. Reprimand thyself!

      • Oh and by the way, Kate Kendall, you don’t need to repeat my name, since my name is also my domain. I’m totally upfront. I’m repeating your name, Kate Kendall, so your exquisite comments will show up in a Google search for Kate Kendall.

  24. Donna,

    Saw a reference to this on your Facebook page, then looked here and was surprised to see that your initial post on this was in September 2008. Of course I’ve seen this “poem” many, many times. In addition to its having ZERO artistic merit, in my opinion, I never found it the least bit comforting.

    To those who are lashing out at you for your views on this: I wish you knew Donna personally. “Sad” and “twisted”? She is anything but those things. What she is: Intelligent without being arrogant about it, brave without artifice, and warm and loving without being maudlin about it.

    Still, terminal illness and indeed the subject of mortality in general brings out a lot of different fears, thoughts, and other responses from people. And if you’re a person who finds comfort in this poem, that’s fine by me. What I don’t like is when people try to impose their views, and very often with something like this, I end up feeling imposed upon.

    I am not bitter, but I will admit to being angry about cancer. It has taken so much from me, and now it’s threatening to take more. I realize most people reading this don’t know my background, so here it is, incorporated into a point-by-point response to the poem. Sorry, Donna, for being unorginal, but I’m tired tonight. ;)

    “Cancer is so limited…”

    Yeah. It’s so limited that it’s only one of the most feared words in the medical lexicon. Wait. Scratch “medical.”

    “It cannot cripple love”

    Nah, guess not. Oh, wait. It can ERASE a person you love. My wife, Sherri, died of breast cancer on Oct. 13, 2008. Sure, I stll feel love for her. I just can’t talk to her, ask her a question I know she’d have the answer for, etc. She’s gone. Will I see her again? Maybe I will, if some of my beliefs prove true. But I’ve always thought that point irrelevant, for the most part. This is the life we know. I am remarried, as of this May, and I feel lucky to have found someone, but that does NOT mean cancer didn’t kill Sherri.

    “It cannot shatter hope.”

    Ten months to the day after Sherri died, I was diagnosed with myxoid liposarcoma in my right thigh. I underwent radiation and it was surgically removed in November 2009. This fall, I was coming up on two years of being cancer-free … but it came back in September. Now it’s Stage IV. Now it’s in half a dozen places in my body. Has it shattered my hope? Maybe not, but has it affected it profoundly. Yes. Do I still hope to survive, perhaps even for quite a few years. I do. I also know that, statistically, my numbers are not good.

    “It cannot corrode faith.”

    I do believe in God. I also have lots of questions. Prayer, petitioning, mediation, listening … I have practiced all these things in my life, and continue to do so. But Sherri is dead, and my mother died of cancer while Sherri was fighting cancer, and even the DOG died while all that was going on, and now I’m going through this for the second time. My prayers have been reduced to two words: “Enough. Please. Enough.”

    “It cannot destroy peace.”

    Tell me that at 3 o’clock in the morning when my body is craving sleep but my mind is racing with thoughts of leaving behind everyone I’ve ever known.

    “It cannot kill friendship(s).”

    That’s an absolute crock. I have lost several friends to cancer. Some of them dumped me out of embarrassment, others out of disapproval of my caregiving when Sherri was alive, others … who knows why? They didn’t bother to explain it to me before they turned into shadows.

    “It cannot suppress memories”

    Yes, it can, and sometimes can do so with your own cooperation and contrivance. There are things I no longer WANT to remember.

    “It cannot silence courage.”

    This doesn’t even make sense.

    “It cannot invade the soul.”

    The body is enough, believe me. MORE than enough.

    “It cannot steal eternal life.”

    Well, I suppose I do believe that. But isn’t the point rather … superfluous. I mean, if you believe in an eternal life, what CAN steal it from you? I believe in an eternal life, though, like many people, I also struggle with doubt. Great suffering is one of the things that makes me doubt. And cancer inflicts suffering. You can write all the poems about it you want to, and you can’t change that fact.

    “It cannot conquer the spirit.”

    No, just drain it, over and over and over and over and over again.

    Sherri and I used to enjoy an HBO show called “Six Feet Under,” which ran from 2001 to 2005, if memory serves — from just before her initial diagnosis to around the time we were told her illness would be terminal. I guess it’s kind of stupid citing a TV show for its profundity, but this one was exceptional, and I’d rather look back at an episode, even a weaker one, than read “Cancer Is So Limited” again. As the show pointed out … everything ends.

    Everyone. Everything. Every good time. Every bad time. Every one of those lost times in between, which memory does tend to take from us simply because the mind tends to hold onto the unusual, the extraordinary, the human experiences that constitute pain or bliss.

    I may very well survive my second round of sarcoma. I am doing everything I can to stay in the world.

    Even if I do, at some point I will end, at least according to the terms we use to define biological existence.

    For now, I want to live partly because there is meaning in my life as I define it, and I wish to continue imposing those meaning(s) ;) upon my world. I feel I have a great deal to do yet, and much to experience, and quite a few things to learn despite half a century’s existence.

    The late science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke, though not a religious fellow, wrote about the corporeal vs. possible spiritual nature of existence in many of his works. I’m too lazy (too tired from the opiates I require to quell my pain right now, actually, but I didn’t want to whine ;)) to stride across the room right now and quote Clarke directly, but it’s sufficient to paraphrase: Clarke’s writings on several occasions seemed to reflect his belief that all forms of life constitute little more than a temporary discontinuity in the universe; that is, we seek to organize and impose structure upon something so beyond our capability to observe and experience it that may as well be chaos.

    My desire to stay alive reflects my will. My will reflects my desire to continue to impose my own personal, temporary discontinuity upon the universe. I have no idea why I continue to want this, though I think it must be rooted in the survival instinct.

    Whether that instinct evolved in humans, or whether it was placed there as an expression of some kind of oversoul that involves us all, I of course cannot say. All I know is that I am inclined to fight — to scrap and scratch and strive for mortal life. The behavior we call self-preservation seems to be present in all organisms. I find some kind of comfort in that, whether that behavior is purely a biological imperative, or whether it was a gift to us and all other living things by a Being that could only be called God.

    I would do well to remember, though, that cancer itself seems to be designed to fight to persist. Studies have shown that some cancer cells develop pumps that seek to force chemotherapy out of themselves. The efficacy of these pumps, according to what I read, can vary from cancer type to cancer type and indeed from individual to individual.

    “Cancer is so limited”? I’m sorry but I can’t really buy that, knowing that we’re talking about a disease that actually can call upon cells to develop sub-microscopic pumps that enable drug resistance!

    And, back to the poem (finally): I guess my other objection to it is it seems to cast cancer as some kind of anthropomorphized, malevolent ENTITY that is trying to steal all these good things from those who suffer from it. That whole concept is, to me, fatuous in the extreme.

    Is cancer trying to kill me? Is mine a kind that might see fit to spare me? I don’t believe there is any such awareness here, either way.

    And maybe that leads us back to one of the greatest fears humans experience: The dark, brooding suspicion that there’s really no reason for anything. Honestly, I think I would be less frightened of cancer if I could, in my mind, make it sport a red cloak, carry a pitchfork and stomp its way through my nightmares on cloven hooves. Unfortunately, the truth is far, far scarier than that:

    Cancer doesn’t give a damn about anything.

  25. To Ms. Kate Kendall,

    Donna HAS inspired and CONTINUES to inspire lives, including my own. There’s a difference between being negative and ever-cynical (which Donna is not) and being realistic about a disease that kills so many, damages so many, hurts so many families.

    It is perfectly natural to feel, at times, powerless and angry and lost, whether you’re a cancer survivor or caregiver to a cancer patient, and I have been both.

    Ms. Kendall, is there room in your world for realism? I see a therapist, about once a month usually but a bit more often since the diagnosis of my recurrence, who SPECIALIZES in providing psychological support to cancer patients and their families. If there were no need for this — if EVERYONE out there in Cancerland were able to “do more” and “laugh harder” every single day of our lives — do you think my psychologist would have a practice? She would not, and the fact that she has devoted her professional life to this tells us these truths:

    Cancer patients and their caregivers can face depression, anxiety, anticipatory grief, and the stresses brought on by issues that include financial worries, “end-of-life” decisions, and emotional loss brought on by long-term decline of quality of life, even for those who do survive.

    This is also why organizations such as Turning Point exist ( Turning Point is not a cheerleader; rather, it’s a resource that offers those with cancer and other chronic or life-threatening illnesses the ability to LEARN to maximize their life experiences in the face of such challenges. I encourage you to take a look at their Web site.

    One of the things Turning Point emphasizes is “resilience” and “resilience training.” The organization even offers this to companies who want to reduce absenteeism, which is good not only for the company but for employees who can benefit by continuing to be productive and enjoying the social interactions provided by an enlightened workplace even if they must, at times, be gone from that environment to deal with their illness.

    For many of us, Ms. Kendall, “resilience” does not mean spending our days laughing our asses off or thanking God that we have cancer. Sorry, I just cannot — WILL not — go there, and my refusal to go is MY way of fighting back, of being resilient, NOT negative. There’s a profound difference between the two. As for Donna, I have known her now not simply for years but decades, I’m pleased to say. Her attitude has always seemed to me to be one of resilience, NOT of “enabling” patients or encouraging anyone to “wallow.” These are short-sighted statements on your part. I would submit, with all kindness, that perhaps they arise out of the same simplistic viewpoint that underlies your views on cancer, the nature of human suffering, and so on. In that spirit, I would ask that you take time to reconsider your position.

    Some time ago, I was questioned by a well-meaning sort of person as to whether I was an optimist or pessimist. Earlier in life, I would have submitted to such tomfoolery, but not anymore. I replied that it was none of the person’s business, which, of course, led the person in question to conclude I am a sour, nasty pessimist. But the problem lay in the question itself. It left out a possible stance, and that is called … realism.

    And for me, realism ties in with resilience, and constitutes the only way to live. Right now, given my diagnosis, I am hoping for the best … and planning for the worst. I spent much of today trying to ensure that my beneficiary designations and other details of my life-insurance policies are up to date. I DO intend to live my life as fully as possible, but I also need to realize my time may be short.

    Along those lines, an excerpt from one of Donna’s previous replies here seems quite apt:

    “Some readers miss the fact that I’m not against positivity. I’m for honesty. I’m for acknowledging reality. I’m for improved quality of living for cancer survivors, even if they don’t have much time left. Cancer patients need all the help they can get. Trivializing this disease only puts the burden back on the patient’s shoulders. Doesn’t the patient have a big enough burden already? You have pain? Oh, you must not be meditating correctly. Or something.

    If it’s any comfort, my five-year survival statistics were abysmal — about 15 percent. Even so, in September I will be ten years out, and in February I’ll celebrate ten years in remission. I know glioblastoma is serious, but if I’ve learned anything in the last ten years, it’s that you can’t predict what your cancer will do. I wish you a meaningful — whether long or short — survivorship, and a heart as light as your mind will allow.”

    BRAVO, Donna.

  26. kate says:

    I know nothing about the “blog-o-sphere” and I would like to have you know I have NEVER written on ANY blog ever before! I used your full name for no other reason than addressing you in a letter. I don’t have an agenda and, I do not profit in anyway from cancer. So my comments come from a very personal sincere place. I stand behind everything I wrote, and unashamed of the things I have said to you. I feel strongly that positive thinking and action is the best way to inspire, heal, forgive, forget, let go and overcome. I have NOT called you names and do not think you wicked, or stupid or a terrible person. Quite the contrary. Its your negativity and cynicism that is so off putting. I have been harsh because you annihilated a poem you should know brings comfort to thousands of people whose lives are affected by cancer. You serve up negative mockery, and poop on hope. I cried when your poem crossed my screen. I thought someone should stand up for the Anonymous author. Who wanted only to offer hope. I would encourage everyone to stand up and fight for hope.

    and donna, its a shame you regard what i have written you as “hate”.that was not my intent. we have a lot in common from what i can tell, Much more than just ovarian cancer.

    • That poem has been kicking around for decades, and I doubt the author will see my comments. On an Internet with literally thousands of sites praising this poem, don’t you think there’s room for ONE blogger to disagree? Even so, if I made you cry, for that I am sorry. Peace.

  27. Mona Boeger says:

    I have been following this thread for the past few days now and I hope you don’t mind if I comment. I am a cancer patient and I don’t like the original poem. It does not inspire me or give me hope. It actually feels to me like someone sugar coated what having cancer is all about. I was told that the chance of my surviving is slim and let me just say that of all the things I worry about and care about on a daily basis, whether or not the poem inspires is definitely NOT at the top of my list. I worry about whether I will be able to see my child grow up and who’s going to raise him if I can’t, along with other issues based on the realities of having to fight cancer. Donna wrote about the reality of being a cancer patient and I applaud her for doing so. Thank you Donna

  28. Julie says:

    For those of you that are criticizing Donna, I only wish that you knew her. Donna has helped me through some of my darkest “cancer” days just by speaking “honestly” with me…no fluff, just honesty. She is a warm and caring person who speaks from her heart, and an incredibly talented and intelligent writer, as well! If you are a cancer patient, then you should know that no two cancer patients take the same journey, so until you have walked in someone else’s shoes, please don’t judge and criticize.

  29. Kate,

    My apologies. I did mistakenly attribute the quotes to another poster. I am truly sorry for that; I’m generally more careful about such things.

    As for the rest of the dialogue here, I’d like to point out what Julie posted earlier today, especially her comment that “no two cancer patients take the same journey.” I think it’s important for us all to realize that.

    Kate, I also like your observation that you and Donna probably do have a lot in common. I imagine the same is true of you and me. And dialogues like these, while they can be painful, are important for us all. You know, when I was younger, it was so much more important for me to believe, as often as I could, that I was in the right! :) Didn’t matter what the subject was; I wanted to win arguments, get the best of anyone I was debating etc. As I’ve gotten older, my value system has shifted — what pleases me most is to find that I have common ground, and can find that ground even with people who don’t see things exactly as I do.

    I still don’t like the poem. But I also believe that if it has helped you … well, I’m glad that it did. I’ve never been much of a fan of Frank Sinatra’s singing, for reasons I won’t go into here, but I loved his wit and honesty, and one thing that was attributed to him is this: “Basically, I’m for anything that gets you through the night – be it prayer, tranquilizers or a bottle of Jack Daniels.” I’ve never cared for Jack Daniels, I’m ambivalent about tranquilizers, and my version of prayer probably wouldn’t fly with a lot of the religious denominations, but I do like the point Ol’ Blue Eyes made: We’re individuals, and what we need varies from person to person and time to time.

    Peace and strength to all,


  30. Alexis says:

    My Uncle died of kidney cancer, and I can honestly say everything in the first poem is extremely accurate. I live in a very fortunate family and no one had ever passed away when I was alive, so my uncle was the first. If you really have a strong family, losing a loved one doesnt cripple love, it made the love in my family so much stronger. Cancer cannot surpress memories, I still remember my Uncle vividly and all the great and amazing things he achieved during his life, and how he was like a second father to me. None of my Uncles friends ever abandoned him during his cancer, and if your friends do that, clearly you need to reevaluate the people you associate yourself with. A handful of my Uncles friends spoke at his funeral and gave the most touching stories that I can still remember today, and I was in fifth grade. If you took the time to stop being so critical of this poem and try to pick apart every detail that you believe is wrong, maybe you would realize that this is really inspirational. I was so young when my Uncle died, and he sat my cousin and I down about two weeks before he died and told how he wasn’t afraid of dying and how he believed God had a better and bigger plan for him. I have been fortunate enough to have the best family in the world, and my Uncle had the best support system and was the most amazing man in the world. I think every cancer situation is influenced by who is going through it and the type of person they are. Some choose to be bitter towards God and to resent people around them, but my Uncle had great faith in the lord. Yes, no one can be 100 percent sure that eternal life is certain, but to me having faith makes life worth living. My Uncle knew he was going to die and made peace with his condition and I think if he read this poem he wouldn’t think it was “sugar coating” anything. This poem is greatly influenced by the type of person you are and I am so proud to say that it describes my uncle and the past and current relationship he had/has with his friends and family. I know my uncle is watching over me.

  31. Dave Smith says:

    I enjoyed reading your rant. It was very well stated. I (thankfully) do not know what it’s like to have cancer. As a pastor, I have spent a lot of time with those who have. It is a very cruel disease. I used this poem last Sunday in a sermon and several folks liked it. There may have been others who reacted as you have with good reason. There seems to be a pattern to the way people react to having been diagnosed with cancer. The first phase is shock and disbelief. The next phase is fear. After that resentment. Then comes anger. Some go from that phase to acceptance. Others fight it with every fiber of their being. I’m not a psychologist. I don’t know what would be considered a rational response to an irrational disease. All I can do is listen with a sympathetic ear, hold hands, share tears, and provide whatever words of love and hope that God gives me. I wish I could do more.

  32. Amber says:

    My god daughter whom lives with me was just recently diagnosed with Leukemia at the age of 3. I came across the original poem, read it and cried. It was the ONLY thing i have read so far that has offered any encouragment in such a horrible time. As if cancer patients (and those fighting along side a cancer patient) dont have enough negative things going on and so many things discouraging them, you add this to the list. Yes i do understand that cancer is horrible, and in fact can cause many negatives on a persons life. However, if the patient doesnt have hope/faith, it simply kills them that much quicker..

    Cancer cannot Cripple LOVE:
    YES your friend may have lost her boyfriend when she got sick.. but did she stop loving? Did other people stop loving her? NO.. Cancer didnt cripple love, it simply weeded out the people that truley DIDNT love her to begin with!

    Cancer cannot shatter HOPE:
    cancer cells kill? not sure what that had to do with hope.. but on every response ive read of yours to people that agree and disagree with your opinion, you offer hope, encouragment, peace (ect) so OBVIOUSLY.. CANCER cells nor CANCER have shattered your hope! If you can offer it to other people you MUST still have hope. Hope to wake up the next morning, HOPE that when you go back to the doctor they will say you are still in remission, HOPE that you WILL LIVE through the next year!

    Cancer cannot corrode FAITH:
    Faith that GOD will heal you, Faith that you CAN push through this, Faith that everything will be okay. Yes Cancer CAN make it hard to keep faith, but it cant corrode it!

    Cancer cannot destroy PEACE:
    cancer gives NOONE peace of mind! Cancer also takes peace of mind from NOONE! it may steal your peace of mind about specific things, but it will not/cannot steal your entire peace of mind!

    Cancer cannot kill FRIENDSHIPS:
    the people who thought you could “catch” cancer and dropped you are the ones who killed the “friendship” NOT CANCER.. although if they dropped you in a time of despair they never were really a FRIEND to begin with, therefore cancer, once again, simply weeded out the ones who never really cared about you to begin with.

    Cancer cannot suppress MEMORIES:
    MEDICINE suppressed those memories, NOT cancer. But Im almost certain the author was reffering to the wonderfull memories you have of life (before, during, and in some cases AFTER cancer) that can NEVER be suppressed.

    Cancer cannot silence COURAGE:
    since you want to be so literal in your explination of this… FEAR doesnt make a sound ANGER doesnt make a sound and SORROW doesnt make a sound! When a person CRIES or yells out of sorrow or anger, that makes a sound, the emotion itself however does NOT make any “racket”

    Cancer cannot steal ETERNAL LIFE:
    if you believe in any faith at all, if you believe there is a heaven or hell and that when you die you will go to one of those place or even if you believe in reincarnation.. then CANCER will not steal that eternal life.. you wont be deprived of going to heaven, hell, or being reincarnted just because you have cancer. If you dont beleive in any faith at all.. then you dont believe in eternal life regardless.. you just die when you die.. from cancer/old age or an accident.

    Cancer cannot invade the SOUL or conquer the SPIRIT
    this again goes back to religion. IF you believe then you know that its your soul/spirit that goes onto the next life not your BODY.. also whatever diseases and worldy handicaps you may or may not have had do NOT follow you to your eternal life.. IF you believe then you believe that when you go to heaven, you are perfect and disease free! IF you do NOT believe.. then the SOUL and the SPIRIT are irrelevent anyways. As for suicide rates.. that has nothing to do with your SOUL or your SPIRIT.. the SOUL and SPIRIT are not a worldly things.. noones soul or spirit makes them do anything or not do anything for that matter. the suicide rate in cancer patients (or anyone) comes from their MIND FRAME not the disease itself.

    I understand wanting to have some “real life” outlook on cancer. When i learned of my god daughters diagnosis.. i had no faith or hope or anything! i was MAD at god.! But eventhough none of this makes sense NOW..maybe somewhere in all of this there’s a reason. maybe somewhere in all of this there’s A “why”. maybe somewhere there will be something that will allow us to tie It all up with A red bow && bury It in the backyard. But NOTHiNG, not getting angry, not prayers, not tears, not bashing someone elses words and thought NOTHING can make It UNhappen.. so the answer is simply this: We fight back, with all our might.. && once we BEAT iT..(and even if we dont) then we worry about trying to make sense of It all! I am NOT naieve enough to think that my god daughters chances are extremly high or that there aernt going to be times when i question everything i just wrote.. but i do KNOW that CANCER will never make me lose FAITH, Cancer will NEVER cause me to give up! CANCER WILL however strengthen me and cause me to FIGHT HARDER and LONGER and to reevaluate LIFE! Little things no longer matter.. the ONLY thing that matters is the FIGHT!

  33. Amber says:

    Thank you. I truley appreciate that!

  34. Jim Wishmyer says:

    “Cancer is so limited” – in context. This was a reflection written by Gloria Cushing, a friend of Morton Kelsey*. Gloria died in 1988 after a long battle with cancer. After her death, her husband found these words in her journal and shared them with Kelsey who included the full text (below) in his book, “Reaching: The Journey To Fulfillment”, 1989:Harper & Row, p. 174.

    Here’s the full citation:

    “They’ve sentenced you with tiny cells that secrete themselves deep in body recesses and multiply. Lymphonic capture of vital functions.

    Can cancer conquer you?
    I doubt it, for the strengths I see in you have nothing to do with cells, blood, and muscle.

    For cancer is so limited.
    It cannot cripple love, it cannot shatter hope.
    It cannot corrode faith, it cannot eat away peace.
    It cannot destroy confidence, it cannot kill friendship.

    It cannot shut out memories, it cannot silence courage,
    It cannot invade the soul, it cannot reduce eternal life.
    It cannot quench the spirit,
    It cannot lessen the power of resurrection!

    Can cancer conquer you?
    I doubt it, for the strengths I see in you have nothing to do with cells and blood and muscle.”

    Gloria lived and died on this planet, Earth.

    (* – Episcopal Priest, counselor, teacher, former professor at University of Notre Dame, and author of over 20 books including “The Other Side of Silence”, “Psychology, Medicine, & Christian Healing”, and “Encounter with God”.)

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