The body has a lump.
The lump is growing.
Just under the rib cage
on the left side reaching down.
A torn muscle;
too many sit-ups rippling my abdomen.
And yet no pain.
No pain at all.
And weight loss too.
But no surprise
after all that walking, swimming,
my modest diet.
Well, of course.
The time of year!
The male menopause!
The spleen is considerably enlarged.
Funny how you need to be alerted to the spleen’s existence.
Heart, lungs, liver, kidneys – you know of them.
Even the pancreas and the bitter gall.
What does the spleen do anyway?
And where exactly should it be?
Spleens rupture – don’t they?
Yes, but this is not a ruptured spleen.
The spleen helps to clean the blood.
It is part of the immune system.
Then why is it so big and hard?
I cannot discount lymphoma.
What a lovely word!
A place in Montana.
A child’s soft drink.
A moonlit orchid.
Why do I feel a frisson of fear along my spine?
You’ve probably been carrying this cancer
In your system for some time.
He said cancer.
I see the word
and all its letters have soft curves.
Only the first sound cracks
hard in the skull like a splenetic Viking’s hammer.
Hard as my spleen.
And yet if you cut it out,
eradicate that K,
you are left only with the softness
So what now?
We cure it.
Like a dead pig into ham.
No ifs, no buts,
straight to the spleen of the matter.
I am grateful for that compassionate directness;
the confidence of hope.
First let us do some tests to be sure we know
exactly what we are dealing with.
Then we will cure it.
A regimen of chemotherapy.
And then, perhaps, a stem cell transplant.
I see a line of cells with roots
taking hold, multiplying.
These things have come a long way
in the past few years.
New drugs! Better drugs!
It is not the terrible vomiting mess
you may imagine from all you’ve heard before.
Many don’t even lose their hair!
I run my hand through my beard.
If you need to talk to anyone
about anything concerning this,
my door is always open.
Thank you, doctor, I appreciate it.
And I really do.
I walk out through the open door
into the radiance of a high veldt afternoon:
the flame trees and the flowers;
a hoopoe bobbing on the lawn.
The beauty of it overflows inside me,
smartens my eyes.
No ifs, no buts.
I have a purpose.
I have awakened from a long, long sleep
and from this moment
I will be
©Angus D.H. Ogilvy November 2008
Angus D. H. Ogilvy
Angus was born in Glasgow, grew up in Galloway, and was educated in Edinburgh and Dundee. He has had a career in education which included 25 years as an international school teacher and administrator in Spain, China, Nepal, Indonesia and Zimbabwe. Since winning his school poetry prize in his youth, he has had an abiding interest in poetry and his poems have appeared in various publications. He returned to Edinburgh in 2008 and spends his time writing, doing voluntary work, and addressing conferences, seminars and symposiums about the patient experience of cancer using his poetry as an aid to communication. He has recently published a collection of poems, Lights in the Constellation of the Crab and House Clearing by Moonlight, in aid of Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres.
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