It starts with a whirlwind of doctor jargon that makes me think
it’s done before it’s even begun—this crash course in surviving that will
either save me fast or leave me trashed—dashed on the rocks below the cliff
cancer has flung me from, informing me too late I’d better learn to fly
if I want to make it out alive.
The doctor goes on and on like I’m five and he’s prepping me for the dive
into puberty all over again–I beg my mind to find bricks strong enough to wall out
his words—but they sneak in all the same seeking the fame of being named the bane of
my existence, slithering through every crack in my resistance until the world goes
black though I haven’t closed my eyes and I know there’s no way I’ll ever find
my way back to who I was before this doctor told me
I’m going to die.
He doesn’t say it so neatly—he candy-coats the lies beneath the jargon disguise, and I’m
sick of it. Can’t he see I’m sick enough already?
It takes meeting you before the world realigns
redrawing the lines between
chaos and peace, faith and disbelief.
I fall for you like leukemia’s fallen for me,
with your eyes like the greenest grass, you won me over fast—
setting me free to believe I can achieve
my wildest dreams once again.
But sometimes I get caught up, sometimes I get scared and the despair sets my blood
ablaze and for days the rage is blinding, the fear is binding and I’m not so much breathing
as drowning, living as dying, and in those moments everything blurs, stirring bedlam into
being, and I’m just trying to be a fighter, a survivor, to stay afloat to be brave to hold on
to be strong to endure to be sure I can breathe and believe and be here.
Then, when I know I can’t do it anymore, when I know I’m going to die, when it all gets
to be too much and I’m shredded at the seams and I want to scream and rip the sheets to
let off steam, when I want to punch the nurse in the face so she can wipe that stupid smile
off her face and know for once what it’s like to hurt like I’m hurting because my body
is being bombed from the inside out and I’m buried beneath the rubble doubled by the
wreckage of a life that’s been wasted beneath the knife of a disease without heart looking
to steal mine to appease its starving greed—I want to shriek that it can have it, I’m done,
that’s it, let the world go black, it’s over, it’s won—
but you bring me back.
your hands catch mine
your eyes promise me time
and your smile borrows the sunshine
long enough to soothe the pain
ease the strain
keep me sane
and convince me
for one perfect moment
that the reason I’m feeling so lightheaded
so dizzy I can’t even see
is not because of the disease raging through me
but rather because of
the way you kiss me.
To watch a video of Caitlin reading this poem, visit the multimedia section.