Ode to Good Cancer

Alright, look. Yes, I’m writing this sarcastically. And also not totally sarcastically. Even my doctor said that he has learned to not ever call any cancer a “good” cancer. Yes, thyroid cancer has a standard of treatment and is highly curable and has a very good outcome rate. But you know what? I don’t want to have cancer. I have felt my life flip out and upside down and inside out and while I will likely be “fine” eventually, and recovered or whatever, there are lifelong implications of this that are not fun, easy, pleasant, or good. Still, I really do that its okay to ask me about it, I just had fun writing this little ditty and wanted to share.

Ode to Good Cancer

I’ve got the good cancer, that’s what they say

All my doc has to do is cut it away

Along with other necessary and perfectly functional body parts

Leaving me with a scar to rival the contemporary arts.

Oh and then there’s the hormone replacement, a daily pill

And finding the right dose could take weeks or months or years, still

It’s the good cancer. Except just about the time post-surgery that I’ll be feeling fine

there’s that minor dose of radioactive iodine.

The doctor will wear a mask and nuclear suit

But I will put the pill in my mouth, no dispute.

Then I’ll be all alone, a danger to society, for several days

My kidney, liver, salivary glands, taste buds, teeth, and more may start to decay.

Once out of isolation, I’m still not free

My body is full of radioactivity

Healthy cells might now be dying, making room for fresh disease

The only way to be sure, for the foreseeable future, is with regular blood tests and more biopsies.

And also? My family lives in Africa, in Djibouti, where healthcare barely exists

Which means my husband was on the other side of the planet while my neck bulged with carcinoma-filled cysts.

Sometimes I feel angry, sometimes I feel scared. Sometimes I feel fine, sad, deep, thankful, tired, happy, sick.

Lucky me! Lucky me! Good cancer chose me for its next pick.

You too? You have a good cancer? But…you’ve got all your hair!

Sure, you lack the energy to walk up the stairs

And your body temperature, weight, skin, emotional balance, sex drive have changed

And you toss and turn all night with dreams that make you feel deranged

You will have blood tests and scans and pills and new scares and strange aches for the rest of your life

And you fear you’re failing at work and at being a good friend, or mother, or wife.

No, medical bills aren’t what we’ve saved money for, me with twins in college at the time of first biopsy.

So it is hard to hear, “its a good cancer,” which might really mean, “Sure is good it didn’t happen to me!”

When we subject our bodies to poisonous “cures”

The line between good and bad radically blurs.

But seriously, non-cancer person, feel free to inquire about how I’m doing, I really don’t mind.

Just beware I might ask, “Would you like some of this cancer? Don’t worry, its the good kind!”


After I wrote this, I found other ‘odes’ about cancer. Here are a couple:

The Good Cancer (ode to Hodgkins Lymphoma)

Ode to fellow cancer warriors and survivors (this one is not so snarky)

Ode to My Hair (truth be told, two of my first questions to my doctor were: Am I going to lose my hair? and, How will this affect my weight? I know, so vain. But also? Honest. Cancer seems to bring out the honest.)

A poem about breast cancer

Cancer Poems