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Beauty Born from Heartache

by KM HammondSurvivorNovember 27, 2019View more posts from KM Hammond

Hey Cancer,

I stayed up last night, thinking of you. Don’t tell. It’d be awkward if people knew.

I have a scan in a few months. And, as I thought of you, I visualized my PET results. All healthy and white with the lack of you.

It felt … empty. I felt empty.

So, in the dead of night, where no one could see me or judge me or even guess at the thoughts in my head, I let myself imagine. Spots of black, gleaming in my chest.

Waiting for me like an old friend.


It’s fucked up, I know. The perverse wish for your return. I should be ashamed of myself. Most of the time, I am.

Most of the time, I’m so terrified that you’ll come back that I can’t sleep. I take my temperature to assure myself that my Pel-Ebstain fever isn’t back. I shove my fingers into my neck and armpits to make sure my lymph nodes aren’t swollen. I freak out every time I wake up sweaty, trying to figure out whether it’s a night sweat or if I just buried myself under too many quilts. A recurrence is, literally, my worst nightmare.

But sometimes. Sometimes, I think it’d be nice if you did come back.

It’s not that I want to die. I don’t have some masochistic desire to go through treatment again. Hell, no.

It’s that I don’t know how to live anymore.

You swept into my life like a twisted angel of death. A disaster. You destroyed my career, my independence, my friendships, my aspirations. Everything is destroyed, ripped to shreds. And I’m alone. The sole survivor of your rampage.

I’m not unscathed; I am a ghost stuck in a body. I don’t quite fit within the curves and angles of my body anymore. It’s no longer trustworthy. No longer a safe place to be.

People say that there’s supposed to be a new normal, after you. After disaster. They say that I’m supposed to just get used to what you did to me. Get on with my life.

Get over you.

How am I supposed to get over you when I barely know how to pick up the pieces? How am I supposed to move on when the threat of your return is ever-present?

How. The fuck. Does this work?

I’m supposed to be grateful that I’m alive. I’m supposed to be happy and wise because all this life experience has happened to me so early.

Well, thanks for the life experience, cancer, but I could have done without. I would have grown and matured and gotten wise without your stinky ass, thank you very much.

I wish people would understand.

All that ‘life experience’ and ‘wisdom’ came at a terrible cost.

And putting a life back together again is so much harder than watching it fall apart.

So, yeah. Some days I wish that you’d just come on back. I wish that you’d come in and blow everything down again. Because right now, it’s easier thinking about the doctor’s visit next week than it is thinking about my five-year-plan. It’s easier concentrating on managing side effects than it is managing this tidal wave of emotion. It’s easier to let others idealize me and infantilize me than it is to make them understand the rage seething just below my placid demeanor.

I am trying. Trying to breathe again. To be less of a ghost. More … solid. I am trying to imagine a life where you’re not pressed into every little crevice of my life.

Eventually, it won’t hurt so bad to look at you. Maybe. Someday. I’ll be able to look at the wreckage of my early life and build something from it. I hope it’ll be beautiful, whatever it is—something that could never have been formed without the pain and tragedy that produced the raw materials.

I like to think that’s where things are going. Beauty, born from heartache, where I don’t have to pretend. Your role in the shaping of things will be loud and clear and on display, but your power over it will be broken. I will own that place. Not you.

But for now? For now, I’m going to concentrate on taking a step. A breath. I’m going inch my way forward. Gather up the wreckage like driftwood on the beach. Images of chemo, my intimate acquaintance with pain, the taste of saline. And I’m going to start building.

I don’t know what I’ll come up with yet.

But it’s going to be beautiful.

It’s going to be mine.

And it’s going to be worth keeping around for a very, very long time.

I plan to be here for it.

Peace out,




All of the posts written for Elephants and Tea are contributed by patients, survivors, caregivers and loved ones dealing with cancer.  If you have a story or experience you would like to share with the cancer community we would love to hear from you!  Please submit your idea at

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