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Dear Cancer, I Will Never Bow Down to You

by Rachelle RolfSurvivor, Yolk Sac Tumor & AdenocarcinomaJune 3, 2024View more posts from Rachelle Rolf

Dear Cancer,

You entered my life before I could even form my first official memory, as if you wanted me to come into this world knowing only pain and suffering. You broke my parents’ hearts and stole their hopes of having another happy, healthy baby. You tainted my childhood and inserted fear where only joy and love should have existed. You dictated my family’s every move for the first years of my life, and had fun toying around with us. It was like a demented game of cat and mouse that you played.

You weren’t concerned with how you looked to others. You left bold, ravaging scars across my body as evidence of the battle. You didn’t want me to forget. But how could I? You wreaked havoc on my tiny body. I was only a child, but you showed no mercy. It was as if you were angry at the world and were taking it out on me. I was sure you chose me because you thought I’d be an easy target to take down, but you underestimated the strength that I had within, and miscalculated the size of my village. I had an entire army backing me up, fighting alongside me. Lifting me up in prayer. Never giving you half a chance in hell to take me down with you. You misjudged how complicated it would be to defeat me. You thought you could claim an effortless victory through me, but you had another thing coming. I may have been small, but I was also mighty.

During childhood, I didn’t look like my peers because of you. I knew I was different, but I thought it was because of something I did. You stole my self-confidence and forced me to grow through the rocks and the rubble. You tainted my view of the world and stripped it of its bright and beautiful colors. You painted my sky a dark, hazy gray, and stole the very sunshine that nourished my body. Wilted, I struggled to grow. I had to manage without all the sustenance that other children my age had to succeed. I had to defy the odds. There has to be a greater purpose than all of this, I would think to myself.

As I grew older, I realized that you were a bigger monster than I could even comprehend. You had devastated so many lives. I knew that you were evil, but I thought you at least had a heart. Felt some repentance for all the despair that you caused.

The day I found out that you took my friend away, ripping her right out of my very hands, was the day I knew that I could never look at you the same ever again. I once found gratitude for the friendships that I made because of you. Appreciation for the people I would have never crossed paths with had you not entered my life, and thankfulness for the empathy that I felt for those who are suffering. I learned how to be resilient because of what you thrust upon me. I know that you have taught me so many great life lessons, and all the qualities that I love about myself, I know that I have developed because of you. I know I should give you that recognition, but I can’t. Not anymore. I will never find it within my heart to forgive you! How dare you take someone so loving and so kind! She did NOT deserve your hatred, and she damn well didn’t deserve your wrath.

Once I realized what you were truly capable of—taking my friend’s life with no remorse—that’s when the fear truly began to creep in. As if surviving you once wasn’t enough to give me nightmares for a lifetime, the fear of your return? Haunting. Absolutely chilling to the bone. I would try to push the fear away, but it was there in the back of my mind, lurking in the shadows, whispering like a flickering candle. I always knew there was a chance you would return, but I didn’t think you would be so cruel.

You’re like a ticking time bomb—never knowing if or when you may go off. The sound of your tick is a reminder that you loom over me, but the sound becomes fainter over time, and I start to forget that you’re there in the background. I can finally start to take deep breaths again. Little by little, I begin to hope. I began to dream of a future where you don’t exist. I foolishly believed that this could be a possibility. I so desperately want to move on, to escape you. To throw you off my scent. But you’re like a hound dog, tracking my every move. Following me until the perfect moment to attack. To go off. You were obsessed. You couldn’t get over the fact that I had once defeated you, so you threw a tantrum like a toddler and demanded a rematch. You wanted another chance to take me down. What baby wants baby gets.

The first time we met, you came in like a wrecking ball, ready to demolish anything in your way. That approach didn’t work so well, so this time around, you decided to change things up for me. You tried to be sly and creep your way back into my life. The only problem for you was that I would recognize you anywhere. Even when you’re dressed in sheep’s clothing. You don’t fool me one bit.

As we began to duel it out again, you played even dirtier than before. You had done your homework and began to target me where I am the most vulnerable. You know that I struggle with nourishing my body with the oxygen it so desperately needs to function, so you commanded the very air that I breathe to deplete me of this nutrient. You took something as mundane as breathing and made it obsolete, a chore.

The sheer fear that you cause, as I try gasping for air and feel like I can’t quite catch it. Not to mention the pain. I didn’t predict that you’d cause so much pain. Savage.

For now, we have held you off, but there is a chance you may try to come back for more. If you do, know that I’ll be ready. I will sleep with one eye open. Never let my guard down.

I will never bow down to you.

This article was featured in the June 2024 Dear Cancer issue of Elephants and Tea Magazine! Click here to read our magazine issues.

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