Cancer’s Blessings

by Alice Hardesty

As my fingertips explore your body
they encounter the long white remnants
of the surgeon’s knife. One extending
from neck to navel has almost faded away.
(I didn’t know that scars could disappear.)
The round one that held the failed feeding
tube is still there. The gash that stretches
from shoulder blade to ribs looks like
a brush with the Mafia.

Sometimes I wake and listen
for your regular breathing after
dreaming of darkness and death.
Ten years from diagnosis,
seven from the last chemo.
The doctors said you would surely
die within nine months. Midnight
trips to the hospital through record
snowfalls that January. Our marriage
was cancerous, but it took the embodiment
to make us understand.

People often ask what worked; was it
the German doctor’s concoctions,
the laying on of hands, our therapist’s
guidance, spiritual awakening?
Or was it your own solid determination
to reach that vast reservoir
of healing. We had to excise
the defenses, cut down the pride,
stem the addictions, uncover and own
the looking away, everything
that masked the heart.

Sleeping lightly, you are
soft, smooth, muscular,
more like a teenager than a man
in his seventh decade, dreaming
the woodworker’s dream
of saws and chisels, and long,
straight pieces of cherry
with few knotholes.

Alice Hardesty & Dog

Bio: Alice Hardesty is a poet and writer living in Portland, Oregon. Her memoir, A Cancer Journey: The Cosmic Kick That Healed our Lives, is the story of her husband’s extraordinary healing from esophageal cancer, despite two “terminal” diagnoses.

After conventional medicine failed to provide a cure, Alice and her husband tried every alternative and complementary treatment they could, including vitamins and enzymes, spiritual healing, and intensive psychotherapy. Along with the physical healing came the healing of their marriage. The book is due for publication in the summer of 2014.