by Gerald Green
Ground up popcorn kernels oozed under my partials. I tried to ignore the pain, but the gritty mess robbed my taste buds of the flavor. I flushed it down with pink lemonade between bites, until my gums screamed.
I don’t know why I expected a different result; the same thing happened every time I ate popcorn. I quit eating, removed my partials, and wrapped them in a napkin. I took my eyes off the movie screen for a second, while putting them in my pocket. Damn I missed it. What happed? Everyone laughed except me. Then the joke hit me, but tongue spasms stole the humor. I closed my eyes and recalled the dentist snipping at my tongue. It sounded like it should hurt. I felt like a fish with the hook torn from its mouth but I felt no pain. He scooped and gouged, while Grover Washington blew his soothing tenor saxophone in the background — interrupted by scissors cutting stitches on my bleeding tongue — click, click.
I’m living proof that time heals emotional and physical scars. My first scar is hidden within my tongue, where external gamma beam treatment killed the tumor, but left scar tissue where it once thrived. This invisible scar sapped my life’s pleasure. Two years later I washed my face and smiled in the mirror at the new scar on my neck, a constant reminder of my last cancer surgery. It is the source of great pleasure and sometimes throbs. I get joy from looking at it and think of the consequence of not having the metastasized tumor discovered. What’s a little daily pain in exchange for years of life? I’ve been told an amputee has phantom pains. Who am I to complain about back-ground soreness on a body part that still functions?
Between the two scars, which one would I trade in? Neither. I have grown with these pains; they are a part of who I am. To trade them in would be to deny me — a survivor — cancer free and ready for life.
A life filled with joy and love of family,
A life that gives back to my community,
A life struggling to be the best father,
A life with love,
A life with Monica,
A life with dancing memories,
A life with scars, the scars that blessed me with another day!
Déjà vu, I heard click, click.
The doctor removed his staple gun-like instrument from my hemorrhaging rectum. I whimpered like a wounded animal and my muffled cries escaped from the tiny room. He carefully placed the sample on the tray before reloading a fresh needle and reinserting.
Click, click: he snatched another piece of my prostate.
At 60, I have survived tongue and neck cancer for 14 years with no guarantees, just daily opportunities to share love. Now prostate cancer has provided yet another thread to weave into my life’s fabric.
Isn’t the third time a charm?
Gerald Green’s bio:
Gerald Green was reborn in 1995 as a cancer survivor at the age of 46. He converted his focus from work to home and volunteerism, and to writing his memoir Living Above the Line, A Family’s Victory Over Cancer, which will be published later this year.