Three Poems – Ally Malinenko

chemotherapy

Fight Like a Girl and Other Bullshit from Cancer Inc
 
Fight, sure,
but eventually you will collapse
and when you do
it will feel good
 
like giving up
because that’s what you wanted to do all along
 
because when you told each other
that it was just a speed bump
and that’s all
it was a lie.
 
Because fighting doesn’t make a difference
because all the wrong choices were made
a long time ago
and you did damage
you can’t undo
and it’s over
now this
slow unwinding
as if you never
existed
at
all.



My Mother’s Sickness
 
There’s no obvious sign
not from his face or his body
but I can tell just by looking at him
that my father is about to cry.
 
He swallows hard and I pass my mug
to my husband and slide
down the couch toward him.
 
I take my father’s hand,
the skin already feels paper thin,
and his arm under my palm
just a handful of rags wrapped around a stick.
 
I tell him it’s okay.
I say it again.
 
He’s worried about my mother
about the treatment she will receive
for her cancer.
 
It’s easier to be the patient, he tells me.
He was sick for so long
but it was so long ago that he remembers it differently.
 
It’s harder to watch her do this, he says swallowing hard.
I’m just so scared.
 
Teenagers float through the house in packs of twos and threes
like wolves separated by so many trees.
 
I tell him I know
because words are failing me now
sitting on this couch
comforting my father
 
If I close my eyes I see
my own pathology report.
It came with pictures
 
the tumor like a hurricane
swirling inside me.
 
I know, Dad, I say again
I bit down hard on my lip
knowing that over time
this secret is going to get so heavy
like a boulder I will have to push
just to cross the room.



First Opinion
 
He writes with a sharpie
on the blank paper
laying out treatment options.
 
He writes local
and talks about radiation
and then he writes
systemic
and lays out options
 
CMF – every other week for six weeks, minimal hair loss
TC – three doses over four weeks, hair loss but no heart toxicity
AC-T – every other week for 8 weeks. Hair loss. Heart toxicity.
 
He looks up from the paper
Now, he says, what I recommend is this,
and he circles AC-T.
My breath catches because this was not what I expected.
I protest
my oncotype score was low, I say.
It’s only one test, he counters.
He sees my resistance.
My fear written in ink as black as that marker.
 
What are the side effects, I ask.
He sighs. It’s hair. It will grow back, he says.
And? I ask
Bone marrow issues.
Leukemia.
 
Leukemia? I repeat.
Yes but it’s rare.
 
You’re young, he says. You can take it.
 
He turns to my husband
and says, if it were my wife…
he lets the rest float out there.
Sinister.
 
But, he says, we can do any of these,
pointing again to the other treatment options.
 
And there it is,
the slow cold realization
that my future
my life
my treatment
is my choice.
 
Any of them?
 
Sure, he says. You just need to pick one.
 
I look up at him.
He smiles.
Think about it, he says.
I’ll call you next week.
We can get started then.
I’m very pro-chemo he adds
with a smile of perfectly straight teeth.
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About Ally Malinenko

I live in Brooklyn which is good except when it’s not which is horrid. I’ve been writing for awhile, and have some stuff published and some stuff not. I don’t like when people refer to pets as their children and I can’t resist a handful of cheez-its when offered. I have a burning desire to go to Antarctica, specifically to the South Pole so I can see where Robert Falcon Scott died. I like to read books. I like to write stories and poems. I even wrote some novels. You can read them. View all posts by Ally Malinenko

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