Spotting pale petals, you remember,
trading picturesque mountains
for Midwestern fields,
the willpower of finding home away from home
while healing strangers.
But I would call you 
my brother, standing among
a handful of faces 
that comforted me 
when the world was ending.
How a rose must look
from hospital rooms,
frail petals and questioning facades.
The front line against 
"the emperor of all maladies",
not the keepers of disease, 
but its destroyers,
my guardians,
my friends.

This poem came to mind based off another flower-centric poem I just wrote for a prompt, though it doesn’t quite fit those guidelines. This past week, I had my regular oncology check-up; I’ve recently moved to only twice yearly check-ups because, in the words of my oncologist, I’m “doing great, cancer-wise” (not that I’m not doing great in other realms, lol, but we mainly talk shop). Much to my surprise, my oncologist told me that he’s leaving the clinic and going halfway around the country to work at a research university.

This is all well and good, and I congratulated him on the new job, but later, I realized that I was actually really sad to hear he was leaving. And then I felt ridiculous because this is just my doctor; it’s not like my BFF is moving away. I couldn’t understand what was wrong with me, so I checked in with my amazing cancer survivor community, who reassured me that I wasn’t crazy. A bunch of them chimed in with stories of their own about oncologists retiring or leaving; many of them shed a few tears. “They were there to support you!” they said, “It’s OK to grieve their leaving your life.”

I remember my very first appointment at the cancer center on January 7th, 2020. It had been 8 days since I’d received the petrifying phone call that I had cancer, and they’d randomly picked an oncologist for me to consult with. I had no idea what to expect; I even remember being surprised that oncologists had exam rooms like other doctors (I have no idea what I was expecting?). Then Dr. B. strolled in, radiating both kindness and confidence, and reassured me that cancer was a manageable disease. I had always associated cancer with eminent death, and when he said the phrase “essentially curable”, I was shocked (what?!? We can’t cure cancer, or so I’d been told…) but I knew I wanted him on my team for this battle.

Dr. B. and my amazing oncology nurses were there in April and May of 2020 when my appointments switched from pre-COVID normal chemo infusions to highly cautious, no-visitors-allowed, excessive-protective-gear-and-nasal-swabs COVID chemo infusions. I saw them more often than I saw any of my actual friends that spring, and I think that’s still something I’m processing. In normal times, I would have had that extra wall of friends around me in person; in COVID cancer times, so much of my support was virtual. So, I think I give my doctor and nurses extra credit; they were there for me when nobody else was physically allowed to be. And there they were for three more years.

Anyways, Dr. B. is from Kashmir, so in continuing with the flower theme from yesterday’s poem, I wanted to find a flower native to that region for my little “thank you” poem in honor of him. According to Free Press Kashmir (who also provided the photo), the Kashmiri rose, or Koshur gulab, is becoming more scarce, though they are still used for a special rose oil, which apparently has some medicinal properties. And so my poem’s subject comes full circle back to health. I hope that you, my awesome readers, never need an oncologist, but, if you do, I hope you get one like Dr. B. Shukriya.

16 thoughts on “Gratitude

  1. I’m so very thankful and glad that you had a medical team that embraced and supported you. I have cringed with other stories of situations where the patient has had to advocate for themselves and dealt with their caregivers with distrusting anguish. ♥

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I’ve heard stories like that, too. It’s upsetting when someone is going through a difficult health experience to have to fight for decent care on top of everything else. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve had really good providers throughout my cancer experience. There were only a couple exceptions in surgery and radiology, and even one of them admitted that he didn’t usually work with young cancer patients and that I should get a second opinion.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What a heartwarming, beautiful tribute, Sarah! I can understand how you feel. Someone very close to me was diagnosed with cancer in February and her doctor has literally handheld her throughout the surgery and radiation. She too feels very emotional about her doctor.

    Liked by 1 person

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