Uninvited Guest – Cancer


Cancer Zodiac

Hello again. It’s me, Ollie, James’ Old English Sheepdog – but those who’ve been here before knew that already.

Have you ever had anyone drop by you weren’t expecting? Did they sniff you in all the wrong places, and then did they start playing with your toys without asking? Or even worse, did they start acting like you were the guest and it was their home? No? Well neither have I.

But James has had an uninvited guest come to visit and stay. He has leukemia. Oh, it’s not what you might be thinking. I know, when I first heard he had it I thought only children get it, right? I mean, James is, after all, not a child. He may act like one sometimes, but… (Oh he stopped typing what I was saying – how rude). He hasn’t seen childhood in, oh, (now he won’t type anything I’m dictating – it doesn’t help when you have paws instead of fingers and have to rely on someone else to do the typing). Anyway, it’s an adult variety that people usually find they have around the age of 65. James wants me to let you know that he is not that young (there he goes again with typing young when I say old).

As I was saying, James didn’t invite this cancer into his life. It came all by itself, uninvited. He went through chemo during the last six months of 2013, and he wrote a blog about it on The Huffington Post called “Postcards from Lebanon” – the hospital where he had chemo is in Lebanon, New Hampshire. Kind of clever (and James gladly types that for me – oh, he gave me a treat for saying that one – yummy!).

Well, there are silver linings, or as I like to say, treats galore to these types of things that happen to us. That is if we are willing to see the opportunities through the fog, which James did (oh, yes, another treat for me – I’m on a roll). Not only did he write that blog, but he has written quite a number of poems along this topic. Of course, he calls them “death” poems, but he’s still alive (thank the good lord – yes, another treat, I’m scoring), so I call the uninvited guest cancer instead of death. It also, I thought, made a much better title than using the word “death.” I mean, how many of you would have bothered to read my blog if that was how I’d started it? (What? No more treats? You’ve got to be kidding me.)


Anyway, I wanted to share with you one of the poems James wrote after he found out he had leukemia. He figured that since he was going to die, and now he knew most likely how, that his life would be cut short.

Short Cut


From home to school and back again
It was one block up, two blocks over and another block down
Or a short cut through two yards and a field in-between
With Mrs. Outz forever on the lookout
Cutting through her backyard
Picking apples from a tree
Tap, tap, tap went her knuckles on the window pane
Flap, flap, flap went my sneakers on her putting green grass.

Majestic poplars lined the hilly portion of Woodland Street
It was flat by our house and then came the hill
My Schwinn ten-speed took me racing down this road
I decided too late to turn towards home
Running head first
Smacking into a stout trunk
Blacked out, passed out, and don’t remember
How I got from the curb to our living room sofa.

I auditioned for every theatrical production in our town
Was I or was I not the next Olivier
Some roles were practically luminary while others ornamental
Then came the part of Malcolm in Macbeth
Twisting my lines
Discovering stage fright
Stage left, stage right, an earlier exit
Than the blocking we had rehearsed required

The distance we travel sometimes appears overwhelming
With no quick remedy to assist in crossing the finish line
It takes motivation and steady, diligent training
Every day, morning and night
Swimming 2.4 miles
Biking 112 miles
To find the right pace to complete the race
With a run of 26.2 miles

On this side of the continuum time is relevant
As getting through, reaching the other side, is the aim
We are all listening, watching, waiting
Dependent upon you for aid; we are that bold
Asking for help
Looking for guidance
We will never really know during this existence
We will forever reach for that silver lining
From an abnormal direction on a path out of synch
My life moves ever onward, spiraling, reaching its completion
On a revised path via metamorphosed chromosomes
A shock to my bone marrow creating a cancer
Routing my body
Rutting internal organs
One could step off a curve, get hit by a bus
That’s not the short cut I’m taking.

When James and I go out walking, I don’t like it when he wants to take short cuts and hurry back home. He usually does that when it’s raining. He is such a wussy when it comes to the rain. But I love him anyway (and he said he loves me, too – but still no treat).

We hope you liked the poem. Oh, and be sure and let me know if you did, or if you have any questions for me (or for James).

Until next week,
Short Stories - Author Webpage Help Needed
Sir Oliver of Skygate Farm (you can call me Ollie)

Paw Prints courtesy of www.pawsitivelyloved.com
Photo credits requested but not received, please use with discretion
“The Short Cut” © 2015 James Stack


14 thoughts on “Uninvited Guest – Cancer

  1. Inspiring! I love Ollie the storyteller – his asides crack me up.
    This was a great way to explore a delicate topic. I commend you for doing so. I found the piece to be a great balance of emotion.

    The poem was also inspiring. My fav line: On this side of the continuum time is relevant.

    3 things I’d like to share about this piece:
    1) I’m amazed by your ability to turn your battle into creativity. That was the most inspiring message I took away. Thank you for that.
    2) You ran an Ironman?! Seriously??
    3) Have you seen HBO’s Vice Special : Killing Cancer? http://killingcancer.vice.com
    It’s revolutionary. Been a while since I watched it but, I believe Novaris is seeking final approval for the Leukemia procedure on a fast track for 2016.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you so much for your kind and generous comments. I did an Ironman back in the day, and I’ve always said “no one can take that away from me.” Yes, I have seen the HBO special on cancer, and the new drugs are very promising. I may never have to go through chemo again, which would be a blessing.


      1. That would be a blessing buddy. 🙂
        And, wow. Ironman. I mean : WOW! That is a feat of utterly baffling resolve – no matter how old you were – truly badass.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I am very moved by the idea of short cuts and life/death – we never know when an action might lead to an involuntary short cut, or when something within us steers our life that way. Very moving. My sister battled cancer as a teen, and I always love to hear stories by survivors. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you – I hope your sister survived. These things are hard not only on those who have cancer, but the people who love them as well, and they are often overlooked. It was one of the things I didn’t want to happen in my case, and I don’t think it did.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. James, um, I mean….Ollie: I finally figured out what I was doing wrong when trying to follow this blog. Don’t ask. I have my moments. Anyway, this poem is AMAZING.

    Cutting through her backyard
    Picking apples from a tree
    Tap, tap, tap went her knuckles on the window pane
    Flap, flap, flap went my sneakers on her putting green grass

    I could see you running, see her at the window and hear her tapping while she frowned at you, and hear your sneakers (I pictured Converse but that was my imagination). And these lines were like a punch in the stomach but in a good way, you know, where you have an epiphany and see it all so clearly.

    One could step off a curve, get hit by a bus/
    That’s not the short cut I’m taking

    Very moving. Thank you for writing and sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. First, I’m sorry to hear such a hurdle has been placed in your path. I understand such unexpected and life altering, possibly paradigm changing news. There is definitely something very different after getting a personal introduction to death’s door and continuously saying, “nope, not today, lots to do.” I’m glad you have Ollie, puppyfaces do great things for your health, heart, and happiness. Honestly, as much as I like parts of your poem, the last line speaks to me loudest, “that’s not the short cut I’m taking,”, mantra worthy. Best wishes and good vibes for you and Ollie, take care.

    Liked by 1 person

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