My son, Seamus, submitted an essay to the Cancer Support Community Valley/Ventura/Santa Barbara inaugural essay contest. He won 1st prize. Here is his letter to cancer:
Dear Cancer, It’s Me, by Seamus Morrison
It’s me, the boy whose dreams you shattered, whose innocence you soiled, and body you stomped on. I have something to say about that.
I’ve been torn apart and put back together again. Patched together with pain, and stitched up with sorrow. The stiches serve as painful reminders that you have taken what is rightfully mine. You ripped it out and walked away without regret. You pretended nothing had happened, but we both knew it had.
You’ve been gone a long time but I still think of you. I cannot forget you. I’m reminded of you when I stumble and fall because you compromised my balance, when I look in the mirror and see my eyes drifting in different directions, when I can’t remember to close the front door behind me or what I’m supposed to be doing at any given time because you messed with my memory too. I can’t forget that you took the friends I made in the hospital, my aunt, my grandmother then made me wonder why you didn’t take me instead. Why was I the lucky one? When my right hand struggles to strike at the piano keys, there you are, mocking me, just like you used to when you would sit at the edge of my hospital bed with that wicked smile on your face. I was mute at the time – a small price to pay to get the tumor out of my head – and couldn’t cry out for help. I was scared of you. I imagined you as a shadowy figure with a hat, a plaid fedora with a feather in it, fashioned at the perfect angle. Brain surgery does strange things to a person’s mind. For a while, that hat was the only thing that mattered. I could not resist thinking how good it would look on me.
If we’d never met, I would have been more charismatic – you took away my personality. I remember being quicker, funnier. People liked me and it was easier to talk to them before you came along. I would’ve had more hair without you and more friends, too.
I want to take all my anger out on you, but rage won’t resolve anything. I have decided to make an agreement with you instead, or really an agreement with myself to make peace with you. From now on, I will start to look for the good things about our relationship, like how you introduced me to golf when I could no longer play baseball. Thank you for buying me extra time on math tests. Because of you I have a strong bond with my family that makes me feel loved and safe. I’ve learned that they will stay with me even through the darkest moments. You’ve taught me not to take little things for granted like the warmth of my cat sleeping at my feet or the taste of strawberries in mid-July. Maybe now that we have made peace, you can tell me where you got that hat.