Cancer Math by Ally Malinenko

I’d avoided the website for close to a year
instead keeping my eyes open
my gaze on the future
whatever that will be
so that I could start to think of myself
like everyone else
not like a girl with a time bomb
strapped to her chest

But it’s nearly June
so it’s MRI time
and the last two years
come back at me
memories whip-lashing

so here I am again
late at night
filling out the online form on Cancer Math dot com
listing my age
tumor size
lymph node involvement
including if the node involvement was
ipsilateral, supraclavical
metastasis, micrometastasis
IHC or H/E staining negative
ER Status
PR Status
HER2 Status
Histological Type
and hitting update graph
agreeing to the disclaimer that this is for research purposes only
and that Cancer Math dot com cannot guarantee survival outcomes
and that treatment options should be discussed with my oncologist
and then
switching the chart from a line graph to the pictogram
that shows green smiley faces for the percentage of people
still alive in 15 years
and red frowning faces for the ones that have died
running a finger over the screen
as if they were real people that I could touch
and celebrate with
or touch and mourn
trying not to think about which face is supposed to be mine.

Ally Malinenko is the author of the poetry collections The Wanting Bone and How to Be An American (Six Gallery Press) as well as the YA novel This Is Sarah (Bookfish Books). Forthcoming from Low Ghost Books is a poetry collection entitled Better Luck Next Year. She’s at @allymalinenko mostly talking about David Bowie, Doctor Who and stupid cancer.

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