Before cancer, writing wasn’t something I enjoyed. It was a chore. Something I did at work or for school. Much like all things I dislike, I avoided it. Then, when I was at my lowest point, writing found me. Pushed me to pick it up, toss my feelings out, and move ahead. Finding community during treatment was intimidating for me. But, I discovered my local Gilda’s Club has a fantastic writing group for cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers which has allowed me to create space in my life for deep processing through words. Using a suggested prompt, I gazed upon a glorious picture of a comet shooting across the night sky, and I imagined myself as that bright piece of ice. The grief, loneliness, and “othering” of cancer flowed into the following poem.
My Life, the Comet.
Life is bright, short, and fleeting. I went through life, my comet burning, leaving a trail of accomplishments, decisions, and mistakes. Hardly thinking about the sky around me. The many pieces of space garbage, drifting alongside me but yet so distant. Until one day, a hunk of trash collided with my bright path. Shattering my invincibility, and everything constant in life. How did I not see all these smelly, horrible bundles of refuse around me? They’d hit others in my life, but never me. How is this possible? Space trash is a concept but not a reality. Until now. Now, it’s my every day and my whole being. Rather than my comet tail defining who I am, it’s the trash. Trash which must be removed from my beautiful and fragile comet body. Scaring and leaving me a fraction of my former self. Dreams deferred and at times shattered, tossed out into the cosmos. Efforts to gather the pieces in vain. The path I’d worked so carefully to create demolished. I’m lost in the night sky, hurling toward a black hole.
Then, suddenly, I’m free of the trash. Or at least I’m told I’m free. It’s anyone’s best guess. I choose to believe it’s gone. Once again I’m tossed out into the brilliant night sky, less whole than before. Holes carefully patched back together. But something else is different too. I’m confident knowing how I want to shape my future comet tail. I grab at stars I thought previously out of reach. Stopping to connect with other comets in the sky, seeing their brilliance, celebrating it. Sharing this brilliant constellation with other comets. Realizing how unbelievably fragile our too brief life is in the sky. Recognizing the space trash and knowing I can see it but it doesn’t define me. I’m more than this trash. I’m on the cusp of a new tail, one that blazes a radiant path forward. Accepting I’m a different being than before. And that’s okay.