A woman looks thoughtfully to the dawn sky as dark clouds float past her

Cancer In Reverse

To say that we're living in unprecedented times is an understatement. From one day to the next, our lives have been turned upside down and the collective anxiety is palpable. It feels like the world is trying to press the 'reset' button so we're forced to pause and look at ourselves.

Cancer prepared me to face challenges

In many ways living with cancer is great preparation for adapting to the current global health crisis. However, I could have never predicted that in almost a year after receiving my shocking diagnosis of stage IV lung cancer, I, along with the entire world, would be experiencing a pandemic highlighting a virus that wreaks havoc on the lungs amongst other organs. Social distancing has made it so physical contact is limited but we humans are social beings.

As grim as the news may seem at the moment, there's hope that things will get better. That's the beauty of the human spirit. We have an amazing ability to adapt and use perspective as a catalyst to see things in a positive light.

Poetry in uncertain times

I recently conducted a poetry lesson for high school students (on Google Hangouts) about reverse poems. Like the phrase suggests, these are poems that can be read from both top to bottom and then in reverse. What's more, the message of the poem changes when it's read in the other direction. Here's an example:1

I hate the girl in the mirror
So you'll never hear me say
I'm good enough

Read from top to bottom, it's quite pessimistic. However, when read from the bottom line to the top, it reveals a drastically different tone. 

Putting pen to paper

The high school students were keen to take on this poem writing challenge and after presenting this lesson, I decided to write my own poem about a very relevant topic for me.

Making sense of the unknown

You might notice that some sections of my poem portray a similar message when read either way. The ambiguity is on purpose.

That's the thing with having this cancer cloud hanging over my head. Even when I get good news about the progression of the disease, there's still that niggling feeling of the cancer cells finding a way to outsmart my immune system which prevents me from breathing a huge sigh of relief.

Research gives us reason to hope

Fortunately, research in lung cancer is advancing and targeted therapies are available so that nowadays a stage IV verdict doesn't have to mean an automatic death sentence. Science is making it possible to start viewing cancer as a chronic disease instead of a deadly one.

And that is a cause for celebration.

Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on May 26, 2021, Angie Brice Hessbruegge passed away. Angie's thoughtful writings and advocacy efforts will continue to reach many. She will be deeply missed.

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