I was passing through the school library when I heard a small voice.

“Are you Mrs. Heidi Jones?”


“Did you used to have cancer?”

I had to think for a minute on how to answer that.  Did I USED TO HAVE cancer?  Do I still technically have cancer?  Am I a survivor?  A patient?  When you are undergoing the first rounds of radiation treatments, it is difficult to feel FINISHED.  SOMETHING is being treated.

There is nothing inherently frightening about a radiation treatment.  It doesn’t take long, and everyone is LOVELY.  The only necessary skills are holding still and breathing on command.  Nailed it round one.

I HATE going.

All of the logical self-talk in the world can’t talk me into seeing this process solely as the opportunity to heal and stay well.  I know this, because I have literally used up all of the self-talk in the world.  I put on a happy face – except for treatment two – when unruly tears persisted in traitorously spilling down my cheeks (positive note – it did not devolve into the ugly cry).  I protested, “I don’t even know why I am crying.”

But, I did.

Every day, I have to confront the cancer.  I have to look at a chest marked with angry scars and radiation paint markings covered with tape.  I look like a map.  The kind you see on the wall of a METRO train – a hundred possible stops.  I remind myself –  just keep going until you reach YOUR station.  I’m ready to hear that it is time to exit the cancer train.

Which brings me back to my little friend in the library.

“Did you used to have cancer?”

“Well, they cut it out, so I guess you could say that I USED TO HAVE cancer.”

“You don’t have it no more?”

“I think maybe I don’t…”


“I think maybe I did!”


Leave it to a child.  A child who I do not know, as she is in a lower grade and has not come through my hands yet.  Her small voice – walking me through the positive declaration that I USED TO HAVE cancer.  Celebrating LIFE in a chance meeting in the school library.  Today, my radiation treatment didn’t bother me a bit.



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