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This is part of the full text of the medical memoir "Cancer Patient" written by Hugh Cook. The full text has been published online on a free-to-read-online basis. This autobiographical non-fiction account deals with the author's initial health problems, diagnosis, and treatment with chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

The complete text of "Cancer Patient" is here on this web site but is also available for purchase from amazon.com as a proper printed paperback book. The full text may also be purchased as a download (a PDF file) from lulu.com for US $5. Go to lulu.com/hughcook

For a chapter-by-chapter breakdown of what's in the book (in its online version, in the PDF version and in the paperback version), see:-

Table of Contents


diary       site contents       essays       stories       flash fiction       poems       novels

CANCER PATIENT is a medical memoir which deals with the author's autobiographical experiences which involve, amongst other things, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, a brain biopsy, a lumbar puncture (and then some more lumbar punctures), treatment with Ara-C, treatment with vincristine, treatment with methotrexate, treatment with radiation from a linear accelerator, and a vitrectomy (an operation to remove the jelly from an eye). This is a non-fiction account but it does contain a couple of fictional stories, clearly identified as such, and it also includes some poetry.

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Chapter Thirty-Four


This chapter contains the bull text of a horror story, a fantasy story, a cancer story called "Metastasis", the full text of which was first published on the Internet on Friday 25 March 2005 when it was posted on the web site zenvirus.com (which is also reachable by way of hughcook.com.) Some readers may find the content disturbing or offensive. Note that it is, as has been stated above, a horror story.


         It was late at night, and Ray was alone in his office at Beltway City Bliss Contents, working on a presentation for an important client which was due in the morning.
         A small noise, a kind of rubbery squeaking, made him look up from his computer, and he saw the intruder. A figure in the shape of a man, a figure made of translucent lime green jelly held together by a plastic shroud.
         "Metastasis," said the figure, announcing himself, naming himself.
         The voice was a light baritone but hinted of reserves of basso profundo power.
         Having spoken, Metastasis advanced. Inside the jelly were various organs, all flawed, variously soft, coagulated, cankered, furred. A lung like a swollen pad of sponge embedded with coal. A humped pulsing blood clot which might once have been a heart.
         "Stop!" said Ray desperately.
         And the thing stopped.
         "Who are you?" said Ray.
         "I think you know who I am, Ray. Didn't I just introduce myself? I'm Metastasis. If you don't understand that, further explanations wouldn't help you any."
         "Try me."
         "No, Ray, we're not going to go down that route."
         "Okay, why are you here?"
         "I don't come from the world of why and wherefore, Ray. I'm not like that. I'm not like that at all. The fact is that I'm here. That should be sufficient."
         "But why?"
         "Persistence is not everywhere admired, Ray. Sometimes it's better just to give up and go with the flow. Why? I don't have a why. I've already made that clear."
         Then Metastasis fell silent, leaving Ray to contemplate the details. The jaw, nose and eye were blurred, smeared. The left hand was a crude mitten shape, the right hand delicate, bony, long-fingered, the asymmetry disturbing.
         The body lacked a penis, and had only one half of one testicle. The half testicle extended from the shroud, sliced open, complex pink convolutions painfully raw. Bloodless. Healthy? Maybe.
         Back of where the missing penis should have been, Ray could make out a murky mottled orange blog which might have been a ruined bladder.
         "You want to touch it," said Metastasis, gesturing at the exposed half testicle, using his delicate right hand for the purpose.
         "I don't want to touch anything, thank you very much."
         "You may touch it. Feel free. Believe me, touching is a liberation. The imagination, you see, is always to much more terrifying than the reality."
         "I'll pass, thank you."
         "As you will."
         Touching. What would it feel like, that obscene half-fruit? Would it recoil backwards in a spasm of flesh? Be cold? Be warm?
         He shuddered.
         "Relax, Ray," said Metastasis. "I think it's time for us to talk business."
         And, though Metastasis did not have much of a face, his jawline articulated in a manner which suggested a smile. Humor was successfully expressed, though not, admittedly, the most pleasant humor in the world.
         "Business?" said Ray.
         "Yes, Ray, business. I've come to a decision. An act of free will, you might say. I've decided that tonight I'm here to help you. And I will, Ray. I have all kinds of very good ideas, just for you."
         "Such as?"
         "I have some neat gifting ideas, for starters. Valentine's Day cards for cats. False noses to make small dogs cuter. And special spangly Christmas decorations you can install right inside your refrigerator to get that yuletide uplift feeling all the year round."
         "You're nuts," said Ray.
         "What did you say?"
         "Nuts," said Ray. "Get the hell out of here."
         "Ray!" said Metastasis. "Rudeness! I'm disappointed in you. And we were getting along so well together. I think you've lined yourself up for a punishment. What would you like, Ray? Leukemia? Lung cancer? How about testicular cancer, huh? Cancer of the testicles makes a great conversation point. Who knows? It might get you on one of the major talk shows. Well, Ray. How about it? Testicular cancer, how would you like that?"
         "No thank you," said Ray.
         "Then what would you like? You have to choose something, you know."
         "I believe we were talking about business plans," said Ray, eager to get back to the puppy dog noses and spangly yuletide decorations, eager to get away from the vulgarity of blood and naked nerve endings and cringing pink vulnerability.
         "Oh, business plans!" said Metastasis. "Me may have started out that way, but I don't recall you being seriously interested. Insincerity, Ray, is a very serious crime."
         "I'm sorry."
         "Don't waste your breath. Please understand me, Ray, if there's one thing I really don't like, it's hypocrisy. My motto is -- "
         Abruptly, Metastasis lurched to one side, staggered, righted himself, flung both hands upwards, tottered then stabilized himself. His innards convulsed, and a strangled gargling sound, halfway between panic and agony, filled the room.
         Metastasis's shroud dimpled and swelled, then began to tighten, shrinking closer and closer to his translucent lime green flesh. With a sudden splurting sound, the extruded half testicle was abruptly sucked inside the shroud.
         Metastasis screamed in shrill agony, thrashed from side to side, then gradually became steady. Silent. Still.
         "That," said Metastasis, soberly. "That was a near thing. I almost exploded. Well, Ray, I guess this just about brings us to the end."
         "I guess it does," said Ray.
         "You never commented on it, did you?" said Metastasis.
         "You never commented on the aroma," said Metastasis.
         "The aroma?"
         "The aroma of my deodorant, Ray. A delicately complected blend of lime and lemon, with just a hint of basil for organic balance. So much care in the choosing, but you never seemed to notice it at all."
         "I'm sorry," said Ray, truthfully, "but I have a very poor sense of smell."
         "And a poor sense of hospitality, too. Otherwise you'd have offered me refreshments. Brandy, I'm partial to brandy. Rich Christmas cake, too. You know, the really fruity cake with a thick layer of marzipan, topped off with white frosting. But you, Ray, you didn't even offer me a cup of coffee."
         "Would you like one now?"
         "A little late, Ray. I'm leaving. But I'm gifting you something to help you remember my visit."
         "A present?"
         "Sure. Look at your forearm, Ray."
         Ray looked. And there, on the skin of his forearm, was something new. A shiny black spot. A berry growth, dark and potent. Embedded. He scratched at it.
         "I wouldn't scratch it if I were you, Ray. I'd take it to my doctor. Fast. Very fast. I can't tell you for sure exactly what it might be, but there are times when a black spot on the skin turns out to be melanoma. A very dangerous form of skin cancer. It can take you down and kill you in just a few weeks. See your doctor today, Ray."
         "It's two o'clock in the morning."
         "So you're off to a good start," said Metastasis. "You can be first in line at the surgery. Well, it was nice to have met you, Ray, and I wish you very good luck with your struggle."
         And, with a polite bow, Metastasis shimmered into nothing and vanished, leaving Ray contemplating, silently, the anomalous future gleaming berry black within his skin.
         After a while, he realized he was hungry, so he went and found the last piece of Christmas cake and the brandy to go with it, and felt better for consuming these things. Dead in a few weeks? Well, maybe not. Let's see what the doctor says.
         And, impending death or otherwise, his headline was still doable.
         Alive or dead, not knowing which, he returned his attention to the keyboard.

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The text on this page is part of the cancer memoir "Cancer Patient" which has been posted online. All the chapters of this book are on this website and can be read for free online. However, the text is copyright - all rights reserved. For permission to use this text or any portion of it contact Hugh Cook.


        This personal memoir of the writer's encounter with cancer (non-Hodgkin's lymphoma of the large B-cell type) attempts to cleave to the truth. However, the text may contain information that is wrong, outdated, incomplete or otherwise misleading.
        This memoir has been written in a time of illness by a cancer patient who, though he feels sharp enough, must admit to sometimes misinterpreting things, forgetting things, or, on occasion, quite simply not hearing things.
        This memoir is designed to communicate the writer's personal experience and is not intended as a source of medical information. Got a medical question? Ask your doctor.

Cancer Patient Copyright © 2005 Hugh Cook.

Hugh Cook