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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.

Table of Contents

Chapter Forty-Two


The author eats chocolate for his health. He discovers, amidst the debris of old literary efforts, some creative writing about cancer, writing undertaken in the days before the writer became a cancer patient.

        Thursday 28 April 2005.
        Today I continued my struggle to recover my health, valiantly eating my way through a big slab of high quality dark chocolate (a gift from a solicitous family member) to benefit from its antioxidant effect, its procyanidins (large polyphenols which are alleged to protect the gastrointestinal tract from carcinogenic changes), its ferulic acid and its epicatechin (a flavonoid which supposedly inhibits the growth of skin cancer in mice).
        To be honest, I'm not entirely certain that the health benefits justify the sugar intake, but I felt good afterwards, perhaps getting a little high on phenylethylamine (PEA), an endorphin found in (real) chocolate.
        Perked up by phenylethylamine and the caffeine content of several cups of tea and two of coffee, I spent some time sorting through some old writing files consisting of vocabulary lists, poetry fragments, story ideas and the like. Fragmentary notes which are years old. These are my jottings, my scraps, my midnight thoughts, my off the cuff "let's write this down" thoughts.
        I found the occasional scrap of mildly interesting stuff, like half a line of poetry saying simply "and God defeated by a condom". I also found a complete orgasm poem, an achieved work of art which I finished years ago but which, for some reason, I have never hitherto offered to the world. I don't know why it didn't occur to me to submit it to the New Yorker or somewhere, but evidently it didn't. Here is the text of the poem: Orgasm The sheet of paper endured an orgasm Becoming Origami.
        Also, to my surprise, I found the rough notes for two stories featuring cancer. The idea of cancer was kicking around in my imagination years ago. Maybe this indicates the extent to which "cancer", as a possible disaster, is alive in the imagination of the culture in which I live.
        In other words, I'm saying that probably the notion of inputting cancer into these stories arose from cultural inputs (news stories, fiction stories, gossip and so forth) rather than from my own imperatives. Which maybe explains why I never did anything with these ideas.
        The idea of cancer or the cancerous is peripheral to each story rather than central, but it is there.
        The rough working notes for the two untitled stories are as follows:-


        sub-idea: organ traders. Implanted by psychic surgeons. Related sub-idea: diseases as creatures, eg crawling cancer. -- example of sub idea: a bucket of eyes -- a pulsing heart -- a liver -- wet organs -- the flies -- psychic surgeon -- his hands going in -- pulling out the cancer -- it writhed and flexed -- sunlight squealed as it flopped off the table and began to pulse toward the gutter -- with -- fire -- red-hot coal -- it writhed -- and died --


        idea: -- conglomerations underground of organs formed out of stone, hearts, lungs, livers, veins, eyes, brains, fantasticated rock, dug out, quarried, not always human, the organs of rats and pigs, not by fossilization but by some vagrant freak of creation -- huge rocks -- their reds and blues -- their greens and yellows -- in the ninetieth year of the exploitation of this quarry -- the organs -- showed signs of disease -- the lungs of smokers -- cancerous testicles -- knobbly -- unmentionable -- a puddled brown -- the vomit of poisoned death throes -- putrescent -- one day -- the sun -- the next morning -- the entire hillside -- a mass of reeking rot -- swarming with maggots -- vultures -- at the same time -- all the stoneware -- underwent a transformation to flesh -- the stone heart -- and throbbed -- beating hideously -- quivering to a lisp of silence -- gnawed upon by dogs --

        What surprised me about STORY TWO is some words which seem to prefigure the writing of METASTASIS, a cancer story that I wrote early this year. The words are:-
        "the organs -- showed signs of disease -- the lungs of smokers -- cancerous testicles -- "
        These words remind me of a display of diseased organs (some of them damaged by cancer) that I saw in some kind of medical museum many years ago, and which later served as part of the inspiration for the story METASTASIS.
        At the time that I wrote the story, I had no idea that I had, earlier, been imaginatively exploring the museum material, but the evidence of STORY TWO shows me that I had.
        This is how writing sometimes works. There are times when materials is used, abandoned, then returned to (consciously or otherwise) years later.

Table of Contents

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