What's this?

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 Fifty-Nine


The author undergoes a transformation from a cancer patient into something else.

        And eventually my birthday arrived and so did my sister, bearing a cake. The cake was decorated with chocolate frogs. My sister, who is, amongst other things, a maven in the world of images, an interpreter of portents and a commander of representational mysteries, explained that the chocolate frogs were not just chocolate frogs but symbols of transformation. I had been, for the better part of a year, an ugly frog. But now I was to undergo a transformation from an ugly frog into a handsome prince. (A prince with, remarkably, still a smattering of snow-white hair remaining, stubbornly, in the aftermath of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.)
        What follows is a poem, "Cancer Patient", which touches on the process of transformation, though the poem distorts reality slightly, since the cake was not in fact a chocolate cake but a fruit cake.

Cancer Patient

Cancer is gray bananas,
An intravenous drip
Diluting my soul with sickness.

Exiled from my Japan,
I find my life
Made mythological,
The heartbeats of my eternity
Compressed into photographs,
Flat hammer evidence,
Zen rocks adrift
In the photochemical smog ...
My wife and baby.

Cancer is exile.
And I,
I am the cancer patient,
Waiting for my statistical resolution,
My life
Hesitating on the cool gray edge of never,
On the brink of deletion ...

In the year of many needles
I endure my altered state
Until a frog,
Symbol of transformation,
Signals my birthday resurrection,
Cancer commuted to chocolate cake.
With this kiss
I transform you.

In the golden temples of the imagination
The bells of silence
With waiting voices.

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