If You Are Lucky, Your Journey Will Be A Ride Through Dante’s Inferno

Survivors and their parents are often seen as the victors, and indeed they are. They get to live to fight another day, but as this poem by childhood cancer survivor Yuval so eloquently expresses, it is not an easy road no matter the outcome of your Childs cancer diagnosis.

The Other Side of Cancer

It’s literally a trip through hell.
If you are lucky, your journey will be an uphill ride
Through Dante’s Inferno.

As you pedal breathlessly toward the top,
Stones slam into you from every direction, tearing you to pieces.
And deadly fires close in on you, scorching your soul.

The dizzying twists and turns make you sick again and again.
And again.
Inevitably, you fall from time to time
Gathering scars.

But somehow, you climb back on
Willingly accepting the painful road
As the price of hope.

You are equally tortured
Watching the suffering of your peers
Who seem to crash down just as you pull yourself up.
And you can only pray that they too will be able to get back on
And follow in pursuit of the finish line.

Then, by some miracle, you get there
To the outer edge of hell.
You climb out and anticipate the feel of the smooth ground under your feet.

But you find that the hell hole
Remains wide open just behind you.
It follows you wherever you go.
But the normal people can’t see it.
Only those who have been there see the truth.

The normal people congratulate you on your safe return from the netherworld.
And then return to their normal business.
Expecting you to follow with the same balance and confidence.
After all, you are back and it’s time to move on.

They don’t get how treacherous is the invisible precipice;
How you never know if and when you might fall back in;
How you never stop hearing those monsters taunting from below.

What can you do but try to smile
And pray to keep your balance —
— Like a tightrope-walking clown.
Obligated to keep the masses happy,
While unsuccessfully trying not to look down.

© Jackie Rosenzveig, November 2014