By Dr. Arjun Gupta

You are a zodiac sign, you are a constellation. You are the Northern Tropic, you are but a crab.

You are a summer project in sixth grade. You sound so ubiquitous – are you really a deadly disease?

You are now a skeleton- the skull on a cigarette pack.

You are the reason grandfather is so sick.

You are the reason he puts tomato ketchup on ice-cream, unable to taste anything else.

You are the cause of much grief, four months before medical school starts.

How proud he would have been, seeing his grandson in a white coat.

I touch you for the first time, a cluster of lymph nodes in a cadaver we dissect.

You are now growth factors and viruses, mutations and alcohol.

You are chapter seven in Robbin’s pathology, marked with multiple post-its.

You become countless hours in the library, your swirling patterns terrifying even under the microscope.

You seem invincible on paper, but maybe you are too greedy?

We will attack you when you divide the most, when you reveal yourself.

You are sprayed with antimetabolites, and blasted with radiation; and sometimes cut away.

You showcase your reserve, you hide and you come back, always mocking.

You are dismaying and intimidating.

Internal Medicine residency begins- you become my first patient, then the fourth.

You attack a dear friend, then a friend’s mother.

They cough up blood, they lose their hair.

One lovely man says he can only taste ketchup after the chemotherapy; is that you saying hello, Grandpa?

You become a familiar foe, an almost every day encounter.

Several heroes emerge- their body taken, their dignity not.

Now I wait to start an oncology fellowship.

To come closer face to face.

Oh Cancer, we will fight.

You have affected too many.

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