I Know What It Means | Cancer Poem

Mercy Haub, a 16-year-old lymphoma patient, wrote this poem to share with the IHadCancer community. We hope her words move you the way they moved us. 

I Know What It Means

I know what that word means.
When you live 
knowing this thing 
inside of you 
has caused so much 
it’s hard to forget.

I know what it means to be scared,
To tremble at night,
Dreading test results and bad news.
Ignorance is not bliss, 
Not when the other option tells a story
Of sleepless nights and nightless stays, all bleeding into 
When a simple scan can spell disaster for 
your future, 
your plans, 
your hopes,  
your body, 
Uprooting everything to hurt.

I know what it means to be in pain,
To clutch your body,
ever curling tighter in hopes that
If I only make myself small enough 
the pain 
will do the same.
To dread a glance at the clock,
Ever wishing the days would pass faster, 
there is always

I know what it means to be pitied,
To feel eyes from 
every angle upon my shoulders,
Their gazes caressing my bald head,
Cooing encouraging words and 
melancholy apologies,
Eyebrows furrowed and eyes wide 
as they witness tubing 
emerge from my body. 

I know what it means to mourn,
To envision all that could have been
And all that won’t be.
Wishes fall upon my closed ears,
My mind’s defense block trains of thought
For the conductor 
is sick.
I know what that word means. 

But I also know what it means to be brave.
To walk with force and resolve into something
I already know
Is going to be hell.
I know how to smile and wave at family and friends when they say hello
Even if
I feel like crying.
I know how to look on the bright side,
Or even simply the less dim side,
Just to see my parents try and

Secretly sigh their relief. 
I know what it means to fight like my life depends on it
It does.
I know what it means to look at a new patient and say
I know it’s hard
You’re going to make it through.
I believe in you”
I know
Better than most
What it means to be brave.


Photo courtesy of author.