Thank You For Your Cancer and other poems by Cheyenne Heflin

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A missing piece catches a curious eye.
Crutches clacking on dirty tile floor,
A single boot follows with a solid thump.

She tenses as you move closer to her.
Pity and pride shine in your eyes
With words already formed on your lips.

She knows how this works by now
Standing taller, readying for inevitable
Words that come next.

“Thank you for your service.”
They mean well, honored and proud

Of the victory over strife that she represents.

She nods and gives quick thanks
Leaving before she ruins the image
With the truth of what just took place.

You thanked her for her cancer.


My veins wince with the groan
of the door. My eyes swivel to
the poison. I knew the time
had come, but my naive heart
hoped that it may stay away
perhaps, just this once.

Though hidden from me, I knew
its shade. A sickly, pale red. Ready
to invade me; destroy me from inside.
Hung with hands in purple gloves
that shield from toxic effects. But
there would be no such
protection for me here.

A flush proceeds, cold and sterile.
Saline shooting through IV tubing.
Sickening smells assault my nose:
salt and tingling antiseptic, though
none exists. It is simply a premonition,

a hint for my system. For the
chemo has no such warning.

Button presses punctuated with beeps.
The machine, waiting to be told how
to poison me today. Needed instructions
are entered, tubing threaded through
contraptions until finally, it meets me.
The soft click of connection to my port,
access to my person, tells me my fate.

Sickly red poison burns through plastic,
Inching closer until, suddenly, it is in me.
I know. There is no avoiding the instinctual
recoil at its touch. A fully waged onslaught
against my being, all from inside.

My stomach churns, and I must hold it all
inside. Heat flushes through my body,
yet all I crave is to bury myself in warmth.
Joints burn and ache in the way that
only chemo can cause. A symbol of success,

of battling my cancer. What a joke it truly is.

Chemo is quickly chased by a clear liquid.
My sweet release. Though it may only bring
a few hours respite, the drug was my only
chance of surviving this living hell. The
only way I might survive to tomorrow.
So, as the drugs are pushed into me, I
lean into the sweeping fatigue.

I allow my eyes to fall gently,
and my body to simply collapse.
With a hope that when I wake…
the red poison will have done
its work. Knowing well that
this will not be the last time
it holds me in its grasp.


Do you know what? I can’t stand.
Not with one foot buried before me,
or crutches abandoned behind,
or an ankle, fragile like glass.
I really, truly, cannot stand.

Do you know what I can’t stand?
Assumptions, beliefs, or words
said with intentions solely for you.
Aimed at me, discomfort clear
as I helplessly parade for your gaze.

Do you know what? I can’t stand.
On shaky ground, on grass, on dirt
places you may think nothing of.
And yet how miserable you’d be
if something so simple to you, was lost.

Do you know what I can’t stand?

Hiding my truth from prying eyes,
its seen as helplessness, struggle, failure.
Truth makes you too uncomfortable
so I can never let you know…

Do you know what
I can’t stand.

Cheyenne Heflin is a pediatric cancer survivor and amputee, as well as a writer and public speaker. She uses her unique voice and experiences to bring awareness to the mental health needs of children with chronic illnesses or disabilities. 
Twitter: resilient_aka

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