Cartoon: Butterflies and Toads and Sledgehammers

This is my very first poem, written in November 1994, now illustrated.

I wrote it during a particularly stressful time. My mother had died of lung cancer a few months earlier, and a few weeks after her funeral, I was diagnosed with colon cancer, with an initial prognosis of about 10% chance of survival. When I wrote this, I had every expectation that I would be dead within a few years, perhaps a few months. I was still in great pain from my surgery, and the chemotherapy was a very recent memory. Even my family was in denial about the seriousness of my situation. I was only 34, and I found many of my peers abandoned me, not wanting to be around a sad person with a potentially imminent tragedy about to unfold. I felt no hope.

I am still alive 22 year later because new treatments procedures and chemotherapies had been developed. I say that I didn’t “beat the odds”, but rather “the odds changed”. The fact I am alive now does not mean that my situation was dire back then. I’ve had a number of people, including my immediate family, claim that because I survived, mutilated as I am, that I was never in any danger to begin with. “I just had a feeling you’d recover”, my sister told me later.

I’ve long thought about illustrating my poem with its vivid imagery, and so here it is:


A fragile and beautiful butterfly
fluttering delicately through the mists
of consciousness
pursued frantically by legions of toads
armed with nets
and sledgehammers.

November 17, 1994


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