Road Map

Road Map John Smelcer

by John Smelcer

I never thought I’d get cancer.
Over and over, I said to myself:

“I shouldn’t be here. I should be somewhere else.
What am I doing here? How did I get to this place?”

At one time or another
we each pull out the tattered map of our lives
carefully unhinge the torn and ragged folds
press it flat on a table with both hands like an iron
lean over and trace its topography with a finger
frantically searching for the familiar X that says

You Are Here


In the fall of 2022, John Smelcer was diagnosed with stage II B-cell, non-specified, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a rare and aggressive cancer of the lymphatic system. Over the next six months, he endured six grueling hospitalizations for chemotherapy and immunotherapy. On February 6, 2023, he rang the bell on the oncology ward, signaling he’s cancer-free. Throughout the ordeal, he wrote poems and he has now published a full-length poetry book, Running from the Reaper: Poems from an Impatient Cancer Survivor.

This poem was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, Spring/Summer 2023.

Everyone has a unique story to share. Do you want to share your survivor story?
We consider a cancer survivor to be anyone living with a history of cancer –
from diagnosis through the remainder of life.
Here are our submission guidelines.

LIKE THIS ARTICLE? CHECK OUT:  Cancer. Again.
.