Writing Workshop Wednesday: What Cancer Gave Me by Arthur Hemelin

Photo by J. Star (flickr)

I am 54 years old now. Twenty years ago, I did not have cancer. I lived a good life as a family man, travelling around with my uncle, auntie, mom and dad. I worked the seasons, picking blueberries and rice. As the season advanced, we would go hunting wild game. We were seasonal people. All that time, cancer was growing inside me.


Ten years flew by. I could feel something growing in my side. More x-rays. I had a CAT Scan of my side. Nothing about cancer. No one knew. I carried on with my life knowing this silent pain was growing inside me. 


It was a long, long while ago that I noticed blood in my stool. I went to the doctor. He said I had fat in the blood of my stool. It was the wrong answer. This went on for days. I had pain in my side. A week passed and I was still in pain but could put up with it. Every time I drove a long distance, I had pain in my side. The pills the doctor gave me sort of stopped the blood from appearing in my stool.


I don’t know where cancer comes from. I did not know it could grow in me the way it did. I went on with my life. I went for x-rays. No word from the doctors. I was given more pills for the blood in the fat.


One year went by and still no indication of cancer. Stage one. Stage two. Stage three. Stage four. I was living with cancer and not knowing it.

Year two: I was accepting the doctor’s trust in the pills he gave me. The pain would go away, then come back to haunt me, back and forth like a see-saw. I went back to the doctor about the pain. Still nothing about cancer.

I haven’t seen my children since they were young. I moved to BC to see my them. The visits went well and we started to have a life together again. I still didn’t know I had cancer.


Twenty years have gone by now. I was just four months into my own little business, doing moving and deliveries when I was diagnosed with cancer. I went to the hospital and my life was over so fast, it made my head spin. It made a mess out of my family life. 

I lost everything. 

I found myself alone in the streets of Vancouver. What a drag having cancer. Living on the streets with cancer, you don’t know the half of it. You try living but there is this quiet pain. 


My legs began to waste as did my bum. Girls would laugh at me. Blood in my stool all the time. I always flushed the toilet and didn’t want anybody to know I had cancer. After the operation I was left weak. It was hard to walk. Running hurts. I can’t do any sports. Cancer gave me a new life of hell.

Now my days are lonely but improving. I lost my family life and miss it.


Arthur Hemelin participates in Megaphone's creative writing workshop at the Lookout Shelter in North Vancouver.


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