The Big C

A short story…

God almighty I hate cancer.

That’s not strictly true. I hate the gravitas that cancer assumes, the sombre expression it wears at consultations and support groups. I can’t bring myself to treat it that seriously. Anything that I dress up for in a hospital gown that opens at my arse can’t be a proper antagonist. Any enemy that I take my clothes off to face isn’t worthy of the name. My keys, wallet, and phone all go in the locker. I can see a smile looking back at me in the dull steel.

The Big C, they call it in the leaflets, as though it were a leotarded loudmouth in a wrestling ring. What signature moves have you got, Big C? Vomiting? Headaches? Loss of appetite? I’ve had worse hangovers. Don’t think that the sweat on the palms of my hands is down to you either, nor the dryness in my mouth. I haven’t been allowed to eat anything for twelve hours, that’s all.

Most of all I loathe the sentience given to cancer. It is treated as an adversary. Beat cancer says the literature. A survivor they’ll call me, as though the grey, gelatinous lump on my brain is a worthy opponent. As though it can out-think me. I fashioned you, you sweaty mass. You are borne of me, the result of a cell that couldn’t quite be bothered to perform mitosis properly. I created you with not a trace of effort and I can dispose of you as easily. My hands shake with anger as I pull the cord to tell the nurse that I am ready.

We’re going to go on a ride, you and I. Surgery, chemo, radiotherapy, the whole shebang. You’d better hold on tight because it’s going to get bumpy. I just want you to know that you asked for this, you simpering coward, you cringing, craven poltroon. Your hiding from MRI scans, your whimpering ethereality in X-rays…you have brought this upon us and by God I’ll either rid myself of you or take you to the grave with me.  I made you and I can destroy you. I can.

My hand is still shaking as I heave myself onto the trolley. That’s supposed to come after the chemo, not before.


Matthew Richardson is a writer of short stories. His work has featured in Gold Dust magazine, Literally Stories, Near to the Knuckle, McStorytellers, Penny Shorts, Soft Cartel, and Shooter magazine. He is an absentee member of the Glasgow Writers Group, a PhD student at the University of Dundee, a lucky husband, and a proud father.

Not necessarily in that order

10 thoughts on “The Big C

  1. This was amazing to read! As someone whose family have unfortunately had to come to terms with it, this was a very timely and much-appreciated reminder not to be scared by it, but to keep fighting through it and WIN 💪

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Love the rage here, Matthew. That need to belittle the thing that scares us, to put the damn thing in its place for what it is – a bunch of cells misbehaving. Love the voice and the language used here. It’s a disease that touches us all in some way, pervasive as it is, and that fact makes this all the more powerful. Great writing

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This is powerful stuff and feels like first-hand experience. Tom and Lynn said it perfectly. I like that it acknowledges both the potential power and limitations of disease. My favourite phrases: “I created you with not a trace of effort and I can dispose of you as easily.” and “by God I’ll either rid myself of you or take you to the grave with me. I made you and I can destroy you. I can.” Kudos Matthew, difficult topic, slain.

    Liked by 1 person

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