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Write About It

Write About It

– Nonfiction by Michelle Spencer –

Featured in issue 14 of Dreamers magazine and first place winner of the 2023 Dreamers Micro Nonfiction Contest!

Please consider purchasing issue 14 here

You should write about it.

Yes, I should. Tell you about what, or rather, who was left behind—on the gravel road outside of my house. I could probably spare you the explanation if I just went to a psychologist. They’ll have a name for what has happened to me, then you could just look it up and move on. But here we are because they say, you should write about it.

From the moment I got the breast cancer diagnosis, alone on the living room carpet on Valentine’s Day (of all days) my instinct was to head outside. To walk. The stuff between then and now you can piece together. You know the rough shape of it: the terrifying phone calls, the waiting, the chemotherapy, the surgery, the radiation.

Not to brag, but I won at The Treatment part, was bestowed with the “you’re doing so well, being so strong,” by people who loved me, people who didn’t know me, people who put tubes of neon red in my veins. Became inspiration porn for the not-yet-cancered but-it-could-happen-to-me people.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful. It gave me a boost and there are obvious advantages to doing well. Such as, not dying. But what I’m trying to say is, I wasn’t striving to win. It just happened and I didn’t know what it would cost me.

Three, five, six, times a day I walked along the empty gravel road. To the west, the Livingstone range spilling into the Crowsnest Pass. To the east, Eagle Rock clinging to the prairie. I walked. Often with family. More often alone. I waved to neighbours as they drove by, got the look, the nod, the “she’s out there again, good for her.” I got to know every bird nest, a family of foxes, a summer bear and the rangy moose which hung around for the weeks in the fall when my skinned peeled. I came home from my walks ready for the next thing and I thought it was helping me integrate what was happening.

But the person who marched from one treatment to the next, one side effect to the next without flinching, throwing up, crying, arguing, or scaring anyone —well, she eventually broke off. So, she’s still out there walking on the road, marching back and forth, day and night in the heat, in the blistering cold, on the calm and windy days, in her bright blue shoes, in a pair of joggers, or in her nightgown. She has no feelings, no emotions, no opinion in all this. She just does. You won’t see her. Because she is only cold steel and courage.

Sometimes I’d like to call her home, invite her back in but she knows she can’t stop, that her strength is what gives friends, family, strangers—and me—hope. So, for now I accept the cost of leaving her on the road.

About the Author – Michelle Spencer
Michelle Spencer

Michelle’s work has been long listed for the CBC Nonfiction Prize as well as for The New Quarterly’s Peter Hinchcliffe Short Fiction Award. Recent publications include Change Seven Magazine, The Write Launch, Flash Fiction Magazine, Heart Wood Literary Review, LV Press LC, and Marathon Literary Review.

Michelle Spencer is a writer and small business owner who settled with her family near the Montana/Alberta border. She gratefully acknowledges that her home is on Treaty 7 land that for thousands of years has been the traditional territory of the Blackfoot Confederacy and is still home to many Indigenous people from across Turtle Island. Michelle is a former broadcast journalist and digital storytelling facilitator.

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