Cancerís a Funny Thing


I wish I had the voice of Homer

To sing of rectal carcinoma,

Which kills a lot more chaps, in fact,

Than were bumped off when Troy was sacked.


Yet, thanks to modern surgeonís skills,

It can be killed before it kills

Upon a scientific basis

In nineteen out of twenty cases.


I noticed I was passing blood

(Only a few drops, not a flood).

So pausing on my homeward way

From Tallahassee to Bombay

I asked a doctor, now my friend,

To peer into my hinder end,

To prove or to disprove the rumour

That I had a malignant tumour.

They pumped in BaS04.

Till I could really stand no more,

And, when sufficient had been pressed in,

They photographed my large intestine,

In order to decide the issue

They next scraped out some bits of tissue.

(Before they did so, some good pal

Had knocked me out with pentothal,

Whose action is extremely quick,

And does not leave me feeling sick.)

The microscope returned the answer

That I had certainly got cancer,

So I was wheeled into the theatre

Where holes were made to make me better.

One set is in my perineum

Where I can feel, but canít yet see Ďem.

Another made me like a kipper

Or female prey of Jack the Ripper,

Through this incision, I donít doubt,

The neoplasm was taken out,

Along with colon, and lymph nodes

Where cancer cells might find abodes.

A third much smaller hole is meant

To function as a ventral vent:

So now I am like two-faced Janus

The only* god who sees his anus.


*In India there are several more

With extra faces, up to four,

But both in Brahma and in Shiva

I own myself an unbeliever.


Iíll swear, without the risk of perjury,

It was a snappy bit of surgery.

My rectum is a serious loss to me,

But Iíve a very neat colostomy,

And hope, as soon as I am able,

To make it keep a fixed time-table.

So do not wait for aches and pains

To have a surgeon mend your drains;

If he says ďcancerĒ youíre a dunce

Unless you have it out at once,

For if you wait itís sure to swell,

And may have progeny as well.

My final word, before Iím done,

Is ďCancer can be rather funĒ.

Thanks to the nurses and Nye Bevan

The NHS is quite like heaven

Provided one confronts the tumour

With a sufficient sense of humour.

I know that cancer often kills,

But so do cars and sleeping pills;

And it can hurt one till one sweats,

So can bad teeth and unpaid debts.

A spot of laughter, I am sure,

Often accelerates oneís cure;

So let us patients do our bit

To help the surgeons make us fit.


J. B. S. Haldane (1964)