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The Art of Dying
  1. Madeleine Openshaw
  1. Corresponding to
    Madeleine Openshaw, Imperial College School of Medicine, South Kensington, London SW7 2AZ, United Kingdom; mco10{at}

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I wear my hand-stitched cloak with pride

And finish the look with a pointy hat.

I hold my paintbrush like a wand

And brew potions to poison my cancer

And cast spells to banish sad thoughts.

I mould clay and smooth it into shapes.

When the medicine failed me,

I made my own liver like a crescent moon

Infested with tumour

And smashed it to pieces with a hammer.

When my cancer mocks me,

I spit metaphors and stories at it

And the pain subsides.

And when the time comes,

I will use my cloak to keep me warm

And my paintbrush as a walking stick

To keep me upright

Until my last breath.

And I will be buried in one of my clay pots

So that really, the only thing the cancer took

Was my body

And when that died, the cancer died too

The silly thing.


  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.