It’s Probably Nothing* (*or how I learned to stop worrying and love my implants) by Micki Myers is a “memoir in poems” about surviving cancer published by Simon and Schuster (2013). The poems are broken into four “stages,” mimicking the four stages of cancer, though may not actually reflect Myers’s experience (I don’t recall her cancer spreading). The poetry collection is meant to be funny while taking a short look at the life of a cancer survivor.
It’s Probably Nothing is not funny, for the most part. This is bad; the book is advertised as funny–even the coconut bra on the cover suggests some laughs–and is meant to “make you laugh in cancer’s face.” Then again, the fact that it’s not funny is also really good. Laughing about cancer seems rather obnoxious to me, even though I recognize that what people are really saying is that we must laugh at what challenges us in order to not go to a dark, defeatist place. But are dark places really so bad? Myers tries to make the reader laugh about her disturbing genetics:
“When I look up all my female ancestors on Ancestry.com
to see if the rumors are true
–that they all had breast cancer–
I see they’re all marked with a green leaf
instead of a pink ribbon,
which would be far more useful.
Apparently they all died of Dutch elm disease.”
While I emitted a “heh” at the last line of the poem, the sheer overwhelming feeling of an entire “tree” being “rotten,” in a sense, is terrifying. I can’t think of more disturbing news that would make me feel defeated–especially since Myers has young children who will inherit these genetics. What Meyers has written feels more deadly than funny. Relating all deaths to one cause, though, makes the poem more like a punch, which resonated long after I turned the page. I wondered what causes of death are in my own tree, and a book that asks me to think is always one I appreciate.
Instead of funny, the majority of the poems described terrifying experiences I couldn’t have imagined, which impacted me emotionally for days. Myers describes having a sample of tissue taken, which the doctor assures her won’t hurt:
“In fact, this procedure involves
lying belly-down on the table
with your boob hanging through a hole
and squashed between two plates,
head twisted to one side,
while a machine inserts a hollow needle
as thick as a pencil into your breast”
In order to find out if the cancer has traveled to her lymph nodes, Myers must do another test, one that sounds more primitive than I had imagined modern medicine would allow:
“When I say ‘injected into the breast,’ I mean
a nurse rolls up a towel, asks me to bite down on it,
(‘Trust me about this,’ she says),
then pushes a large needle into my nipple.
Into, not through.
Through ain’t got shit on this.”
My negative feelings about these descriptive poems stemmed from the fact that they were more truth that I wanted to know. Such truth is a strength of the collection, though, as not knowing about things that can hurt doesn’t benefit me in any way. Claiming the poems are funny, however, made me ill-prepared for the serious nature of the collection.
If you look back at the poems from which I’ve quoted, you may notice that the line breaks don’t add much in terms of creating meaning or musicality. Some of them read more like prose poems. Some are all clumped together as one large stanza. The point of the book seemed more about communicating Myers’s experiences instead of focusing on language, rhythm, and sound. Had the author paid more attention to these qualities, the poems may have taken on a different tone, something less like a bunch of Tweets. Here is an example of what I mean:
“Cancer’s almost worth it just for the drugs.
Or just the names of the drugs.
I thought this was a nickname
for what they had prescribed me
for a sore throat, a bit of jargon
they used for fun, but the label
on the bottle said Magic Swizzle
and the pharmacist winked
when he handed it to me, saying
‘Lucky you–this stuff is the shit.'”
However, learning more about the drugs Myers was prescribed, the painful tests, and how coming back from cancer looks much like Benjamin Button is what really made this poetry collection worth the read. Myers doesn’t dwell on what I typically read about in cancer memoirs–nausea, loss of hair, denial–but on what it’s like should you actually end up with cancer. Because the collection is so quick to read and informative, I was able to overlook the choice of genre and just go with it.
The subtitle of the collection (*or how I learned to stop worrying and love my implants) is a bit misleading, as there didn’t seem to be much worry about the implants. Instead, Myers finally fits into sexy lingerie and her breasts are “repaired” of the damage caused by breastfeeding. Yet, again, the author teaches her readers a few things: 1) Implants are not made of fat, so her body temperature is hard to keep up without the insulation; 2) men now feel like they are permitted to feel her breasts because; 3) she can’t feel her breasts at all; and 4) her nipples no longer become erect when she enters the cold section of the grocery store. Myers’s list truly surprised me, making me think of the various functions of my own breasts and how I would be without them. I learned a lot from this poetry collection.
Overall, It’s Probably Nothing* (*or how I learned to stop worrying and love my implants) had quite a bit of false advertising, probably to make the poetry collection sound digestible to the average reader. In the United States, the percentage of people who read poetry is abysmal (about 6.7%), and cancer isn’t exactly an uplifting topic. However, if you get past the “it’s funny” marketing, you’ll find some information and descriptions that make it worth the read.
*This book was procured from the public library.