NSCLC | Sydney Sheltz-Kempf


Launching an operation

requires years of training

infinite hours of charting and calculating




because one error dominos into a

 mitosis of mistakes. 


We know this.

He is my partner in the field.

We’ve gone on many missions together

because his strengths fit with my weaknesses

like entwined fingers.


They suggest

Platinol and Taxotere

as code names for an uncharted solo mission

I’ve been assigned –

without you.

As if I’ve had the proper training –

without you. 


I don’t know this.


I hold my partner’s hand to watch

as the drips hover on the tip of the tube

before trickling down, calculating




 like a computer measuring

exactly how many milligrams are needed

to stop the enemy.


Now I know.


Because the metronome stopped ticking.

Because the charts have flat-lined.

Because he can’t breathe.


And now


can I.


Sydney Sheltz-Kempf is a Medical Technologist at Covance Central Laboratory Services where she performs genotyping assays and companion diagnostic testing.  Her previous work in Literary Darwinist criticism as applied to "The Count of Monte Cristo" was published in Purdue University's Journal of Undergraduate Research in 2015. An aspiring PhD student, she has presented her research on Segregation Distortion’s role in spermatogenesis in Drosophila melanogaster at Butler University's Undergraduate Research Conference in 2016. A previous poetry chapbook (which also serves as her memoir) is scheduled to be published by The Poet's Haven in Spring 2018.