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  • Writer's pictureRaji Writes

For Helen Francis-Lang ("The English Patient")

Updated: Jan 11

It happens every time I see

A woman with wavy blond

Hair to her shoulders, her stride

Confident, brisk.

I think, Helen, of you.

I remember

The embroidered shoes you bought

In India on your tiger tour “for a steal”

The 3 pairs of shoes you bought

“on sale” in Maiden Lane saving more

than I would spend on shoes in 3 years.

I remember

Your superb intellect, your scientific integrity


Your caustic pronouncements, from railing at big

pharma for the blockbuster

drug model, to the quirks of storied

geneticists from years past.

Your striding into the office

shaking your head


at the “goddam traffic on 101! It took me,

wait for it,

2 hour and 15 minutes to get here this morning!”

as I held my sides.

I remember

Walking with you in August 2008 at the Relay

for Life before any of us had imagined

the hideousness

of four words.

Your email on November 30, 2008, telling me of

“ovarian clear cell carcinoma” the day

before your first surgery.

Lunch with you on December 6, 2008.

“I’m scared” you had said.

My heart was breaking

for you

my invincible friend.

“The English Patient” you called yourself, wry and witty

through it all.

I remember

March 20, 2009

The most aggressive tumor

they had ever seen, the doctors said.

You were 44

not ready to die.

In August 2009, I walked in your memory, Helen, at the Relay for Life.

You walked beside me, didn’t you

in a chiffon-y skirt

and very, very stylish shoes (need I even say)

with perfectly done nails

dangling earrings,

brushing back your hair

your own golden mane or that

expensive wig.

The luminaria were sometimes

hard to see, my eyes

were damp.

But I saw you, Helen.

You looked absolutely fabulous.

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