On April 11, 1984, my family moved to Bountiful, Utah from Ramstein Air Base in Germany. My mom had just passed away a few days earlier. One of the first orders of business when we got to Bountiful, was to enroll me and my siblings in school. I was enrolled at Hannah Holbrook Elementary School for the last couple of months of 4th grade, and was assigned to Ms. Boulton’s class. I don’t remember much from those couple of months nor do I really remember meeting anyone at the time other than a few friends who lived close to my house, John Mayer, for instance – but not that John Mayer. But in my class was a girl named Allison Coombs (now Spencer). We didn’t spend time together or hang out per se. In fact, I don’t have any memories of her. But last June, she friended me on Facebook and I knew her name and I knew her face immediately. She’s told me since that she doesn’t have any memories of me either – I was just the boy who came and went. In the months since, she has commented on a few of my posts and has been very kind and encouraging to me about my poetry and my podcast. And I’ve learned a few things about her as we’ve reconnected a friendship neither of us remembered having.
Among the things I’ve learned is that in November 2021, Allison was diagnosed with Stage 2 Unfavorable Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. (By the way, “unfavorable”? Who comes up with these terms, soccer match announcers? - “That was unlucky!”) But as terrifying as that was, she rose up to battle and, with the help of family, friends and competent medical providers, she waged battle as a head shorn warrior and the cancer is now in remission.
And now, nearly 39 years after we became (apparently) forgettable classmates, Allison joined me on The Poet (delayed) to discuss the topic of “truth” and ways in which her experience with cancer has shaped the lens through which she sees the world.
I'd love to hear what you have to say about the episode including thoughts on the poetry and the topics that were discussed. You can email me at [email protected].
If you're interested, my first book of poetry, My Mother Sleeps, is available at: