Lung Cancer Poem Gets International Attention

The New York Times is reporting on a poem by Zhao Xiaogang 赵晓刚, MD, published in CHEST, the official publication of the American College of Chest Physicians, titled “I Long to be King” 我要当老大. Written “from the viewpoint of an ambitious lung cancer that revels in the ‘delicious mist and haze’” of China’s air, the poem has now been gaining international attention. The Times writes:

The author, Dr. Zhao Xiaogang, 40, who is deputy chief of thoracic surgery at Shanghai Pulmonary Hospital of Tongji University, opens with a “ground-glass opacity,” an image of a CT scan of fluid in the lungs that can indicate a range of disorders, but in this case is the first indication of what will develop into a triumphantly lethal cancer.

According to the article, “Dr. Zhao has long written poetry as a pastime. But in 2015, while a visiting scholar at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha and at Washington University in St. Louis, he heard that some academic journals published poetry.” No word on who translated the poem, though (presumably Zhao himself?).

From the poem:

I am ground glass opacity (GGO) in the lung,
A vague figure shrouded in mystery and strangeness,

My continuous growth gives me a chance to be king,
As I break through layers of obstacles,
Spanning the mountains and waters.
My fellows march to every corner and occupy every region.


Click the image above for the Times write-up, here for the full translation from CHEST, and here for excerpts in Chinese.