Breast Cancer in Poems
It is a delight to share this. Both (and mostly) because I think it is lovely and because it makes today's entry an easy one! From the Huff Post:
October 26, 2012
A Breast Cancer Story in Poems
Posted: 10/26/2012 11:20 am
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2006, when my children were 4 and 6 years old. Treatment -- lumpectomy, chemo and radiation -- lasted for more than a year.
During my illness I found poetry -- both reading and writing it -- was cathartic. The cancer journey is a difficult one, as I am reminded nearly every day as a friend, or friend of a friend, or family member is diagnosed. My own journey included 16 chemo treatments, 33 radiation treatments, two surgeries, a year of Herceptin infusions and countless blood draws (but who's counting?). Still, I was overwhelmed with endless words of encouragement, warm hugs, hair jokes, cards, emails, calls, help with the kids, delicious meals and extraordinary care from my doctors, my family and my friends.
In 2008, wanting to share the healing power of poetry, another local poet Tammi Truax, who lost her husband to cancer, and I founded The Prickly Pear Poetry Project: Processing the Cancer Experience Through Poetry. We hold workshops and readings at oncology clinics, churches, etc. for anyone who has been touched by cancer. The workshop is not about critiquing the work; it is about providing a voice for emotions difficult to share in daily conversation. Each session is so incredibly moving.
Here is my story in poems. These and other poems are in my new collection, Sound Travels on Water, due out this month, published by Finishing Line Press.
Last week we stood on opposite coasts: On the Florida side, Waves ran at my feet Snatching bits of sand
From underneath, Persistent As the land-grabbing cancer Cells inside me. I wondered how long I could stand before, unbalanced, I'd float away, buoyant and hollow -- Empty as a jellyfish.
And you, a continent away: I imagine your last thoughts -- Chicken for dinner, This awful cold -- Before -- trying to save your dog -- You were swept away By the rough Pacific.
Back home I stand, Sand still draining Through my hourglass toes And I wonder, Molly: Was it a relief to be taken Unexpectedly, Without notice?
Published in Survivor's Review. Tumor
My neighbor walks for miles each night. A mantra drives her, I imagine, as my boy's chant did the summer of my own illness:
"Push, Mommy, push," urging me to wind my sore feet winch-like on a rented bike to inch us home. I couldn't stop; couldn't leave us miles from the end.
Published in The Mom Egg.
After the diagnosis, I was stoic, cold, unfeeling.
I spoke dispassionately of biopsies, accepted the sharp tool plunged
into my breast to decide my future. I heard talk of surgery, radiation. I prayed I wouldn't hear, "chemo," but the doctors confirmed it: chemo. How I feared chemo, afraid it would change me. It did. Something dissolved inside me. Tears began a slow drip: I cried at the news story of a lost boy found in the woods; at the kindness of our babysitter taking down the trash; at the silent press of my husband's hand on mine; at the surprising beauty of a bright leaf falling like the last strand of hair from my head.
Driving To Boston
Cancer is behind me. Seated in the passenger seat of a silver Honda a car-length back, there is a young woman wearing a woolen cap despite the mild fall weather.
Slowed by rush hour traffic, I study her in the rearview mirror. She sits beside a man, presumably her husband. They don't talk and yet
I hear them worrying.
I keep them in my sights at all times, even as traffic begins to move into this city I've come to know so well. Somehow, it is very important their car does not overtake me.
Published in The Yale Journal for Humanities in Medicine.
Sound Travels on Water is due out this month. I am donating $3 for each chapbook sold to a breast cancer awareness/research organization. Pre-sales helped raise more than $500, which I donated to the American Cancer Society as part of the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer event in Exeter, N.H., on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012.