Posted in Poems/Poetry, Victoria C Slotto

Unnamed Heroes

I believe in heroism and, throughout my nursing career, have seen it manifested on a daily basis.  More often than not, heroes go unrecognized. I will never downplay the courage of those who serve us–first-responders, members of the military, those who have committed their lives to protect and defend. At the same time, let’s consider some of those heroes who live out their lives in relative obscurity. (That would be most of us).

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un-named heroes

i.
a mother waits to hear him say her name,
his father, to play ball.
the child breaks silence only with his piercing cry,
tosses his food, his fists.
the daily fare of parents of autistic children.

Flower Pots
Flower Pots (Photo credit: IrishFireside)

ii.
down the street, around the corner,
potted flowers adorn window boxes.
behind closed shutters,
a neighbor/friend (not old)
decides it’s time to let death visit.
a phone call later—cancelled chemo—
he makes his peace and dies.

iii.
outside, sun plays with clouds in azure skies.
inside the empty chapel, darkness fills the stagnant space.
an ancient monk buries his head in his hands,
waits for the shroud of doubt to dissipate.

Westminster Abbey Benedictine Monastery Chapel
Westminster Abbey Benedictine Monastery Chapel (Photo credit: Jordon)

iv.
dementia creeps through tangled plaques in her brain.
with trembling fingers she punches in numbers,
asks her daughter to come in a hurry
before it’s too late to make her wishes known.

v.
fingering bruises on her face,
the woman ventures out beyond the confines
of the world she knows.
$35.00 and change,
a scrappy paper bag of clothes,
a 3-year-old child in her arms,
she sets out hoping that there’s room for her,
the address of the shelter jotted
on a crumpled envelope
in her pockt—
the pocket of her husband’s red flannel shirt.

vi.
she hates her tattoo.
she hates her body.
sometimes she hates her life.
she longs to be accepted,
still,
she walks away from those kids
when they offer her the drugs.

– Victoria C. Slotto

(A revised version of this poem appears in The dVerse Anthology edited by Frank Watson and in Jacaranda Rain, Collected Poems, 2012 by Victoria C. Slotto.)
Photo: Creative Commons License

Victoria at the Palm Springs Writer's Expo March 2012
Victoria at the Palm Springs Writer’s Expo March 2012

jr-cover-2VICTORIA C. SLOTTO (Victoria C. Slotto, Author: Fiction, Poetry and Writing Prompts) ~  is an accomplished writer and poet. Winter is Past, published by Lucky Bat Books in 2012is Victoria’s first novel.  A second novel is in process.  Jacaranda Rain — Collected poems, 2012 is available on Amazon, as is the hot-off-the-press nonfiction, Beating the Odds: Support for Persons with Early Stage Dementia. Victoria’s poetry collection and non-fiction book are free to Amazon Prime Members.  Link HERE for Victoria’s Amazon page.

Posted in Cindy Taylor, Guest Writer, Illness/life-threatening illness, Music, Poems/Poetry

Matastasize, an awkward word

370px-Pink_ribbon.svgMetastasize;
an awkward word,
vowels lurking with malice
between those rock hard t’s
and stumbling past that sinister s,
into that endless z…
Even educated women know;
the seeds of broken dreams will gather
nearest to the heart
and grow
until the Gardener’s sharpened shears
snip away the wretched, rotted root.
That puckered rose, that brutal scar,
my brave and beautiful friend;
wear it as a medal:
triumphant, survivor, heroine!

– Cindy Taylor

© 2008 – 2011, poem and portrait (below), Cindy Taylor, All rights reserved
Photo credit ~ MesserWoland via Wikipedia under CC BY A-SA 3.0 Unported License

TAKEN TOO YOUNG

Minnie Julia Riperton (1947-1979), American singer-songwriter: In January 1976 Riperton was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a modified radical mastectomy. Though she was given just six months to live, she continued recording and touring, and in 1977 she became spokesperson for the American Cancer Society. Riperton was one of the first celebrities to go public with her breast cancer diagnosis, but did not disclose that she was terminally ill. In 1978, Riperton also received the prestigious Society’s Courage Award presented to her at the White House by then-President Jimmy Carter. She died at age 31 on July 12, 1979.

A VOICE SILENCED TOO SOON

Listen:

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

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CINDY TAYLOR ~ originally contributed this piece to us in 2011 for our Perspectives on Cancer series. She is multitalented: a freelance writer, a poet, editor and proofreader. She also has an abiding passion for food  and an endearing zeal for life, which she shares with us on her award-winning blog, The Only Cin. Cindy lives in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Posted in Essay, Jamie Dedes

Roger Ebert “…online, everybody speaks at the same speed.”

ROGER EBERT (1942-2013)

film critic, screenwriter, Pulitzer Prize for Criticism

Ebert at the Conference on World Affairs in September 2002,

shortly after his cancer diagnosis

THE WISDOM AND COURAGE OF ROGER EBERT

This following piece on Roger Ebert was originally written for our Perspectives on Cancer series in 2011. I don’t know how well known Roger Ebert is outside of the United States; and while he is best know and appreciated as a journalist and film critic, I feel his inspiring response to catastrophic illness makes him a true hero and role model for anyone anywhere. Earlier this week the Chicago Sun Times announced Roger Ebert’s death from cancer.

Roger Eberts cancer and treatments took away his jawbone, his ability to speak, and even his ability to eat and drink. He continued writing right to the end, said that when he wrote he was just like his old self, and he wrote his last tweet two days before his death. Of his life online, he said:

 Now we live in the age of the Internet, which seems to be creating a form of global consciousness. And because of it, I can communicate as well as I ever could. We are born into a box of time and space. We use words and communication to break out of it and to reach out to others.

For me, the Internet began as a useful tool and now has become something I rely on for my actual daily existence. I cannot speak; I can only type so fast. Computer voices are sometimes not very sophisticated, but with my computer, I can communicate more widely than ever before. I feel as if my blog, my email, Twitter and Facebook have given me a substitute for everyday conversation. They aren’t an improvement, but they’re the best I can do. They give me a way to speak. Not everybody has the patience of my wife, Chaz… But online, everybody speaks at the same speed.” Roger Ebert

Born in Urbana, Illinois to parents of modest means who wanted a better life for him then they had, Ebert’s affinity for writing and film were encouraged. He went to Urbana High School, University of Chicago, and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is known for his film column in the Chicago Sun-Times (1967 – April 4, 2013), his film guide books, and for the television programs he did in collaboration with Gene Siskel and later Richard Roeper. Ebert struggled with alcoholism. He is married to a trial attorney, Charlie “Chaz” Hammel Smith, now Chaz Ebert and VP of Ebert Company. 

In 2002, Ebert was diagnosed with salivary cancer. He received radiation treatments and multiple surgeries that effected his speech. In 2006, more cancer was found in his jaw bone. He was rushed to the hospital when his carotid artery burst and he “came within a breath of death.”  The jaw bone was removed. Between one thing and another, he suffered through excessive bleeding, loss of muscle mass, deformity, a jaw prosthetic, and the loss of his voice. In the TED Award video below, he informs us of his – among other things – experiments with different voices.

I have always admired Roger Ebert as a writer, film critic, and the first film critic to win the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. Since he has been living with cancer and then the fallout from cancer, I have come to admire Roger Ebert, the man. He has shown himself to be a world-class role model and a first class human being. As you will see, through it all, he has retained his sense of humor. Write on Roger

ROGER EBERT: Remaking My Voice

Photo credits ~ Ebert at the 2004 Savaanah Film Festival by Rebert under GNU Free Documentation License and Lillian Boutte and Roger Ebert by Jon Hurd under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Both photos via Wikipedia.

Video upload to YouTube by 

Belated addition to this post 12:22 a.m.: I just found this lovely essay by Roger Ebert entitled, “I do not fear death …” on Salon’s site. Link to it HERE.

ge-officeJamie Dedes ~  My mother lived with cancer of one sort or another for forty years. She was diagnosed with cancer the first time at thirty-six.  She was pregnant with me, her second and last child. She had a radical mastectomy and radiation treatments while pregnant. Ultimately, she went three rounds with breast cancer, one with thyroid cancer, and died at seventy-six of breast and colon cancer. I pray everyday for cures. Advancements in medicine and technology give us hope. I’m also encouraged to see that we are doing more with lifestyle and nutrition (antiangiogenic foods), both prophylactically and for healing and remission, and with the soft technologies of prayer, guided visualization, energy medicine, meditation, music and art.

Posted in Guest Writer, Poems/Poetry

THREE YEARS TODAY

THREE YEARS TODAY

by

Renee Espriu (Renee Just Turtle Flight)

three years today not
tomorrow giving rise to
yesterdays filled with
sorrow and trepidation

angst beating against
us like rain drops to
pelt out songs of dismay
pain like no other

causing us to walk in
our own shadows trying
to keep the pain at
bay until another
day and still the rain

came down to wrap us
secure in the fashion
meant for bringing forth
life and love with
emotional passion

we wept in silence an
effort to be brave
standing fierce against
the onslaught of a
disease rending

you mute most days
covered in blankets
against the inner chill
freezing your blood
a prisoner your will

three years today not
tomorrow giving rise to
yesterdays filled with
sorrow and trepidation

we are unbelieving now
the sun doth shine an
unbridled warmth we
walk among the living
cautious to walk forth

secure in our hesitation
did it really ever
happen that cancer
took our lives now we
took them back again

© May 05, 2012 Renee Espriu

This is dedicated to a woman who, when diagnosed with Stage III Breast Cancer, took her faith and belief that all would be well and fought to overcome and now three years later is cancer free. Her faith and fierce determination carried her through.

Copyright 2012, Renee Espru, All rights reserved

RENEE ESPRU ~ is a creative prose writer and poet. She began delighting us with her work at Renee Just Turtle Flight in March 2011. The work she shares with us there includes short stories. Renee is a daughter, mother, grandmother, and seeker of spiritual peace and soul-filled freedom. She’s studied at the graduate level and has attended seminary. She describes her belief system as eclectic, encompassing many faiths. She believes “Nature is the basis of everything that is and everything that is is also a part of Nature.” 

Posted in General Interest, Teachers

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS: Living Hugely, Dying Gracefully

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I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,
And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,
And in short, I was afraid.

—T. S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”

Living Hugely, Dying Gracefully

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS

by

Jamie Dedes

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS died yesterday of esophageal cancer at the age of sixty-two. Famous or infamous – depending on your view – for his atheism among other things, he is an example of one who lived hugely, was unapologetic, and died gracefully.

I don’t agree with a lot of what he wrote and said, but how dull when there are no differences. Life would be an intellectual wasteland. As long as we take our differences to the debate halls, the blogs, and the voting booth and not to the killing fields, it’s okay.

I admired his sharp mind and wit. Nonsmoking teetotaler I am, yet I appreciate the spirit in this – quoted from his New York Times obituary – “He also professed to have no regrets for a lifetime of heavy smoking and drinking. ‘Writing is what’s important to me, and anything that helps me do that…'” He honored himself right to the end even as he admitted that his lifestyle contributed to his illness. Hitchen’s attacked our sacred cows and some of them deserved attacking. He made us examine our dusty old assumptions in the privacy of our minds and indeed some came up lacking. I admire him enormously.

Perhaps more than anything, I admire the grace with which he lived with dying. He did a more honest and dignified job of it than many of us in our faith communities. He was diagnosed in June of 2010 and wrote about this journey in his Vanity Fair columns. The “cynical contrarian” had heart, perhaps even a kinder more generous heart than many an avowed theist.

I sometimes wish I were suffering in a good cause, or risking my life for the good of others, instead of just being a gravely endangered patient.”

He wrote that the

Prospect of death makes me sober, objective.”

He pursued his craft right to the end.

Cancer victimhood contains a permanent temptation to be self-centered and even solipsistic,” Hitchens wrote nearly a year ago in Vanity Fair, but his own final labors were anything but: in the last 12 months, he produced for this magazine a piece on U.S.-Pakistani relations in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death, a portrait of Joan Didion, an essay on the Private Eyeretrospective at the Victoria and Albert Museum, a prediction about the future of democracy in Egypt, a meditation on the legacy of progressivism in Wisconsin, and a series of frankgraceful, and exquisitely written essays in which he chronicled the physical and spiritual effects of his disease. At the end, Hitchens was more engaged, relentless, hilarious, observant, and intelligent than just about everyone else—just as he had been for the last four decades.” Vanity Fair

He wrote with excruciating honesty.

Like so many of life’s varieties of experience, the novelty of a diagnosis of malignant cancer has a tendency to wear off. The thing begins to pall, even to become banal. One can become quite used to the specter of the eternal Footman, like some lethal old bore lurking in the hallway at the end of the evening, hoping for the chance to have a word. And I don’t so much object to his holding my coat in that marked manner, as if mutely reminding me that it’s time to be on my way. No, it’s the snickering that gets me down.

On a much-too-regular basis, the disease serves me up with a teasing special of the day, or a flavor of the month. It might be random sores and ulcers, on the tongue or in the mouth. Or why not a touch of peripheral neuropathy, involving numb and chilly feet? Daily existence becomes a babyish thing, measured out not in Prufrock’s coffee spoons but in tiny doses of nourishment, accompanied by heartening noises from onlookers, or solemn discussions of the operations of the digestive system, conducted with motherly strangers. On the less good days, I feel like that wooden-legged piglet belonging to a sadistically sentimental family that could bear to eat him only a chunk at a time. Except that cancer isn’t so … considerate.” MORE [Vanity Fair]

Thank you, Mr. Hitchens, for making me think and rethink.

Thank you, Vanity Fair, for hosting his work so regularly.

© 2011, Jamie Dedes All rights reserve

Photo credits ~ all the book covers are courtesy of Barnes & Noble. Hitchens at the podium at Portsmouth, England courtesy of ensceptico via Wikipedia under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0Generic license. Hitchens at third party protest at the Presidentical Debates Commission, Washington, D.C. September 28, 2000 via Wikipedia courtesy of Carolmooredc under the Creative Commons Attritubtion-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. Hitchens in debate “Is God Great” with John Lennox at Samford University in Bermingham, Alambama March 3, 2009 via Wikpedia courtesy of stepher via Wikipedia under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Posted in Essay, Jamie Dedes

CHRISTOPHER HITCHINS: Life, Death, and Deathbed Conversions

CHRISTOPHER HITCHINS (b. 1949)

English-American journalist and author

In the course of a forty-year career, Christopher Hitchins, famous (or notorious, depending on your view) for his atheism has dismayed a lot of believers of one persuasion or another. Last year he was diagnosed with a terminal cancer. Many have wondered if on his deathbed he would become an eleventh-hour convert. Here in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, Hitchens discusses his thoughts and feelings about life and death. It’s an interesting addition to the on-again off-again discussions on this blog of illness, dying, and death. I found two things particularly striking: 1.) Hitchins willingness to accept culpability for his illness as a result of his chosen life-style, which included cigarettes and alcohol. 2.) Hitchins’ mother committed suicide and Cooper’s brother did. The two men agreed that there’s no closure. Having had a suicide in own family, I find I agree with them.  Jamie Dedes

If you click on the video, it will take you to YouTube where you can view it.

Photo credit ~ Christopher Hitchens by Omaraty009 via Wikipedia under the Creative Commons Attritution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Video uploaded to YouTube by 

Posted in Jamie Dedes, Perspectives on Cancer, Uncategorized

PERSPECTIVES ON CANCER #33: Writing Your Self, Transforming Personal Material

WRITING YOUR SELF

Book Review

by

Jamie Dedes

We feel this book review puts a fine close on our series, Perspectives in Cancer. Writing as a healing art, whether as a purely personal exercise or for publication, is powerful. One of the authors of Writing Your Self, Myra Schneider, learned that with her much appreciated work,Writing My Way Though Cancer. That effort informs much of Writing Your Self.

This review was originally published at Musing by Moonlight.

Four of Myra’s poems were published earlier in this series.

We wrote the book because we believe that personal writing is very potent both for the writer and the reader, because some of the greatest literature is rooted in personal material. Myra Schneider in an interview HERE.

The subtitle of this book about writing is “transforming personal material.”  I think it is implicitly also about personal transformation. It always seems to me that writing and reading about life is a healing activity, a way to live hugely, and a way to empower ourselves and others. If we can do it well enough to engage others, whether our purpose is to leave a record behind for family, to set the record straight, or simply to share and entertain, the experience is rewarding. Writing is a powerful healing path.

Writing Your Self is the most comprehensive book of its type that I’ve yet to read, and I’ve read many. It is organized in two parts:

  • Part I: Here the focus is on life experiences, the exploration of those human experiences that are universal. These include childhood, self-conceptions, relationships, displacement, physical and mental illness and disability, and abuse.
  • Part II: Here the focus is on writing techniques, recognizing material that is unfinished, working on refinements, and developing work projects.

Writing Your Self is rich with examples from known and unknown writers including the authors. By example as well as explanation the authors reinforce what we all intuitively understand to be true: that telling stories preserves identity and clarifies the human condition. It helps us understand what it means to be human. The experience of working through the book was something like a rite of passage.

I very much can see the use of this book by individuals training themselves and by teachers of adult learners who wish to write memoir, poetry, fiction, or creative non-fiction. It would be useful in hospital therapeutic writing programs or in writing programs for active seniors.

Memories, both recent and distant, tell us who we are and so play a crucial role in our experience of life…

You may have memories which you want to plunge into or you may have material like a diary or letters which summon them up. There are other ways though of triggering memories. We offer a series of suggestions. Chapter 13, Accessing memories, secret letters, monologues and dialogues, visualizations.

I think Chapter 13 alone is worth the price of admission. I work a lot off of childhood memories and even the event that happened two minutes ago comes back to me with dreamlike qualities when I sit to write. I have not thought of the things I do naturally as triggers, but indeed they are. It was quite interesting to see these natural aids laid-out and organized on the page to read: objects and place as starting points, physical sensation as triggers, people in memory, and predominant feelings. The section on secret letters – that is, letters that you write someone and never send – was particularly interesting. I’ve only done this twice in my life, but I know some folks who do it all the time. I’m sure it is a common practice and would make a fine jumping-off point for some and a satisfactory exercise – complete in itself – for others. The authors go on to monologues and dialogues, which certainly everyone spins in their heads.  They discuss visualization. Hey, if you can see it, you can write it.

I’m an experienced writer and I enjoyed the book and the exercises and learned a few new things, got a few new ideas. If you are inexperienced or stuck midway in a transition from one form of writing to another, you’ll benefit from the exercises, ideas, and instruction in Writing Your Self: Transforming Personal Experience. This one’s a definite thumbs-up.

Myra Schneider  is a British poet, a poetry and writing tutor, and author of the acclaimed book: Writing My Way Through Cancer. Your can visit her HERE.

John Killick was a teacher for 30 years, in further, adult and prison education, but has written all his life. His work includes both prose works and poetry. You can visit him HERE.

© essay, Jamie Dedes, 2011 all rights reserved

Copyrighted cover art, fair use.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Jamie Dedes ~ Jamie is a former freelance feature writer and columnist whose topic specialties were employment, vocational training, and business. She finds the blessing of medical retirement to be more time to indulge in her poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction. She has two novels in progress, one in final edits, and is pulling together a poetry collection. Her primary playground is Musing by Moonlight. She is the founder and editor/administrator of Into the Bardo. Jamie’s mother was diagnosed with cancer the first time at thirty-six. She went three rounds with breast cancer, one with thyroid cancer, and died at seventy-six of breast and colon cancer.

Posted in Guest Writer, Perspectives on Cancer

PERSPECTIVES ON CANCER #31: Isolation

Although this book concerns living with chronic illness … which may not be life-threatening but is certainly quality of life-threatening … many of the issues Toni Bernhard discusses are relevent issues for cancer patients. Not the least of these issues is isolation. The book is available online through Barnes and Noble and Amazon or through the publisher HERE. Three thumbs up on this one. A recommended read. Jamie Dedes

HOW TO BE SICK:

A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers

by 

Toni Bernhard

“All human beings need the company and support of others. We create our world together. But community can be a tremendous challenge for someone who must spend a lot of time in bed or must suddenly take to bed in spite of plans to be with others. The Dharma places a very high value on community, which is called sangha. The word originally referred to the disciples of the Buddha. It then evolved to include Buddhist monks and nuns. Today sangha refers to the entire spiritual community that supports a practitioner . . . .

“Before I got sick, I was active in several Buddhist sanghas. I co-hosted a weekly meditation group with Tony [Toni’s husband]. We used a local meeting hall every Monday night. At least once a month, I would lead the sitting and then give a talk. We also hosted a monthly group at our house in which we discussed Dharma readings that Tony and I chose and distributed each month. The readings were the starting point for a spirited and often humorous two hours of reviewing our lives since we last met. This was sangha at its richest for me. Tony still hosts this group at our house.

“When I got sick, I could no longer participate in these activities, even though the meeting hall is three blocks away and the monthly group is a room away . . . . In addition to losing this precious source of spiritual support, I had to adjust to the social isolation that accompanied the illness like night follows day.

“‘It’s hard to distinguish between the effects of my illness and the effects of isolation,’ wrote a member of an online support group for people with an illness similar to mine. I, too, have days when the isolation feels like the illness itself. People who are house-bound are not just isolated from one-on-one personal contacts. We are often isolated from nature and even from the warm feel or a friendly crowd. Our best bet to see the changing seasons is on the drive to and from a doctor’s appointment, but this is often a stress-filled outing. Similarly, our best bet to be in a crowd is in the waiting room at the doctor’s office—not the most comfortable or uplifting of settings. I recently read a blog entry from a woman with chronic fatigue syndrome in which she said she went to get a blood test a week early just to be around people.”

© text and cover art, Toni Bernhard, 2011 all rights reserved. Blogged here with the permission of the author. No reblogging without Toni Bernhard’s permission.

Video uploaded to YouTube by . I’m the author of “How to Be Sick: A Buddhist-Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers” (Wisdom Publications 2010). The theme of the book is that illness and wellness are not mutually exclusive. Our bodies may be sick or otherwise disabled, but our minds can be at peace. For reviews and other information, including where you can order the book, please go to How To Be Sick.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Toni Bernhard fell ill on a trip to Paris in 2001 with what doctors initially diagnosed as an acute viral infection. She has not recovered. In 1982, she’d received a J.D. from the School of Law at the University of California, Davis, and immediately joined the faculty where she stayed until chronic illness forced her to retire. During her twenty-two years on the faculty, she served for six years as Dean of Students.

In 1992, she began to study and practice Buddhism. Before becoming ill, she attended many meditation retreats and led a meditation group in Davis with her husband.

She lives in Davis with her husband, Tony, and their hound dog, Rusty. Toni can be found online at How To Be Sick. [Bio courtesy of Wisdom Publications.]

Posted in Guest Writer, Perspectives on Cancer, Poems/Poetry

PERSPECTIVES ON CANCER #30: When Cancer Strikes

WHEN CANCER STRIKES

by

Dan Roberson

It was both
a blessing and a curse,

Her chestnut
hair was often tangled or worse,

There were
times Laura hated her hair,

Conditioners,
detanglers, moisturizers,

Sometimes made
her wish it wasn’t there,

 ·

It had been
that way as far back as memory could get,

Uncontrollable
when dry, hard to manage when wet,

Laura’s
curly hair was admired often, she’d confess,

But it was
often a distraction as a frizzy mess,

There weren’t
many options on how to fix her hair,

She worried when
the wind made it fly here and there,

Often Laura
looked out of control and people would rudely stare,

 ·

Looking
calm, peaceful, and beautiful was her goal,

Forgotten were
the comments about her beauty as a whole,

Intelligence
and her abilities made her special in all she did,

But under
hats, tied up in tight braids, her curly hair she hid,

 ·

Laura was a
businesswoman, ambitious in every way,

Determined to
be a success before she turned old and gray,

Laura was
also wife and mother with two children on her mind,

Time for
them or even for herself, was very hard to find,

 ·

Her husband
sent her flowers every month to let her know,

That he would be waiting for her if she decided to take life slow,

Her life was filled from dawn till night, with one job to the next,

Rarely did
she spend quality time with Joe, and both were too tired for sex,

Vacations
were quick and far away, with pictures to prove she was there,

But wherever
she went and whatever she did, she covered up her hair,

 ·

Questions
from a young M.D. on her routine annual exam,

Made her mad
when he said, “We need further tests for you, Ma’am,”

She went
through the tests mainly to prove him wrong,

Much to her
chagrin blood was drawn, it didn’t take them long,

Laura balked
at first when new appointments were made,

But soon she
was on her way and memories of the visit began to fade,

 ·

Later that week several phone calls at work interrupted
her day,

“We want you
to come in, not tomorrow, perhaps yesterday,”

“What’s so important?”
she wondered as she brushed tangles from her hair,

“I’ve always
been so healthy, so why should I care?”

That night
Laura brushed her hair ninety-nine times or more,

With each
tug she commented, “Curly hair is such a chore,”

 ·

But Laura
was restless, the upcoming visit was eating at her,

And at her
next appointment she decided she would concur,

“You have
cancer,” he said quietly, “we should treat it aggressively,”

“I don’t
have time for cancer!” she shouted, “or even time for me,”

“We need to
treat it with chemotherapy,” he stated, “as soon as we can,”

“If we want
to win this war, we have to make a plan,”

“Doctor, I’m
too busy for this, I’ll do chemo in the spring,”

“Then they’ll
bury you deep while you sleep, the chemo won’t mean a thing,”

 ·

The nurse
read a list of changes that Laura might expect,

Foods to
eat, nausea, loss of hair, there was little time to reflect,

She could
deal with changes in her diet, so why did she care,

Yet on her
way home one thought returned, she would lose her hair,

 ·

What would
she do about work, would everyone lose respect?

And what
about her children and her Joe, what would he expect?

“This is not
fair,” she thought, “I’ve fought hard to get where I am,

Now I have
cancer and that puts me in a jam,”

She’d talk
to the doctors and see how this could be fixed,

Laura knew
how business worked, maybe this could be deep sixed,

She was
afraid to hug her husband, likewise with the kids,

With this
draining more from her, their marriage would be on the skids,

Joe listened
to her intently and suggested a group for her to attend,

“I don’t
need a support group,” she countered, “I just want to mend,”

He left a
number of the group in case she wanted to call,

For two days
Laura wanted nothing to do with the group at all,

 ·

But the
third evening as she brushed and detangled her hair,

Laura
wondered what others did when strangers began to stare,

She called a
cell phone number knowing she had to make a choice,

She agreed
to go to a meeting when she heard a cheerful voice,

“Come on and
join us, we’ll have a special guest tonight,

You’ll find
we have lots of fun because no one gets uptight,”

Nervously she
brushed her hair as she waited for her ride,

In the car
it was explained she’d have to wait outside,

 ·

Waiting outside
a home made her feel this was not the place to be,

But she only
had time to see what they wanted her to see,

Conspicuously
placed was a sign stating the group’s name,

“Birds of a
Feather” and in smaller print, “We’re all the same,”

 ·

Laura was
led in at the appointed time but saw one empty chair,

“It’s saved
for you,” a woman called out, “and your beautiful hair,”

How could
she explain that soon her head would soon be bare,

She was
afraid they might laugh and show they didn’t care,

Laura’s fear
was growing as she glanced about the room,

She was the
only one with cancer and ready to meet her doom,

 ·

Businesswomen,
single women, mothers, daughters, wives,

These women
were all beautiful and had normal lives,

“We have a newcomer tonight, so welcome Laura
with applause,”

The leader
continued, “And in case she’s worried, it’s time for us to pause,

We’ve faced
our fears before, and sometimes hid our shame,

But together
we are strong and our freedom we proclaim,”

 ·

One by one
each removed a wig to reveal her hair was gone,

“We’re all
in this together, no one is all alone,”

Their smiles
were wide and welcoming as the leader took her hand,

“When you
can, let Laura know that you really understand,”

 ·

When the
meeting was over Laura returned home,

She kissed
her children and showed them her comb,

She
explained her disease and told them about her hair,

They answered,
“We love you, mommy, we don’t care,”

Her husband,
Laura learned, was compassionate and kind,

He loved her
for her heart, her ambition, and her mind,

They decided
to fight cancer together and strive for the best,

And they’d
spend more time living and loving with zest,

The cancer
went into remission and Laura grew back her hair,

And whether tangled,
frizzy, or wind-blown, now she combs with flair.

© poem and artwork, Dan Roberson, 2011 all rights reserved

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Dan Roberson ~ lives in Kansas City, Missouri.  He says, ” I celebrate life. I retired from teaching and now I’m looking for new parades to lead, or to follow. I’m alone, still hoping to be a published author, and trying to stay on my chosen path. I have no anchor to hold me down and I’m ready to rid myself of possessions that impede progress. I want my imagination to soar. I’m open to learning about new worlds, new countries and languages, and different ways to look at things I thought I knew. Every day is a bonus day and I look forward to the challenges it brings. I’m finding out that technology is fast and getting faster and there is much information that I need to learn.”  You’ll find Dan at My Blog.

Posted in Guest Writer, Perspectives on Cancer

PERSPECTIVES ON CANCER #28: Living With Dying

LIVING WITH DYING

by

Gayle Walters Rose

 When my mother’s best friend, Katherine, became ill with stomach cancer, her daughter enlisted Katherine’s friends to be of support as she went through her chemotherapy treatment and subsequent recuperation.  Her daughter lived out-of-state and had a medical practice and could not be with her day-to-day.

I had known Katherine my entire life.   She was one of the most positive, bright lights I had ever known.  Her daughter and I had spent much time together as children, which included many hours swimming in the beautiful lake that they lived on.  Katherine’s husband had died many years prior.

Her daughter was very organized and efficient with setting up people in shifts to take turns staying with Katherine during her illness.  Sometimes this included remaining overnight with her.  But Katherine had a very independent nature, even at age 87, and at times would insist that she was OK and send us home.  Her daughter had tried her best to convince Katherine to move to North Carolina and stay with her family, but Katherine always refused.  She had been there for over 50 years.  During one afternoon, she confided in me that she would never leave her beloved home on the lake.   The house had an enclosed porch that overlooked the water and we would sit out there for hours as we talked and relaxed.  Her eyes would occasionally scan the lake and she would comment on a bird that had caught her eye or an activity by a neighbor around the water’s edge.

We were able to share ourselves like never before.  She regaled me with all kinds of stories from her past and shared intimate feelings.  She told me she was totally at peace and was not fearful of death.  I felt somehow as if I were a vessel for her to pour her heart into and was so grateful that I could be of service to her in this way.

I marveled at her serenity during this difficult time.  There was no “battle”, just gentle, quiet acceptance and the allowing of what was.  She illustrated to me what it meant to live in the moment.  Her ease and even emotions were a gift to me as well.

One day she tired as we had been sitting on the porch for quite some time and so we retired to her bedroom.  Climbing into her bed, I propped myself next to her as we watched television.  A short time later, as I noticed her eyes getting heavy, I told her I would leave and let her sleep.  Lowering myself down on the bed so I could look into her eyes, I held her hands in mine and told her how much I loved her.  She smiled at me with beaming love in her clear, sweet, blue eyes and told me how beautiful I was.  Tears pooled in my eyes as I realized, in that moment, what grace she possessed.

Katherine died quietly in her sleep with hospice in attendance several months after her diagnosis.  Her bedroom window was open to the lake.

© photograph and essay, Gayle Walters Rose, 2011. All rights reserved. No re-blogging or publishing without the permission of the author.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Gayle Walters Rose ~ lives in Winter Park, Florida and has been blogging since August of 2010. She is an adventurous writer, experimenting with various forms of poetry and with fiction and creative nonfiction.Gayle comes from a large family, and she is the mother of grown daughters. Much of her writing is about nature or things of the spirit. Early in life, she lived in an ashram and often shares that experience and its lessons.

Gayle’s favorite quote is “Never think there is anything impossible for the soul. It is the greatest heresy to think so. If there is sin, this is the only sin; to say that you are weak, or others are weak.” (Swami Vivekananda)  You’ll find Gayle blogging at Bodhirose’s Blog, where she is much appreciated by the online poetry community for her fine work and because she is genuine.

Posted in Guest Writer, Perspectives on Cancer

PERSPECTIVES ON CANCER #26: Her Days Are Numbered

HER DAYS ARE NUMBERED

by

Dakshima Haputhanthri

·

Her days are numbered

She was the only one who knew

The world filled with warmth

Is gonna end like dew

She thought of those she loved

Her fears aren’t new

But now it’s time, and she should say adieu

This thing that eats her inside

She had no control, it stab her life like a knife

Nothing can be done, no cure

It seems to be stealing her life

It’s so deadly, but she has determined to live for the moment

She smiled through her tears, she had no choice…

·

© poem by and photograph, Dakshima Haputhanthri, 2011 all rights reserved

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Dakshima Haputhanthri ~ is from Sri Lanka. She is a writer and poet and a lawyer by profession. She says, “I am a simple mortal with an undying passion for writing … Writing gives me wings and I fly, thinking and wondering about life and how people refuse to reveal their true selves.” Dakshima blogs at Love Among Other Things. 

Posted in Guest Writer, Poems/Poetry

PERSPECTIVES ON CANCER #24: More Than Love At First Sight

MORE THAN LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT

by

Dan Roberson

I said, “I
fell in love with you at first sight,”

You said, “Oh,
it was a crazy night,”

I said, “The
moon was beautiful and bright,

But I couldn’t see anything but you,”

 ·

You said, “I
don’t think that was true,

You came in with
someone dressed in blue,”

I said, “I’ll
have to admit once more you’re right,

Let’s just
forget about love at first sight,”

 ·

It was not
as important as I thought it would be,

It was a
step in the right direction, don’t you agree?

We were
newlyweds ready to begin,

Confident we
could change the world, again and again,

 ·

But it was the
second step, or maybe it was three or four,

When we
connected deeply, right at heart’s door,

Steps five
or six, we really began to communicate,

Every day I
grew more in love, it was such a happy state,

 ·

Knowing your
love for me was also deep,

Made it so
easy to have a restful sleep,

Love at
first sight seemed unreal and so long ago,

As life
expanded our love continued to grow,

 ·

We were stepping
into our future, two of a kind,

I was so
crazy about you as if I’d lost my mind,

Years went
by so quickly with you at my side,

And I still
thought of you as my beautiful bride,

 ·

When you
were stricken with that terrible disease,

I had to
tell you “I love you” to put your mind at ease,

I still
loved you when your hair began to fall,

It didn’t
change the way I felt, no, not at all,

 ·

The moon outside
is breathtaking and luminous tonight,

But you’re
lying here cold in the middle of the night,

Your frail
body is still beautiful to my sight,

I’ll lie
beside you until morning’s early light,

 ·

Remembering
tears and laughter we shared,

The ways we showed
each other we cared,

How we
worked through our problems every day,

Learned to
forgive and to often pray,

 ·

We didn’t
let disagreements go on long,

As we trusted
each other we were twice as strong,

I didn’t
really understand love at first sight,

We took our
turns at being wrong and right,

 ·

Now you’ve
left this earth on your final flight,

And my heart
is filled with love at last sight.

·

@ poem and artist’s rendering of Dan, Dan Roberson, all rights reserved. No reblogging or pinting without the permission of the author.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Dan Roberson ~ lives in Kansas City, Missouri.  He says, ” I celebrate life. I retired from teaching and now I’m looking for new parades to lead, or to follow. I’m alone, still hoping to be a published author, and trying to stay on my chosen path. I have no anchor to hold me down and I’m ready to rid myself of possessions that impede progress. I want my imagination to soar. I’m open to learning about new worlds, new countries and languages, and different ways to look at things I thought I knew. Every day is a bonus day and I look forward to the challenges it brings. I’m finding out that technology is fast and getting faster and there is much information that I need to learn.”  You’ll find Dan at My Blog.

Posted in Guest Writer, Perspectives on Cancer, Poems/Poetry

PERSPECTIVES ON CANCER #22: Bath

BATH

by

Myra Schnieder

·

Kindness, an Irish lilt in her voice,

spares me the effort of running the water

and supports my elbow when, stripped

of everything but wound dressings,

I take a giant step into the tub.

·

Warm water wells into my crotch,

unlocks spine, lullabies stomach.

Is it because I’ve passed through

extremity that this comfort is intense

as the yellow daffodils trumpet?

·

Yesterday – my raw body stranded

by the basin, chill sprouting on my skin

while a Chinese student nurse

conscientiously dabbed each

helpless area – is miles away.

·

Dimly, I remember a stark room

and the high-sided saltwater bath

I was dipped in a few days

after giving birth. As Kindness

babies my back with a pink flannel

·

I’m reborn though maimed, ageing.

And this pool of bliss can no more

be explained than the song that pours

from a lark as it disappears into

stitchless blue, the seed circles

·

that cram a sunflower’s calyx,

day splashing crimsons

and apricot golds across the sky

before it seeps into the silence

of night, the way love fountains.

 ·

© 2011, Myra Schneider, all rights reserved. This poem is posted on Into the Bardo  with the permission of  Ms. Schneider. Any further reposting requires her permission. 

Photo credit ~ amazon preparing for a battle (Queen Antiop or Armed Venus), byPierre-Eugène-Emile Hébert 1860 (National Gallery of ArtWashington, D.C.), public domain photograph via Wikipedia

·

Bath is an excerpt from:

Writing My Way Through Cancer  Jessica Kingsley Publishers (2003), and

Multiplying The Moon  Enitharmon (2004)

Editor’s note: The opening poems of Multiplying the Moon are Myra Schneider’s response to her experience of terrible illness. In the aftermath of fighting breast cancer, she found herself writing poems that explore transience, death, and survival from many different angles. The main theme of `Voicebox,’ the long fictional narrative in the middle of the book, is communication; the poem follows the connections and disconnections between its main characters. In a short poem sequence, the poet draws on findings from the 1901 census to re-create her father’s early life, and the understanding she gains helps her to feel a new closeness with him. This is united by the theme of investigation of the self and its relationship with the outside world.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Myra Schneider ~ was born in London in 1936 and grew up on the Firth of Clyde. She is the author of four poetry collections from Littlewood, three novels for children from Heinemann, and has three poetry collections published by Enitharmon: Exits, The Panic Bird and Insisting on Yellow. With John Killick she has written Writing for Self-Discovery  (Vega, Chrysalis Books) which was re-published in 2002. Her book Writing My Way Through Cancer, was published by Jessica Kingsley in 2003. The book is her fleshed-out journal from the year 2000 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. It includes poem notes and poems and a section of therapeutic writing ideas.

Posted in Guest Writer, Perspectives on Cancer, Poems/Poetry

PERSPECTIVES ON CANCER #21: Amazon

AMAZON

by

Myra Schneider

 

 for Grevel

 ·

For four months

all those Matisse and Picasso women

draped against

plants, balconies, Mediterranean sea, skies

have taunted me

with the beautiful globes of their breasts as I’ve filled

 ·

my emptiness

with pages of scrawl, with fecund May, its floods

of green, its irrepressible

wedding-lace white, buttercup gold,

but failed to cover

the image of myself as a misshapen clown

 ·

until you reminded me

that in Greek myth the most revered women

were the single-breasted

Amazons who mastered javelins and bows, rode

horses into battle,

whose fierce queens were renowned for their femininity.

 ·

Then recognising the fields I’d fought my way across

I raised my shield

of glistening words, saw it echoed the sun.

·

© 2011, Myra Schneider, all rights reserved. This poem is posted on Into the Bardo  with the permission of  Ms. Schneider. Any further reposting requires her permission. 

Photo credit ~ amazon preparing for a battle (Queen Antiop or Armed Venus), byPierre-Eugène-Emile Hébert 1860 (National Gallery of ArtWashington, D.C.), public domain photograph via Wikipedia

·

Amazon is an excerpt from:

Writing My Way Through Cancer  Jessica Kingsley Publishers (2003), and

Multiplying The Moon  Enitharmon (2004)

Editor’s note: The opening poems of Multiplying the Moon are Myra Schneider’s response to her experience of terrible illness. In the aftermath of fighting breast cancer, she found herself writing poems that explore transience, death, and survival from many different angles. The main theme of `Voicebox,’ the long fictional narrative in the middle of the book, is communication; the poem follows the connections and disconnections between its main characters. In a short poem sequence, the poet draws on findings from the 1901 census to re-create her father’s early life, and the understanding she gains helps her to feel a new closeness with him. This is united by the theme of investigation of the self and its relationship with the outside world.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Myra Schneider ~ was born in London in 1936 and grew up on the Firth of Clyde. She is the author of four poetry collections from Littlewood, three novels for children from Heinemann, and has three poetry collections published by Enitharmon: Exits, The Panic Bird and Insisting on Yellow. With John Killick she has written Writing for Self-Discovery  (Vega, Chrysalis Books) which was re-published in 2002. Her book Writing My Way Through Cancer, was published by Jessica Kingsley in 2003. The book is her fleshed-out journal from the year 2000 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. It includes poem notes and poems and a section of therapeutic writing ideas.

Posted in Guest Writer, Perspectives on Cancer, Uncategorized

PERSPECTIVES ON CANCER #18: Mine Is Not To Ask Why

MINE IS NOT TO ASK WHY

by

Lisa Maxwell

This month, a little more than most, I think about what I have been through, what I have lost, and what I have gained. I never ask, “why me?” I am always grateful it was me. I had my mother’s strength and my father’s stubbornness to get me through it. Someone else may not have been a lucky as I was…am.

October is almost upon us and it is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but for some of us, those like me and our families, every month is breast cancer awareness month.   When you hear those words, “you have cancer,” you are never more aware.   That feeling, the awareness, it never leaves you.

Tonight I sat with my daughter and watched a speech by Kelly Corrigan, breast cancer survivor and author.  Emily and I held hands and cried together, grateful for what we have gained and all that we are lucky to still have…each other.

Sure, I have been through what some call “hell,” but I never saw it that way. For me, it was just a journey to get to the other side.  Just one more thing to get past and then move on.  People sometimes say to me, “so-and-so died of cancer.”  My only response can ever be, “I’m not doing that.”

For me, having treatment and getting on with my life was the only choice.  IS the only choice. Surviving is the ONLY choice.

Now, I use my experiences to make others aware of just how a diagnosis of cancer can change your life, even if it’s not you who is diagnosed.   My cancer affected everyone around me: my parents, my husband, my little boys, and my daughter.  Now I spread the word through my writing, my big mouth, and by walking the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer every year and raising money for research and other programs.

Mine is to do.

© 2011 Lisa Maxwell, all rights reserved, this includes text and family photos. Please be respectful. 

Video uploaded to YouTube by 

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ 

Lisa Maxwell ~ periodically blogs about cancer on her mother’s site, PattiKen and the Muses. Lisa is a mother with three children and an educator who recently completed a master’s program. She is dedicated to promoting cancer awareness, early detection, and participation in events that encourage awareness and raise funds to support research, detection, and treatment. We are grateful that Lisa survived and is able to reach a helping hand out to others.

Posted in Jamie Dedes, Perspectives on Cancer

PERSPECTIVES IN CANCER #16: Parvathy

PARVATHY

by

Jamie Dedes

You are the one I most hoped would make it

You of the vibrant colors, the valiant heart

You young with laughter, wise in sadness

Winging your way past the river of forgetfulness

Several years ago a brave and kind man started a local group for those of us with life threatening illness and our caretakers. Through it, it has been an honor and a privilege to meet people who remain heroic and funny and compassionate in the face of life’s great mystery, death.  We want the same things: more life, less pain, less fear. We fear the same things:  the unknown, will it hurt, will I feel cold and lonely, is there something, is there nothing, will I loose my “I”. We suffer remorse for the loss of ourselves and the time we won’t get. We wonder if in the end anyone will remember us. We fear separation from the people we love and of not being able to finish our work. We fear for our children and grandchildren if we are not here. Quite a number in our group have gone into remission or otherwise improved and moved on. Others we have lost to ALS . . . old age . . .Now we have lost Parvathy, the youngest, I believe, to cancer.  I don’t think she made it to thirty-five.

This summer before Parvathy died, I spent a day with her at Filoli Gardens.  The flowers were stunning, but dull beside the glow of Parvathy’s inner grace and enjoyment of the day and its wonders, which are many at Filoli.  We talked of life and of hopes for the future.  She still hoped for a healthy resolution and a future that would include a child with her new, young husband. She had pursued a successful professional career, and there were things she wished to accomplish. We got tea in the cafe and then sat in the gardens to drink it.  We were good company, I think, despite differences in age, culture, and education. We did have a bond, after all.  It is a bond all humans share, but not all of us face up to or are confronted with in the context of terminal illness.

For many of us, death comes slowly.  First we give up a bit of our hearing, then a bit of our sight, then more than a little of our agility, height, and memory. Eventually, we heave a sigh and off we go, shedding the fleshy capsule.  We have time to do things, to say good-bye slowly, to savor, to say to ourselves and others, “Hey, it was a great ride. No regrets.”  Parvathy didn’t have time. It was all much too fast and much too painful.  Her life had its high moments, certainly. She told me about some of them. But she did grow up in a war torn country.  She lost a brother to war.  She suffered from a terrible illness.  She struggled with anger and remorse over these experiences.  She tried to understand them and to understand a God who would do this to her and her family.  In the end, she may have decided that her life had been good. I hope she did. I hope she could focus on the joys and find some peace. I wasn’t there.  I don’t know. I just wished for her nothing less than what she wished for herself: a long life and less painful one.

© Jamie Dedes 2008-2011, all rights reserved

May your soul find peace, our dear, beautiful Parvathy. You are not and will not be forgotten. The warmth of your spirit lives on in our hearts.

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Jamie Dedes ~ Jamie is a former freelance feature writer and columnist whose topic specialties were employment, vocational training, and business. She finds the blessing of medical retirement to be more time to indulge in her poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction. She has two novels in progress, one in final edits, and is pulling together a poetry collection. Her primary playground is Musing by Moonlight. She is the founder and editor/administrator of Into the Bardo. Jamie’s mother was diagnosed with cancer the first time at thirty-six. She went three rounds with breast cancer, one with thyroid cancer, and died at seventy-six of breast and colon cancer.

Posted in Guest Writer, Perspectives on Cancer, Uncategorized

PERSPECTIVES ON CANCER #15: Rise and Fall

RISE AND FALL

by

Umamaheswari Anandane

·
A reptile delaminates
as I watch my rusted skin
sketched with patterns of time
under the leaves
that subsides in the woods
·
Rise and fall of all seasons
Into the Bardo I swim
·
I fathom that every soul has a day
to dismantle from
its temporary shield
which acknowledged them of its short stay
·
I learned that the time come
to bestow my last kiss
in this embodiment where I learned
the true meaning of Love
Having called upon
is a gift bestowed on
I accepted it with love
·
Now I surrender myself
to those open arms
I got more learning to do
away from this body
to experience the memoir of the unknown
·
© 2011 Umamahswari Anandane, all rights reserved
Photo credit ~ courtesy of cohdra, morgueFile

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Umamahswari Anandane lives in India and is a poet, writer, blogger, and a self-described “simple woman.”  She is an accomplished engineer with multi-lingual skills who discovered in herself a passion for writing poems and fiction.  Ennai kandu peedi paarkalaam, her first novel, is in Tamil (a Dravidian language spoken predominantly by the Tamil peoples of the Indian subcontinent and the official language of Sri Lanka and Sinagpore) is due out in a few months. Find more of her poetry at Inside My Poem Book, a blog. Uma also blogs at Perpetual Mind where, among other things, she explors Tamil arts and Vedic math. Hers is a mind that never stops.
Posted in Guest Writer, Perspectives on Cancer

PERSPECTIVES ON CANCER #14: With Heart Divided

DEATH BY CANCER

Excerpt from With Heart Divided

(Autobiography)

by

Donna Swanson

What do you say about dying?  Holding a hand that is already like a skeleton with skin stretched over it?  Standing in back of his lounge chair and putting your hands gently on his shoulders for fear of hurting him?  Kissing the top of his head where only a few strands of those once thick curls remain?  Saying, “I love you.” trying to make up for all those times you did not say it before?

On the night before our son, Mac, died, Jacob stopped by his daddy’s chair on his way to bed and said, “Goodnight, Dad” Mac answered “Goodnight, Jake.” John and I and Dennie had been there all day and about 10:00 I went home to get some sleep.  John stayed because Mac had begun to get really agitated in his hallucinations and he was afraid Mac, though weak, could throw himself out of his chair or hurt Shelby.

At 5:30 the next morning the phone rang and Dennie said I’d better come quickly.  By the time I arrived Mac had just won his war.  Satan had played his last card, death, and though he won a battle, he lost the war.  Mac died with his father’s arms around his shoulders and his wife’s arms holding him.  Shelby let the boys sleep until the undertaker had gone, then she sat in her chair with a child held close under each arm and told them their Daddy had gone to Heaven.

When we went with Shelby to make arrangements, the first thing she said was, “I never expected to be doing this at 33.”  Both the visitation and funeral service were held in our Church for there was not enough room in the funeral home.  The Director said he had never held a service with so many people in attendance.  Shelby and John decided to bury Mac in the little cemetery about a quarter-mile from our home.  Arrangements were made and now Mac’s grave is close by.

Of course Mac is not there.  He has changed the landscape of Heaven for us. No longer is it a place just to be talked about in sermons or read about in the Bible.  Now it is where Mac is.  And we wonder what he’s doing today.  We see Heaven through the eyes of sorrow and joy.  And death has truly lost its sting.

My family has lost many members to cancer; two sisters, a brother, my mother and several cousins.  When the battle is done and the tears have dried, the heart regains its equilibrium and life goes on.  But for the poet, part of the healing process is putting into words our thoughts and the thoughts we see reflected in the eyes of our loved ones.  These are written for my son, Mac, and my sister Jackie who died of ovarian cancer.

FROM THE SHADOWS

I step back into the shadow,

beyond the light of my family’s

celebration.

Storing memories

that must last through eternity.

I watch for the last time

each milestone celebration;

each small moment.

I take in the wonder

of the ordinary:

The smile of the morning,

The uncertain rest of the night

and the miracle of a day renewed.

As eternity beckons

I reach for the temporal,

for one last touch of mortality.

But I watch from the shadows.

© cover art, narrative, and poem 2011, Donna Swanson, all rights reserved

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Donna Swanson was born during the Great Depression in 1938 to an Indiana farm family.Youngest of eight children and a twin, she has lived her entire life in Warren County, Indiana.  A high school graduate, she chose to marry and raise a family rather than attend college; although she took classes in art, Koine’ Greek and psychology after marriage.  She has written nine books: Mind Song, published by The Upper Room in Nashville, TN; Rachel’s Daughters, The Windfallow Chronicles (a double trilogy), self-published; Splinters of Light, yet to be published, and the present autobiography.  A poem, Minnie Remembers, has become a standard tool in the study of gerontology, made into a documentary film by United Methodist Communications, and given the Golden Eagle Film Award.  It has been reprinted in most denominational publications and over twenty-five books. Mrs. Swanson is a Bible scholar and taught adult Bible classes for over forty years.  She began prayer and share groups for women in two area Churches and hosted a teenage “rap” group in her home for four years.  She counts among her mentors college professors, authors and ministers. Donna blogs at Mindsinger.

Posted in Perspectives on Cancer, Poems/Poetry

PERSPECTIVES ON CANCER #10: I Am No Longer Afraid

“I AM NO LONGER AFRAID…” Deena Metzger.

DEENA METZGER INSCRIBES A TREE

by

Jamie Dedes

Ms. Metzger is a poet and playwright, essayist and novelist, and a healing storyteller. I wish her work was around in time for my mom who died of breast and colon cancer. Trees: Essays and Pieces is Deena Metzger’s first healing book and it includes the play The Woman Who Slept With Men to Take the War Out of Them. She wrote the book to heal from her experience of cancer and mastectomy.

I love the brave picture above on a poster designed by Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, copyrighted and posted here under “fair use.” It’s also on the cover of Ms. Metzger’s book. You can order posters or postcards HERE if you care to. I don’t know if you can make it out, but Ms. Metzger had a tatoo done over her mastectomy scar. It’s a tree branch.

I am no longer afraid of mirrors where I see the sign of the amazon, the one who shoots arrows.
There was a fine red line across my chest where a knife entered,
but now a branch winds about the scar and travels from arm to heart.

Green leaves cover the branch, grapes hang there and a bird appears.
What grows in me now is vital and does not cause me harm. I think the bird is singing.
I have relinquished some of the scars.
I have designed my chest with the care given to an illuminated manuscript.
I am no longer ashamed to make love. Love is a battle I can win.
I have the body of a warrior who does not kill or wound.

On the book of my body, I have permanently inscribed a tree.

Excerpt from Tree: Essays and Pieces by Deena Metzger 

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Jamie Dedes ~ Jamie is a former freelance feature writer and columnist whose topic specialties were employment, vocational training, and business. She finds the blessing of medical retirement to be more time to indulge in her poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction. She has two novels in progress, one in final edits, and is pulling together a poetry collection. Her primary playground is Musing by Moonlight. She is the founder and editor/administrator of Into the Bardo. Jamie’s mother was diagnosed with cancer the first time at thirty-six. She went three rounds with breast cancer, one with thyroid cancer, and died at seventy-six of breast and colon cancer.

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Posted in Essay, Guest Writer

PERSPECTIVES ON CANCER #8: A Gift from Cancer

Dilys Wood

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A GIFT FROM CANCER

by

Dilys Wood

Some friends of mine who suffered cancer and did not survive in the longer term were, as it happens, exceptional people with a special gift for sharing. That’s how I come to know that there can be shared happiness even when a friend is diagnosed with a serious illness. When time is short, inhibition may fly out of the window. You may feel ‘licensed’ to talk freely about every aspect of both your lives.There are no excuses for not doing the things you meant to do together. Boring daily chores just have to give way to what, at normal times, might seem a whim.

In fact, the more ‘whims’ your friend has the more delighted you feel to be able to help, even though, when someone is getting weak, there can be problems. If not used to being a caretaker, you sometimes feel stupid, inadequate and guilty. A few weeks before her death, I took a friend abroad and was in tears of despair at Heathrow airport because I hadn’t allowed for her slow walking and general debility. Why hadn’t I booked help? When we reached our hotel in Amsterdam, I was tired and she was ready for an enjoyable evening. I’d learnt the lesson that energy levels in a cancer patient can be unpredictable: a remarkable will-power may come into play, with a passionate desire to do new things, go places, indulge a little lavish spending, even when out of character.

Within a week or so of her own death, a friend learnt that an aunt was housebound and set off to see her. It should not have been possible for her to take that journey by car, train, tube and bus, but she did it on her own. When she told me the details it was obvious she had had one of the happiest days of her life. This friend was one who talked about everything under the sun, including questioning everyone, from priests to shop-assistants, about their idea of eternity.

Another friend greeted everyone on the street with, “I’ve got terminal cancer”. Far from resenting this – and despite the fact that she had just moved house – her neighbours were soon actively helping in every possible way, visits, shopping, lifts in their cars, re-plumbing her washing-machine. By contrast, I was unhappy when the close family of a dying friend banned visitors from the house in her last fortnight. Did she feel that “closing out” was harsh, as I did, or was it the right decision?

For another friend, dying in a Hospice, things were different. Lying in the bay-window of a large sunny room she was dying in a combined greenhouse and luxury hotel. Surrounded by a mass of cut-flowers and house-plants, her bedside table groaning with fruit and chocolate, she was eager for visitors, warm, loving even while hallucinating. I will never forget her friendly indignation as she pointed to the vision we couldn’t see, “Look a tiger, apricot stripes!”

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Dilys Wood ~ Dilys is poet, editor and founder of Second Light Network of Women Poets. She has edited four anthologies of women’s poetry, mainly with Myra Schneider and has published two collections of poetry, Women Come to a Death and Antarctica. She is a great advocate for women poets, especially those who come to the art and craft of it late in life. Dilys mother died of cancer.

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