#84: The Breast Cancer Poem


We pulled the mammogram call-back letter
out of the mailbox on Christmas day.
The rest is a blur of fearful unknowing–
until the biopsy, and then waiting for
the results of the biopsy, and then getting
acquainted with the strangeness of saying,
yes, I have cancer, or, yes, my wife has cancer.
Early detection, a tiny tumor, a good prognosis,
all points lead in a positive direction,
and yet, the weight of the diagnosis,
the fact that a surgery is determined
necessary (my dear wife has never in her life
been under general anesthesia),
the outside chance that it’s worse than expected
or that it’s spread or that it will come back,
all are heavy burdens despite the good news.
We count our blessings up, over and over,
but it’s hard not to be pissed off, and it’s
hard not to be fearful and it’s a strain
to have to try to be strong through it all.
And yet, what choice do we have?
We have these new identities, now,
and the company of millions of survivors,
many of whom orbit our lives and
fill us with their strength and resolve,
and friends, taking good care of us
throughout, bringing us meals, saying
their prayers or thinking their good thoughts,
they hold us in their generous, loving embraces.

Recovering from the first surgery, there’s
good news and bad.  First, no cancer is found
in the lymph nodes; it hasn’t spread, the best
possible outcome.  And yet, the pathology
reveals that there may be cancer cells on
the periphery of that first tumor, and that
maybe, likely, most certainly now, they will
have to go in again to get the cancer they missed
the first time around.

2014 has sucked, thus far, in more ways
than one, but mostly because of cancer.
My wife will kick its ass, we keep saying,
and we believe it, still, even after this
most recent disappointment; we are as sure
of her survival as we are that the sun
will rise and fall again tomorrow.
And we are thankful beyond measure
for our relative good fortune, blessings
at every turn, our loving little family,
our dear beloved friendships, and the
gift each day of doing with our time
exactly what we want to be doing:
enriching our lives and the lives of
young people with music and literature,
raising a beautiful boy into a caring,
compassionate young man, and making
yet another rock and roll record.
We look not simply to survive,
but to thrive; in every way, to live.

Published by michaeljarmer

I'm a public high school English teacher, fiction writer, poet, and musician in Portland, Oregon

6 thoughts on “#84: The Breast Cancer Poem

  1. Dear Michael and Renee I wish for thebest for you all. Breast cancer of certain types anyway seems to have become a manageable and treatable condition.

    In September, I opened a similar mammogram report. The diagnosis is very early DCIS. Duke recommended I undergo a course of estrogen inhibiting treatment for six months, and then undergo surgery (coming up April 1).

    Thinking of you. -Faith

    Faith S. Holsaert 2109 Sprunt Durhan, NC. 27705



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