Writing As Therapy

Although I’ve written many poems, I’ve only published one poem on my site. For me, poetry has been largely a way to deal with powerful feelings that arise, often unexpected and unwelcomed. It’s writing as therapy. Right now, I’ve been struggling with emotions over my daughter’s plight. I’ve been resistant to write about my journey and hers, since it’s been so personal, and yet, I’m reminded of how many women out there-young and old from all walks of life-have been struck by the terrible disease of breast cancer.

I had no idea of what was involved  even though I’ve known cancer (different kinds) in my family tree. But when my daughter got it, it was too close, too painful, and perhaps too much to keep to myself.

So, for the past three days, I’ve been writing a poem, one that may touch a chord in those who have a similar journey. My writing as therapy didn’t solve the bigger puzzle. The uncertainty is still there, but I know we’re all part of a bigger picture, one that is painted by a brush we can’t always control. And even though this poem takes me, and perhaps you, to a dark place, I have faith that the sun will shine again, for me, my daughter and our family.


If my heart could bleed,
my shirt would be red.
a shadow of mine watches
my daughter eclipsed by misery.
a breast gone, a body smashed;
is there a cure that’s eluded us all,
one that had no blade attached?

It was only a lump at first,
like a pesky mosquito
that’d go in time the doctor said,
just hormones and nothing more;
but the lump had other plans,
an easy removal, another said,
one that would leave my daughter pleased
with her breast in the aftermath.

But while she waited for the surgeon’s knife,
the lump grew and grew,
and grew some more,
like the operation where
twelve lymph nodes bit the dust,
but still she hoped her breast could be saved,
with chemotherapy, the poison
too awful, even for the brave.

The drugs flowed like wildfire
through her needle-pricked veins,
attacking each cell that stood in their way,
the good and the bad were one and the same;
a once healthy body was now under siege,
and to add to the trauma that stuck like glue,
she wore ice-cold mitts on her hands and her feet
to keep nails from peeling like a fake tattoo.

Doubts upon lies, heaped upon lies,
as her nails flaked one by one,
like crumbling pastry held tight,
too tight, in a child’s warm hands.
her hair said good-bye, both her scalp and her brow
even they gave no pledge to return,
well-meaning friends sent web sites with cures
head’s caught in a vise with no way to turn.

We clung once more to the specialists words-
maybe it was just a bad dream.
his message of hope was cloaked by a frown;
he said plainly her breast had to go.
still we asked with a smile and a prayer,
as if there was some warranty,
why hadn’t the poison rubbed out
all of the cancerous seeds?

Taking a break, we sailed away
on a Disney cruise where fairies do fly,
and dreams that you dream can come true.
we clutched on to magic as long as we could
’till reality smacked us back to the old place,
knotting our insides and crushing our mind,
shouting there was no escape.

Where is the rainbow on this grayest of days,
the one that promises no floods?
I wrestle with thoughts that bother my sleep,
the view of the dark curves ahead,
the road my once little girl has to take
but I know in my heart, she’s up to the task,
with God on her side and angels at her back,
she’s a woman who rarely backs down from a fight.
still my tear-stained face wets the case of my pillow;
I reach for her father in the black of the night.


2 thoughts on “Writing As Therapy

  1. Carol J. Garvin

    Cancer of any kind is such a hateful disease! We could cope with it better if we knew the unpleasant treatments would result in being permanently cured. Instead, too often we’re left to live on a “when will the other shoe drop?” treadmill. I think the heartache must be much worse when it’s not self but one’s child who is afflicted. May you and your family feel God’s strength and sustenance during this difficult time.

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