I would not describe myself as a poet. In fact until early March 2019 I had not written a poem since I was required to do so at school or university some 25 years before.
And yet here we are with a small, but growing collection of poems.
I wrote the first poem (Self Discovery) one Sunday whilst laying in bed, pretty low and exhausted following the delayed effects of radiotherapy. Or possibly the cumulative effects of the previous nine months: an advanced cancer diagnosis, 18 weeks chemo, several emergency hospital admissions, 3 operations, 9 weeks of carrying a surgical drain around, 3 weeks of intensive radiotherapy everyday plus a bone infusion. No clear margins and no idea how much cancer was left or where it was.
I guess I was allowed to be tired and a bit fed up.
Up to this point I had focused almost entirely on the physical and practical aspects of a diagnosis, i.e. running around the country going to various appointments to discuss, receive or assess the effects and success treatment. The effects were pretty significant and the success was hard to come by or pin down. In fact almost every appointment brought more bad news, more treatments and more procedures or ops. More uncertainty that is for sure.
It was on this Sunday morning that I found myself alone in bed; alone in the house and alone in my thoughts and fears. I felt that I could not talk to anybody about how I was really feeling. Up until this point I could barely allow my subconscious to think or talk about how I was feeling, even to myself. I had not really given myself much time for internal dialogue – it was just too much, too scary and frankly a distraction from the physical, practical, all consuming job of getting on top of this cancer.
To this day I don’t know why, but I felt compelled to write.
I picked up a pen from my bedside drawer and a scrappy bit of paper (it was actually from a to do list pad – which is definitely my normal modus operandi) and I wrote a poem. It came in 60-90 mins from somewhere deep inside me. From the place that knew this cancer was not gone and this was not the end of my journey. I knew I wasn’t in remission.
It was 3 days later on the Wednesday that I was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer. The cancer was still on the move.
Since then I have gone back and forth through various experiences on this journey and taken the time to examine how I felt and what I thought.
I have found writing and reading the poetry an essential part of acknowledging the feelings and experiences I have lived through. A way to accept and discharge the feelings.
I hope they give you an idea of what it is like to have cancer and to endure its often barbaric treatment. I won’t pretend that they are easy reading but it is important that we share how you deal with cancer so we acknowledge its challenges for the many people who are directly or indirectly effected by this insidious disease.
This is very much my journey and my experience. We are all unique. Each cancer is unique and how we respond to treatment is very personal.
If someone you know or love is going through this ask them about their experience. And listen to what they say and how they say it. It will make a difference.
Poems to Date