Category: Poems

A Gift for Those Too Sad for Holidays

This poem is for those of you who are having a hard time getting into the holiday spirit because of the loss of a loved one or illness or some other tough thing in your life.

I wrote this in 2002 when someone very dear to me was struggling with brain cancer:

Christmas does not touch our hearts this year
The externals are here—

Trees alight with shining orbs
Wreaths bedecked with sassy bows
Gifts piled high on every shelf
Music mocks our bleakest woes

Nothing warms the cold, dark fear—
Christmas does not reach our hearts this year

December 21, 2002

 

(Excerpted from This Path We Share, (c)2010 Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad)

A Final Poem for October

Affirmation

The breasts are gone
but I am
whole

Disfigurement
need not include
my soul

(Excerpted from Fine Black Lines, copyright 1993, 2003 Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad)

 

 

Oh, no, not another checkup?!

Checkup

The checkups still cause
a tightness in my chest–
a primal fear

Every three months
the doctors poke and question–
Any bone pain?
Appetite OK?
Muscle weakness?
Headache?
Nausea or vomiting?

Every six months
the lab tests and x-rays question, too–
CBC? CEA? LDH? CA 27-29?
Shadow on the screen?

Each time I pray for
"within normal range"
and wonder
what I will do
if the answers
are wrong
again

(Excerpted from Fine Black Lines, (c) 1993, 2003 Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad)

Questions No One Should Answer

Telling Knots has a great post on the thoughtless questions people ask of breast cancer patients and how people try to find reasons for illness and/or death.

Somehow we think that if we can assign blame and identify what the patient did to get cancer, we will know what dumb things not to do and therefore we will be safe from a breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent recurrence. This also extrapolates to any other randomness of biology and whatever accidents one can imagine. 

Her blog is very apropos for October's National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, because over 40,000 breast cancer patients still do die every year. No way is it their fault. 

And most breast cancer survivors do hear many of the things Telling Knots has heard. You will be very interested to read her post. She nails it. 

What I liked best was her conclusion that the tactless questions others direct at us actually say more about them than they do about us. And instead of answering, perhaps we should say, "Why do you ask?"

This makes me think of the afternoon that my Uncle Bill called, soon after my second mastectomy. After some small talk he got right down to the nitty-gritty and asked: 

"So they cut off both your tits? What will Les do now?"

I did not write a poem about the incident. If I had, should it have said

Good grief
Beyond belief
Should I debrief?

What are some better ways to relate to your friend who has been diagnosed with breast cancer?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poem for My Flat Chest

In keeping with my recent posts on whether or not to reconstruct/replace one's breasts after a mastectomy, I offer one of my poems:

Double Amputee

I have looked this way
before–
flat-chested, pencil-thin

when I was ten

Strange it is to seem
a sexless child
again

(Too bad about
the graying hair
and slightly sagging chin)

(Excerpted from Fine Black LIines (c) 1993, 2003 Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad)