Lois Hjelmstad

Lois Hjelmstad.com

Compassion and courage for the times you need it.

One of my breast cancer friends didn't open cards and letters because she knew she couldn't make the personal response that she had been taught to do. She died–with seven grocery bags of unopened mail sitting in her kitchen.

One of my other friends wondered why I had not responded to her note, asking, "Doesn't she know the etiquette?"

On a walk around the lake one afternoon the following poem popped into my head and I hurried, trying to remember it until I got home:

No Lifeguard on Duty

It is difficult
when one is drowning
to wave to the people
on shore

one wants to be
friendly, of course,

but perhaps it is
more important
to keep
swimming

As I recovered from the many surgeries and the radiation therapy and continued to struggle with the CFIDS, I wrote:

On Dealing with Limitation
My life has been circumscribed
by the aspects of
pain
fatigue
treatment

My priorities are
a series of nested circles
beginning with the center
that is me

Daily I choose
the farthest orbit
I can reach

Daily I carefully
spin out rings—
nutrition, rest, exercise
work, play, relationships

But what I really want is
to go zooming out
to the edges of my life
and dance on the periphery

(Both poems excerpted from Fine Black Lines: Reflections on Facing Cancer, Fear and Loneliness, (c) 1993, 2003, Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad)

15 Responses

    1. Thank you so much, Marie. Your words encourage me. I am so glad I found Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer. Had I written a sequel to Fine Black Lines, that was going to be the title, oddly enough.

      It feels so special to me to know you from across the seas.

      Much love, Lois

  1. Hi Lois,
    I owe Marie a thank you for telling me about your site and your poetry. Really nice. You have a heartfelt, poignant, to the point way of stating how most of us feel. I shall follow your blog. Stop by and see me at BreastCancerSisterhood.com

    Best,
    Brenda

    1. Are you wanting poems that are unpublished? All of my breast cancers poems are published, but I’d be delighted to give you permission to use whatever you’d like. Please email me at hjelmstd@csd.net and we can continue this conversation. Thanks for the nice comment!

  2. Beautiful, just beautiful. I love when you comment with snippets of your poems on my blog–makes my day. You have such a gift, and the way you express the nuances of this cancer trek is right on.

  3. I love these poems, Lois. In the past I would have found it hard to believe people could be so insensitive as to wonder why they don’t receive responses from those overwhelmed by circumstances. But nothing ceases to amaze me anymore. Thanks for sharing these gems. I’ll have to get your book, too. XOX

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