Declutter Your Life When Ill – Relationships2

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

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

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)


Marie Ennis-O'Connor (@JBBC) 07-03-2012, 10:34

Your poetry is incredibly Lois – I am becoming a big fan and I am going to have to buy your book from Amazon. Thanks for sharing your poems so generously with us – they’ve really touched me.

hjelmstd 16-03-2012, 22:48

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

Weekly Round-Up « Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer 09-03-2012, 09:28

[…] has been such a joy to discover the writings of Lois Hjelmstad and she has generously shared with us excerpts from some of the poems featured in her book Fine […]

Weekly Round-Up « Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer | Cancer-Center 09-03-2012, 10:04

[…] has been such a joy to discover the writings of Lois Hjelmstad and she has generously shared with us excerpts from some of the poems featured in her book Fine […]

Reply 09-03-2012, 18:05

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


hjelmstd 16-03-2012, 22:54

Thank you so much, Brenda. You have encouraged me greatly!

Catherine Brunelle 10-03-2012, 03:24

Very good poem, Lois – I’m so glad to have found you through Marie’s blog. Maybe you would consider submitting some poems to ?

hjelmstd 16-03-2012, 22:52

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 and we can continue this conversation. Thanks for the nice comment!

pinkunderbelly 10-03-2012, 13:21

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.

hjelmstd 16-03-2012, 22:54

Thank you. I am enjoying pinkunderbelly a lot.

Jan Baird Hasak 10-03-2012, 16:18

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

hjelmstd 16-03-2012, 22:56

Thanks, Jan. If you get Fine Black Lines (amazon, bn, etc.), I hope you like it. I’m working on the eBook right now.

feistybluegecko 11-03-2012, 07:53

So glad to have found your blog and your wonderful writing and poetry.

hjelmstd 16-03-2012, 22:57

I truly love having my new friends. Thanks to Marie!

hjelmstd 16-03-2012, 22:58

If any of you have trouble getting Fine Black Lines, please email me at


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