Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A Poem for National Breast Cancer Month--TO THE NURSE WHO TOLD ME TO GRIEVE FOR MY BREAST

Yesterday was my birthday, a time for reflection. I realized that National Breast Cancer Month had almost passed without me posting anything for it. In a way, that's a very good sign, a sign that my life is getting back to normal. After a battle with breast cancer that made me focus on that disease, I'm now too busy to pay it a lot of attention, except when I go in for my periodic appointments with my oncologist and my semi-yearly visit to the chemo clinic. 

Yet, I don't want to forget or ignore this month. It's important to recognize the struggle I've made and that countless other women are making every day. This year, as a way of giving back to the cancer clinic that gave me such excellent care, I'm giving a writing workshop for breast cancer survivors later this week. As usual, writing helped me through the ordeal, and I hope to give these women tools to help them make it through, as well.

To all the survivors out there, I salute you. To all the nurses and doctors and therapists who work with breast cancer patients, I thank you. And to all the caregivers out there, those spouses, lovers, parents, siblings, children, friends, who've cooked and cleaned and driven to radiation and chemo treatments and held us while we cried after diagnoses, surgeries, and pathology reports, I am in awe of your strength, courage, and love, and I know a lot fewer of us would make it through if it weren't for you.


I sit here unable to understand.
My breasts have been good to me,
I’ll admit to that—
lots of sexual pleasure
through the years,
large cup size when it mattered
to the world around me,
never any problem with infection,
mastitis, fibrosis, cysts.

When I had babies,
my breasts overflowed.
No problem nursing—
I pumped breast milk
for La Leche to deliver
to neonatal preemies.
Men and women who were born too soon
and struggled to live
may be alive today
in part because of my breasts.

It’s not like we’re talking
a hand, an eye, a leg.
It’s just a breast,
mostly a big inconvenience,
always in the way and vulnerable.
Not something I can’t do without.
Losing it won’t cripple me.

And the son of a bitch tried to kill me.

(Published in Black Renaissance Noire, 2015)