Writer's Corner

The Writer's Corner is a place to read others' thoughts and poetry about their cancer journeys. Click on a writer's name below to read their poem or story.


Advice on how to help your friend who is in cancer treatment (chemo and/or radiation):

You will probably ask your friend with cancer: "What can I do to help? Please let me know if there's anything I can do..." It's possible, unless you arc very close, that your friend will not feel comfortable telling you what they really need e.g. mop their kitchen floor. So instead, be very specific, say: "Can I come over and weed your garden? Or vacuum, clean your bathroom, do some errands for you?"

Your friend may or may not be able to cat very much. Do not just bake something, like lasagna, and drop it off. You could ask: "Arc you able to cat anything? Give me a list and I'll go get what you need at the store."

Also, they may be on a special diet advised by a nutritionist. If they aren't able to eat solid food, fruit and other types of smoothies may be a good option. These may help cleanse the liver which is working overtime to filter chemo and other toxins. (13c sure it's consistent with their nutritional plan.) Maybe you could lend them your blender if they don't have one.

Help your friend get filtered water if they don't already have a filter etc.

Your friend may be feeling extreme fatigue; nonetheless, it's a good idea for them to try to move a bit. Ask your friend if they're able to go for a walk. If they say they can only go a short distance, tell them you will bring a folding chair for them to sit in along the way.

Text, email, and send notes to your friend. Let them know it's ok if they don't feel like replying. It may be difficult to keep up with all the well-wishes. Try not to be offended if you don't hear back. Emanate love and warmth without expectations. Your friend will be out of sorts for a while. Even if they don't feel physically and emotionally horrible, they are bound to be feeling at least crummy. They may be depressed, tearful, nauseous, irritable, wcak, and very fatigued, to say the least. Imagine what you would feel like if you had the flu for several months. On the other hand, your friend may be feeling good on that day. Just try to notice and attune your expectations to those of your friend. Be aware of the assumptions you are holding about what your friend's life is like. It changes minute by minute.

Every cancer experience is different. When their treatment is over, do not expect your friend to feel good right away. Sometimes it takes years. End of treatment does not necessarily mean end of cancer. Celebrating milestones is a good idea, but do not assume your friend has totally recovered. Even if their treatment was successful and they are in remission, they will probably at least experience anxiety about recurrences. Facing mortality is tough but also enlightening.

Your friend's cancer may bring up all sorts of feelings for you, including anxiety and grief. Be mindful of how your own experience may be affecting your interactions with your friend. Think of this as a learning experience.

Ask your friend if they would like to have an organized visiting or meal schedule set up. Some would love this, some would dislike this.

Flowers are nice...

One of the most moving gifts given to me by a friend was her presence. She flew in from another state to visit over a weekend. She did not expect me to put her up in my house, but made herself available as needed. I was wowed and felt truly cared for.

Sara B. Chase

Eight Kinds of Silence

1. Silence feared: no sound of breathing from the other side of the bed

2. Silence loved: a quiet smile of agreement or acquiescence

3. Silences of Emily Dickinson's poems: e.g. "I'm nobody/Who are you?/Are you nobody too?/Then there's a air of us/Don't tell..."

4. Silence together: while walking (or even alone); a comfortable knitted feeling, inner content & security, and outward observant and happy _______

5. Cowardly silence: afraid of the consequences of disagreement or conflict...

6. Disapproving silences: usually accompanied by a slight scowl

7. Inattentive silence: mind gone "elsewhere", wandering "lonely as a cloud"

8. Deep thinking silence: studying somethine new, or old; meditating;

Sara B. Chase

Lorraine Gray

Response to a poem by Mark Strand

One of the hard things about anticipating death, besides concern for those who will mourn our absence, is obviously the loss of our own lives - our selves. I deeply love my life and self - a little bit for how I actually seem to be in the world, but mainly because my life is full of all the amazing, beautiful and wondrous things I got to experience, like Whitman's Song of Myself I guess.

I am the hemlocks and yews, drooping under heavy snow. I am the shade beneath them. I am every motion of wave and crashing sound> Chill in the air and first warmth of sun on a March afternoon. I am mosses and moons and wings and branches. Bricks and rusty pipes and littered parking lots. Missile silos and babies' hands grasping. Long remembered lines of prose and glimmers of new constructions. The gaze and subtle facial shifts and turns of every person - the ones I have embraced and the ones I've barely seen as we pass each other thru the subway door.

To love life makes it hard to leave but can also make it ok to end, feeling amazed and grateful for having lived at all.

Lorraine Gray

Image of a Japanese gate while recokinging with cancer

Bowl of shishito peppers
Smoky, fiery.

Snowflakes descending
Quiet the tongue and the heart.

Ornamental threshold, liminal space
I was that, now I'm this; what am I the ...

Hanging out obliviously, like an orbiting satellite gliding on course when
Wham, a whirling piece of asteroid knocks me out of orbit

There is a tension between disciplined movement -- Samurai steel edge,
and a worn silk robe that falls gently askew.

Lorraine Gray

Karyn Hoffman

Oh my hear, your hearts,
Pots of paint, stirred out of sadness with hope,
Only to be spilled on the floor, dried up with cracked lines over time,
Scars from what life has handed us.

Oh faith, washing in like the ocean tide,
Then leaving as you like with little bits
Remnants of washed out beliefs

I know you well Fear
The unknown, the unpredictable future,
Wrapping around my body, my throat, like a cobra,
Squeezing my confidence out of me,
To be replaced with your cold darkness.

What is there to hold on to? That tangible thing that will give me comfort?

I'm climbing up.
Up a hill, up a rock, up a mountain.
Reaching for the Light,
The Air,
The Breeze on my skin and in my wisps of hair

Oh Freedom, thank you for the soft, familiar smell of wind in the pine trees,
Of nature, and the birds that don't know

Karyn Hoffman

My Garden

Muddy and mossy, a product of obtaining my MBA.
Yard is a stretch.
Good grief, look at the weeds!
Aha! says Robin.
Robin is pleased, look at the worms!
Enticing! Breaking News!
Nourishing nuggets are here and never better!

Karyn Hoffman


Taking care of my dog, Mosey
Long naps, little snacks for a job well done,
Belly rubs, ear scratches and a cold nose on my cheek from a most thankful friend.

Karyn Hoffman

Dana Maiben

O Giant Oak, President of the Woods, Master of Foliage
I know you have not yet leafed into spring.
I sometimes fear that that your kind is being left behind
in another era.
Are you going to stay around awhile?
Thank you for your girth, your crachiation, your canopy, your infinitely variegated bark,
your tiny acorn packets of generative genius,
O giant umbrella, citizen of the world, lover of the near sky.

Dana Maiben


& lunacy
& literature
& lullabies
& king lear
& shakespeare
& letrozole, I guess
& alliteration


Dana Maiben

Jodi Tippett

My husband vented to me yesterday about his day. It started with a 2 hour appointment in the dentist's office. He spend 2 hours watching a competition that he really likes, and was upset that it ended in a draw. And he got an email from work, which highlighted how dysfunctional the organization is.

I talked to him abou thow sad my best friend is that his marriage is ending. And about a woman that I work with whose cancer has returned after 3 1/2 years, and has also spread. Yesterday was her last day at work before going on a medical leave of undetermined length. She was fighting back tears talking to me, and told me about how there are so many questions still unanswered. I told him that I wasn't sure if she would return at all, since she is way beyond retirement age, aand that I have really enjoyed working with her.

This morning my husband hugged me, and thanked me for reminding me what his priorities should be.

Jodi Tippett