A Cancer Poem: Rock-Solid Strength

November 22, 2020
Janet Watson

A poem from a mother to her daughter after her breast cancer diagnosis.

My daughter, Jill, had become a talented rock-painting hobbyist long before her diagnosis of breast cancer. She always left her rocks, with colorful pictures and inspirational messages, wherever someone might find one. Instructions were written on the reverse side of the artwork, to either keep a rock or pass it on.

When she began cancer treatments, she often took rocks to Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, to share hope with others who were making the journey. She has generously painted hundreds of rocks, keeping none for herself. This is a poem I composed inspired by her selflessness, titled "Rock-Solid Strength".

Severed from its ancestral mountain,

the rock was dragged across a continent

by an Ice Age glacier. Battered

by the forces of shifting earth

and unbridled water, the rock became

a child’s fist of resolute survival.

Sharp edges softened and smoothed

over countless millennia.

How far had it tumbled through time

before slipping from the ripples of a creek

and into my daughter’s hand?

In that humble-hued rock of gray,

there was a gritty story

of hard-won grace and courage

through a long and difficult journey.

Jill called upon her own artistry

to reveal the parable of the rock,

brushing it with sky-blue paint,

and with bold flourish, writing in white,

the word that worked best-- HOPE.

Varnished, the message glowed.

On the first day of chemo,

Jill gripped the rock as she waited

for her name to be called.

And when it was, she stood up,

leaving the rock behind

for the next cancer patient

embarking on a similar journey.


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