Cancer Loss and Memories of 'The Small Giant'


In a special poem dedicated to his aunt who died from breast cancer, Javishkar Reddy writes about their connection and the emotions he felt after losing her.

In July 2021, my aunt passed away after a long and brave fight with breast cancer. She was the first person I was close to that made me have to deal with cancer directly. That is, processing the emotions that come with seeing a loved one take on a terminal illness, as well as the manner in which your respect for that individual grows after you witness their struggle directly. When I first moved to Johannesburg, ‘the big city’ in South Africa, I hated it. But my aunt took me in, and by helping me to settle in, became a major reason why I managed to make it in this city.

Because of COVID-19 and time restrictions, I was not allowed to read this poem at her funeral. Still, I am sure she heard it from the heavens. Hopefully other patients with cancer and their families will also hear it.

The Small Giant

One day I came to Joburg

Scared, down

And with nothing but a frown.

Yet you took me in

And wiped the doubt off my scruffy neck,

Removed the fear from my soul

And the anxiety that made me a wreck.

You cooked and cooked

As if every meal could be our last,

You laughed and laughed

Making sure all our pain had passed.

You lived

And made us want to live

You were free

And made us feel free.

How I wish my voice was loud enough

So my prayers would count,

Or that I knew something, anything

About things like medicine or cancer cells even in a small amount.

I’m still just a boy

Who only has his words to help heal,

But you loved that about me.

So there’s nothing left to conceal.

When I feel little or insignificant again

I’ll remember that someone so small,

Could be so brave, so resilient

With so much love for us all.

Rest now my aunt, my mother

Til the end you were so defiant.

We carry you with us, always and always

Our Small Giant.

This poem was originally submitted for the CURE® 2021 Poetry Contest.

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