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Finding Strength to Face Cancer in 'Where I’m From'


A lymphoma survivor writes a poem about her sources of resiliency when dealing with cancer treatments.

Twelve years ago, I was diagnosed with chronic indolent lymphoma. I was told there was no cure, but I would need to watch and wait, and treat as needed for as long as possible. Of course, I looked it up on the internet after hearing the diagnosis and I read the average time to live with this disease was 10 years. My wonderful oncologist, however, told me not to even consider listening to that number, and he gave me hope. He said it was an average number for a lot of people who found out at different stages, and I wasn't average! It took a while for me to digest all of this. I am an open person, so I shared what I was experiencing with my friends and my synagogue community. I am a big believer in prayer and how can people pray for me if they don't know?

As the years progressed, I dealt with different treatments I needed, from infusions to radiation. Today, I also have to have immune globulin infusions every four weeks because I'm so immune compromised. People often asked me how I still seemed to enjoy life. I was told, "It takes such courage." I really thought about this because I didn't think it took courage at all. It was the only way for me to live. Did my resiliency come from my father? My heritage? I composed the following poem with these thoughts in mind.

Where I’m From

I’m from a strong Jewish heart,

Who never questioned God,

Who gave me my solid Jewish identity,

Whose strength helped me forge ahead.

I’m from a “daddy” who believed in his little girl,

From someone who always said, “You’re incredible.”

I’m from someone who empowered me with these words.

I’m from this strong wind beneath my wings

Which continues to lift me,

But now only deep in my heart.

I’m from the hope of the Jewish people,

From all our forefathers and mothers,

A hope that is part of me internally and externally.

I’m from God, who takes my worry when it’s too much for me.

And who hears my prayers but whose answer could be a “gauntlet with a gift in it.”

I’m from faith that gives me courage to live with uncertainty.

My essence is strong inside because of where I’m from.

I think about what my father went through during the Holocaust…

I think about all that my father instilled in me from this.

I think about what our ancestors endured before me.

And I think about hope and survival…

One of the greatest gifts of our people.

Then I know I can get through a serious cancer diagnosis.

I'll find a doctor to treat me with his brilliant mind and a hopeful prognosis.

I'll get through this pandemic and focus on my blessings.

Instead of how scary it is for me, with my compromised immunity.


I choose to focus on the resiliency of my father and my forefathers.

I choose to live life to the fullest, finding purpose in each and every day.

I choose to laugh, love, dance and sing from my soul.

I choose to focus on passing along the gifts I was given.

I choose to give my husband, children,

And grandchildren, all the love I have to give...

Because they support me and lift me up.

Because that’s what makes me resilient.

And I only hope I pass it along to them,

To help them through whatever comes their way.

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

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