Suppose, Passage and Chemo: Three Poems About Cancer


Through it all, poetry was the lens through which I could examine and deal with these very emotional and painful times in my life.

My life has been touched by cancer in three different ways. A number of years ago,

my mother passed away six months after she was diagnosed with acute leukemia. My late husband died from a non-inherited, non-lifestyle soft tissue sarcoma after a six-year struggle. Five years after he passed, I was diagnosed with breast cancer

Through it all, poetry was the lens through which I could examine and deal with these very emotional and painful times in my life. And heal. It is my hope that these poems will help someone else through their own ordeal(s)…

*Suppose references all three cancer journeys.

*Passage is about the spread of my husband’s cancer.

Chemo is a playful riff on hair loss and the wearing of wigs while it regrows.

*Both of these poems have been published in my full-length book of poetry, “The Color of Shadows.”


Suppose the lump had not been cancer

Suppose that I never had learned to write poetry

Suppose that I had become a studio potter

Suppose that my father had gone to college

Suppose that my sister had not been overweight

Suppose that my mother’s leukemia had not been acute

Suppose that I had arrived before she passed into unconsciousness

Suppose that I had not left the hospital just before my husband died


Mars was closer to earth that evening

than it had been in sixty thousand years.

Tethered to twin oxygen tanks,

you struggled up from the chair,

shuffled across the living room,

navigated the dining room’s

wrinkled rug ravines,

crossed through the kitchen,

out the heel-biting door,

down two steep steps,

over winter-heaved bricks

to the edge of the patio —

you, an earthbound astronaut

awestruck at the sight

of the red orb hanging low overhead —

but all I saw were the tumors

in your lungs, how on the X-rays

they looked like pinpoints of light,

like constellations in a black night,

like planets way too close.


Ode to my two wigs

I channel Jean Harlow or Madonna

in my blonde pageboy. It photographs

white. “Figure I should wear stilettos,

carry a whip.”

The other is short, a raccoon pelt

full of frost and stripes —

makes me feel like a cocktail waitress

in a Davey Crockett hat.

Judy wants this wig. She says

she always wanted hair like that.

I would gladly give it to her now

except my head is so darn cold.

Kathy at Cut and Curl warned me not

to stand in front of an opened oven door

for fear of turning these synthetic tresses

into small plastic balls.

People ask “who is your hairdresser?”

Say I should always wear my hair like this.

Funny, I never received compliments

on my real hair.

This post was written and submitted by Carol Townsend. The article reflects the views of Townsend and not of CURE®. This is also not supposed to be intended as medical advice.

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