A Life of Poetry

morgana_like_marne_photoSandra Evans Falconer is a new LBBC blogger who used her breast cancer diagnosis to spur new dreams and adventures. Here she shares with us her story…

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in February of 2003. I remember the bad snow storm the day I walked to the hospital to get the results of my biopsy. And I remember the look on the doctor’s face and her voice saying: “this is not the outcome we wanted.” When I came home after hearing the news, I wrote the first of 33 poems that would appear a few years later in my book, The Six o’clock Siren. Each poem I wrote carried me on a journey through fear and confusion and worry – wondering what bad thing I had done to get cancer in the first place. And – like many other women – I experienced that jolt and shock of knowing that I had these tiny cells in my body that could potentially end my life.

In a journey of 5 years, (including a clinical trial with tamoxifen), the poems comforted me and occasionally simply surprised me with their hilariousness, punch, and bravado, as well as sadness and loss, and who would I be now?   I became much more grateful for the small moments in every 24 hours, and treasured my friends, my vibrant and nurturing support group, my dance classes at the Baltimore women’s’ shelters, voice lessons,  feeding the cat, writing poetry at night, and sharing poems with many, many people. I think that “siren” that alarm that rings and rings loudly when you’re diagnosed with cancer, changes everything, Everything re-shuffles, including  you. You really do wake up one morning and realize that you’ve made it through, you have a new (different) life to live. After I had breast cancer, I found a wonderful job at a large medical center, obtained my MFA in writing, fell in love (!), and began work as an extra, (a super), with a local opera company, and began teaching belly dance – all gifts in my life. Some 10 years later, I’m still discovering that cancer takes away a lot, but it also leaves much behind: more patience, a deeper trust, an ability to be more gentle with the self, a flexibility to the changes and chances of this life, and a certain kind of buoyancy – I call it grace – that I’ve seen in so many survivors, a deep spirit force spirit that lifts you up, and lets you go on to whatever comes next…

Sandra Evans Falconer is a writer, author, poet, playwright, dance/movement artist, and medical social worker. She is the author of two poetry chapbooks, and a full length collection, The Six o’clock Siren, (Otter Bay Books, 2009). Sandra is also a 1999 recipient of an Individual Artist Award in Poetry from The Maryland State Arts Council. Her poems have been published in numerous journals, and have also been adapted to music and for the stage for the 1995 Washington D.C. Playwrights Festival. Sandra has worked in the non-profit community as a teacher, rehabilitation specialist, medical social worker, trainer, therapeutic dance & movement artist, group leader, keynote speaker, and guest lecturer on healthcare topics for medical professionals. Currently she is finishing her first stage play, The Lucky Spot Dance, as well as a collection of essays about life in Baltimore, Maryland in the 1980’s. Sandra holds her MFA in Writing (poetry) from Spalding  University, as well as graduates degrees in dramatic arts, (West Virginia University), and in social work, (The University of Maryland). Currently she maintains a private practice as a writing coach and individual tutor for other writers, poets and public speakers. Her website is: www.Sandraevansfalconer.com.

One thought on “A Life of Poetry

  1. I enjoy reading about others who are on a similar path…..and also that they are still living their life. I had breast cancer twice and then after genetic testing, found that my cancer has spread. I don’t know where you live, but I remember my husband taking me to the hospital for my second biopsy on Valentine’s Day in a horrible snowstorm…..I told my husband that we could not turn around and cancel my surgery…..fortunately, he got us there. Unfortunately, I got bad news. I find that living with cancer is so much harder than the treatment. I am lucky and grateful for my husband, family and friends. it’s the times when they are not around that become difficult, sometimes overwhelming. Best of luck to you, Sandra. And thank you for your story.

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