Trip (Katie) Griffith is a participant of Writing the Journey, an online writing workshop for women affected by breast cancer led by experienced facilitator, author, poetry therapist and breast cancer survivor, Alysa Cummings. The poem below was written for the workshop. Read the other poems we published by Trip,“Normal Has No Place” and “How to Interact With a Bald Person”.
When I arrived in this strange place called CancerLand,
I tried to make sense of things:
Legions of women marched, brave soldiers ready for battle,
“Survivor” printed across their reconstructed breasts.
Billboards shouted “Fight Cancer” with pink boxing gloves.
Obituaries announced, “She lost her battle with cancer”.
Visualization was supposed to help me somehow win this war.
I tried to get with the program-
White knights slaying dragons,
Soldiers vanquishing the enemy,
Sledgehammers crushing rocks.
None of the images rang true.
How could I fight something that was part of me?
Was the solution to visualize killing me too?
After surgery my pathology boiled down to this:
Slow growing cells trying to break out, not yet successful.
Surgeons removed all they could find.
Chemo and radiation would kill anything remaining.
My prognosis was good.
My visualization still sucked.
Then Gladys appeared in my mind’s eye –
An older lady, lost and confused, almost helpless,
Shuffling along, leaning on her walker,
A loaded bazooka, tied to the rails,
Could she even lift it, take aim and fire?
Should I shoot first, a preemptive strike?
I approach slowly;
Gladys smiles, eyes twinkling,
“I just want to rest. I want to go home. Do you have any chocolate?”
I guide her to a beautiful room, attend to her every need.
She spends her days watching The Price Is Right,
Yelling her bids, shaking her fists,
A beautiful glass jar full of chocolate close at hand.
The bazooka is forgotten, hidden behind the door.
I told my oncologist about my cancer named Gladys,
Tottering along, potentially lethal, unlikely to act.
He laughed out loud at the images in my head,
He was still grinning when he left me in my hospital bed.
Trip (Katie) Griffith is a stay-at-home mom to three teenagers and enjoys writing, painting, gardening, kayaking and just being outside. She was diagnosed with stage IIB ER/PR-positive, HER2-negative breast cancer in 2013. After surgery, chemo and radiation, she is currently dancing with N.E.D. (no evidence of disease). Her online connections to other people with breast cancer, including those through the LBBC writing course, Writing the Journey, have been an essential part of her support system since the day she heard the words “you have breast cancer.”