The world of poetry is a means of expression and source of comfort for many who care for cancer patients. We appreciate the many poems contributed for this column and the enthusiastic feedback we have received in general commenting on the excellent poems written by oncologists, oncology nurses, oncology pharmacists, and other cancer caregivers. We continue to welcome submissions—Please e-mail them to OT@LWW.com
Oh, What a Patient
By Carmencita C. Santiago, RN, OCN
I don't know you as well as I should,
Initially keeping my distance as much as I could,
Watching you endure a battery of tests so intense,
All I can do is hold your hand and think, “Oh, what a patient.”
Lab personnel and IV team eager to start,
Drawing blood like shopping in a super mart,
You hesitantly submit to all the treatments,
Your facial expression showing only mild resentment.
VP-16, CPT-11, 5FU, Adriamycin, all were fancy names,
Wigs, turbans, hats and caps become the name of the game,
You take the above with courage and patience,
All I can do is touch you and think, “Oh, what a patient.”
Meal trays come and go to and from your room,
The mere smell of food gets you running to the rest room,
Medications are needed to ease your discomfort,
Only to endure more and hence go forth.
The time has come to finally go home at noon,
Only with the stipulation of coming back real soon,
I give you instructions and precautions to take,
Seeing you well, “What a Difference It Makes.”
Prufrock and I
By Elliott Perlin, MD
And indeed there will be time to wonder, “Do I dare?”…
Time to turn back and descend the stair (?); with a bald spot in the middle of my hair—(They will say: How his hair is growing thin!)
—T. S. Eliot
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (1917)
I once had a friend and patient who used to say about
our baldness, which we shared,
“God made a few perfect heads; the rest he covered: with hair”
He's gone now. Cancer.
I'm supposed to be able to rip a cancer cell apart,
spill its insides, its very guts.
So where did I go wrong?
Have I, like you, Mr. Prufrock,
''measured my life with coffee spoons,
watched too many women come and go,
talked too much of Michelangelo,
licked too much chocolate off the spoon?''
Are we growing old, Mr. Prufrock,
Wake up, my friend,
Let's wipe the ether off our faces!
We are not a ''pair of ragged claws
scuttling across the floors
of silent seas.''
Come, ascend the stairs with me.
Let's go disturb the universe!