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Poetry by Cancer Caregivers

Nelson, Nancy

doi: 10.1097/01.COT.0000450378.24057.23

Submissions are welcome from oncologists, oncology nurses, and other cancer caregivers. E-mail only, please, to:, and include affiliation/title, address, and phone number, along with a photo, if available.

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Blown by winds of disease lashed to the mast of the ship, our strong hearts anchor us during Jay's healing journey.

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Void of clear direction and unknown duration, our sturdy craft navigates through rough passages.

Over treacherous waters and obscure destinations, we're kept upright by hope; held strong by loving support.

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This unexpected journey has given Jay and me the chance to explore and embrace new perspectives of life. We enter each new morning facing a sacred canvas where we create and form warm, meaningful memories.

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Every second is precious. Each moment an opportunity to value our time together as an incredible blessing.

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As a spouse, caretaker, and his very best friend, I find it quite difficult to be powerless.

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I read everything I find about his lung cancer. What should he be eating? What supplements are needed?

I cook appropriate meals and tend to his every need. I go with him for treatments and stay home when he's tired. I try to be effective- assist as much as I can. But often I feel helpless as I can't stop the disease.

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It's easy to push grief back, not speak of the suffering, bravely hold feelings inside that may fester and bloom into uncontrollable fear.

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I must squarely face my fear, speak its name, even whisper, be angry at the disease, understand its challenges, be mystified by its strength.

With rough waters to traverse I must share the pain of it with good friends and family, combat its power with words, fight it with food and medicine.

Recognizing my limits, I accept my spousal role as supporter and helper. I'm patient and maintain hope, and find comfort in prayer

NANCY NELSON is a retired professor and took care of her husband during the four and a half years he had lung cancer until he died in April 2013. “Being a caretaker for one's spouse is quite a challenge,” she writes. “It encompasses mental, physical, and spiritual issues. It also requires each individual to be conscious of the reality of everyday events and communicate thoughts and feelings surrounding the daily journey. Although there were many sad moments, we also experienced some wonderful and tender times. What we most valued became very clear to us.

“These poems represent my attempts to explore the feelings about my husband's battle with lung cancer. Expressing my thoughts came more easily for me through the simple words of poetry. The subjects of these entries are primarily about awareness, fears, support, and hope, and I added photos to each of the poems, since I also find great pleasure in photography.”

© 2014 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.
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