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What We Really Said, Really

Brady, Ann J. RN

doi: 10.1097/01.COT.0000363181.66271.d1
Poetry by Cancer Caregivers

She said,

I'm doing better,


Then watched me slip the needle in.

Jab the back of her conviction

with the sharp tip of an averted glance.

Her blue eyes on mine

might see what I knew.

She said,

the pain meds help.

Only 3 out of 10 today.

Though it was bad last night,

worst ever.

Tough to give it a number,

Better today, really.

I said,

I'm really glad.

But how can I be happy

when pain is the only thing

powerful in her?

She said,

The chemo must be working.

I feel stronger.

Better living through chemistry, she said.

I said,

Your tumor markers are up,

your physical reserve

as scant as your hair.

The pain in your spine will only get worse.

There is nothing left to do.

Really, we tried everything.

But, I didn't say it out loud.

Instead, I watched the chemo

drip into her, praying.

She prayed.

I prayed.

She hoped.

I knew better.

She said,

did you have a good weekend?

Really nice, I said,

to spend time in the garden,

pruning, shaping, weeding.

I hesitated,



the stupidest person on earth.

Pain free.

She ignored the needle taped in place,

forgot the chemo solution swaying on the pole,

neglected the emesis basin.

I think I can beat it, she said,

have to stay positive.

Don't you agree?

I nodded.

Cancer stole

her future,

she could not win.

Positive attitude is important, I said,

unwilling to alter hope

into hopeless.

It was her white flag to raise,

not mine.

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

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.
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