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This Cancer Thing!

Again, here I am, seven years later, asking myself: What was this cancer thing about?

I was a mental health counselor for 20 years, so I am wired to ask such questions. When anything disturbing happens (personal or global), there’s the question again: What is this or that really about? I’m forever plumbing my soul.

Like a war veteran, I carry scars. Some visible, some not.

I walked through cancer, surgery, treatments. Stage 3. God walked through it beside me. I was a soldier on the battlefield, and the sky was brewing another storm.

I am not naive. Cancer can return, but I do not waste my present days dwelling on past or future.

My choice is to live in the now. Blood samples, scans, and oncologist say I’m cancer-free at this time. Hey, I’m rejoicing. Call me “silly-girl” if you wish, but this is my approach:

I can worry and starve, or trust and have manna.

I choose the latter.

No problem here with physical scars. They are like wrinkles. They say I’ve lived. My granddaughter has physical scars. Our perfect Christ had scars. I am at peace with scars.

April. This is the month cancer survivors are celebrating and rejoicing.

I am grateful to be one of those cancer survivors. I know much about walking in the dark and eating only applesauce and creamed potatoes.

My cancer thing was another way of living with brokenness, humanness. And if I had not had this part of my story, I couldn’t share about it on a deep level.

For cancer victims, it can feel lonely.

My feelings were not trustworthy. I felt numb and lonely, but I was never alone.

I share this now because my experience may help someone realize these weird feelings may be the norm for abnormal times.

The poem below comes from my new book Women, Resilient Women, which is about women dealing with various struggles in this life. It’s about women coping, growing stronger, becoming resilient - in spite of the many bumps encountered in life.

This is also poetry month. Poets are celebrating the art and joy of poetry.

Yesterday, I listened to Jo McDougall, Arkansas’ new poet laureate. She said, Poetry is a way to move into another world. Those who have had cancer certainly know about an altered world. Poets and writers know about another world, too. They usually notice an arrow of geese lifting higher.

I am grateful to be a poet, to have found my niche. (It took me over 50 years to claim this.)

If you write in journals, on napkins, in margins, you too may know something about writing about beauty, brokenness, the hearts of people. And you too may have something to share.

The bottom line for me is this: God is in the details of our struggles. We have our questions, but ultimately, we are witnesses. It helps if we witness and share.

Crossing a Muddy Swamp

We heard the C-word today, didn’t we?

A muddy swamp. Want to run away? I do.

Pillar of smoke by day, fire by night, right?

Was my overnight bag brought inside?

Do hospitals really let you wear pajamas?

Still looking for an alternate path, anything.

Afterwards, will you count my stitches?

I sank into earthsoup during surgery.

Murky, every direction. Was the lump big?

Can we take a minute to squawk like blue herons?

Will we lose a whole year fighting this thing?

Watch your foothold. It’s deep here. Cold, too.

Must I take chemo and do radiation?

Will this lowdown day never end?

I wonder if you will stop loving me.

Is it my fault the cells turned positive?

Knee-deep in red chemo now, aren’t we?

Wigs, caps, scarves. Will my hair sprout again?

Feet and hands, peeling. What is this?

Are you half-fascinated, half-horrified like me?

Do you think a lost sparrow can be lucky?

Will you give my big scar a little kiss?

A new rhythm, not so muddy now.

Will we get an aerial view of the swamp?

Hey, you want some coffee?

~ by Pat Durmon

from Women, Resilient Women, available at

(a wonderful gift for Mother’s Day or any other day)


Pat Durmon

P.S. - As you find blogs you like on this website, I invite you to click Facebook and share. Much gratitude.

Photo by Jimmy Durmon (taken in April, 2018) of Baxter Regional Hospital in Mountain Home, Arkansas, where Pat Durmon received her treatments for breast cancer.

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