Category Archives: cancer

50–“Risk” from “As Easy as Breathing”

Updated from a post on Jan. 20, 2017

Trees and Shadow by Margaret Dubay Mikus, Copyright 2010

Risk

It’s a risk
to wake up every morning

and see
if you fall short

or stand tall,
grow an inch or a foot,

see what seeds may land
and take root,

your heart cracked open
like a walnut.

It’s a risk
to get up every morning,

leave the land of dreams
and begin again,

leave the land of dreams and dreaming,
stride on solid ground,

learn and teach,
grow and glow…

then throw out all you know
and begin again.

It’s a risk.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 1998

From my book, As Easy as Breathing: Reclaiming Power for Healing and Transformation. It was written in response to a guy I knew who said he needed risky sports to feel alive. Watch my reading here: https://youtu.be/6OstW8lniek

In the years after my first breast cancer treatment (1996-7, surgery, chemo, and radiation), I continued to write with a healing intention, sharing my poems with those who might be helped by them. Eventually I considered assembling a book. My first concept was a small collection to help cancer patients and their families and friends. After 9/11/2001, I realized that people like me, who had dealt with life threatening illness, learned a lot about living in times of great fear. And so the book got bigger, with selected poems from a 6-year period. Over the years, these poems have supported many people in coping with all kinds of traumatic life circumstances—including cancer—and to even thrive.

“Risk” is track 34 on my CD, Full Blooming: Selections from a Poetic Journal… with some other poems from As Easy As Breathing and also Letting Go and New Beginnings (and 3 songs).

For more video poems

Let the Truth Be Known

IL Route 22, Sept. 2017, copyright MDMikus

I’m normally a pretty high energy person, an optimist. For a while I’ve not posted new poems (maybe one), nor written much. My energy’s been very low and I was mostly on hold. Every day I would try to do something. Maybe bike 10 minutes or get a load of wash done. Maybe just take my medications on time, eat healthy meals. Hang out with my husband. Breathe, drink enough water. This was not depression, which I recognize.

Because I am who I am, I tried to figure this out, made a list of fatigue factors. Tried to find what I could do about any of them. Slowly I am edging back to what feels like normal for me. Today was a good day.

I’m not saying any of this to get suggestions, and I appreciate your concern, truly. There are some things in life I can’t do anything about and I hate that (as Anne Lamott says). My youngest sister, Dorothy, is dealing with stage 4 aggressive breast cancer and has for almost 5 years. She is ten years younger than me. I was kind of a second mother and we are still close. Over the years I’ve done a lot of writing to help both of us. And I can support her in some ways, but I cannot fix this and the stress of it affects all of us.

I believe in healing. I have experienced profound body, mind, spirit healing for myself…more than once. And I also know there is much mystery in what happens, to whom, and why.

Dorothy has helped a lot of people in these 5 years. As she goes through the medical world, she spreads around what she learned from me about guided imagery, homeopathy, energy work (like acupuncture and reiki) etc. Her current oncologist encourages her to get massage and reiki etc. because it helps her feel better and thus do better. She’s shared my poems with her support group and taught me a lot. (She really likes “cupping” for pain–do you remember the Olympic athletes who used it?) She hugs everyone (a family trait).

One way I’ve learned to deal with anxiety of all types is to be grounded and in the present moment. “Right here. Right now” I say, even aloud sometimes.

Writing is coming back which feels wonderful, like I am coming back into myself. Here is a recent poem prompted by a video of an interview of Patti Smith. The poem reminded me there is always a context to what goes on all around me–the big picture, the cycles, the mystery of it all.

9/21/17

Let the Truth Be Known

After an Interview with Patti Smith
Posted on Facebook by Jan Krist

If I could tell you
truthfully
knowing what I know
the facts, the narrative arcs…

if I could say to you
eye to eye
unblinking
no fingers crossed—
however unlikely it seems
now
looking around
reading as much as I can bear
and stay sane
and still sleep at night

I would say:
It all works out
Not as some Pollyanna
apple-cheeked naivete but
I trust—on some level—
all is well and all shall be well

I do not know the details
I barely, barely know my place in it
on a single day
but I know that in this
pervasive dark
under the most abhorrent rocks
as truth is revealed
as what was wounded
in need of healing
comes to light
at first shocking but
as with many things
light and air and revelation
heals
and hope keeps breaking through
as others find answers
to the insoluble problems

I do not have to know it all
I do have to hold a space
for transformation to take place
encouraging, welcoming, embracing, accepting
the whole becoming
what it could be—

you and me…
we…

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2017

Two Poems of Comfort

Egret in St. Pete’s by Margaret Dubay Mikus, Copyright 2008

I posted the following comment on Facebook in response to Tiffany’s request for stories upon Bill Farber’s birthday, 3/24/17, (He passed away a year ago):

“Twenty years ago Bill Farber was my Reiki teacher. He said something surprising that I still remember: that getting a Ph.D. in microbiology was the perfect training for becoming a poet.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer 6 months later, he offered to do Reiki sessions for me before each chemotherapy, for no charge. I thought of it as making sure my energy batteries were fully charged and it made a big difference to how I handled chemo and how quickly I healed. Although we lost track of each other over the years, I continued to think of him as my teacher and was shocked and unexpectedly bereft when he died last year.

Tiffany, I don’t know if you remember meeting me when I was at the house one time, and you read me a poem you had written. It was very powerful and moving (and felt quite real, though I found out it was fiction). It inspired my poem, “To Tiffany (This came out of your poem),” which is very different from my usual style of writing. I included it in my book, As Easy as Breathing: Reclaiming Power for Healing and Transformation. As often happens, the death of your Dad also prompted me to write a poem, “The Passing of Bill Farber.”

I think I emailed both of them to your Mom. If you’d like to have them, let me know. Hang in there on this day of remembrance. <3<3”

So here they are, two very different poems of comfort, written 20 years apart.

The first is from my book, As Easy as Breathing: Reclaiming Power for Healing and Transformation. I wrote this at the beginning of chemotherapy, a time I very much needed comfort. (And yes, I had an actual stuffed bunny like this one.)

To Tiffany:

(This came out of your poem)

I snuggle deep
in my pink nest
with the bunny
I love the best.

He is comfort
and fuzzy forgiving,
always reflecting
loving and living.

His ears have
the softest fur,
white and warm
and so secure.

I hug him close
before I sleep
then put him up
on my pillow to keep

watch over me
as I sink to the deep
dark depths or float
or fly or weep.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 1996

And the second is from my poetic journal, my personal response to yet another loss:

3/7/16

The Passing of Bill Farber

Death lesson
like a toddler
learning object
permanence:

When the object
becomes unseen
does not mean it is gone
it can come back
or come back in another form.

And death is like that
they say: not gone altogether
but gone away and yet
he or she is still somewhere
still existing…somewhere

perhaps to return
or reunite with
perhaps slipped out the door
to other dimensions
parallel or infinite

waiting with the others
speaking if spoken to
aware yet somehow distant
listening to the big picture
expanded from who they were here.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2016

58–“This Is the Moment I Have” from “As Easy As Breathing”

Granada, Spain at Night by M D Mikus, Copyright 2005

“This Is the Moment I Have

not tomorrow
with its joy or sorrow….”

From the poem, “This Is the Moment I Have,” in my book, As Easy As Breathing: Reclaiming Power for Healing and Transformation. Listen here: https://youtu.be/DAdusMHbQ2Y

I wrote this in 1997 shortly after cancer treatment (surgery, chemo, radiation), thus the reference to “face topped by hair.” And following the healing from multiple sclerosis refers to “standing on two strong legs.” Though it was prompted by specific circumstances, I think of this poem often in my life now: “How often am I actually here…in this only moment I have?”

For more poem videos in the series

Track 25 on Full Blooming CD

16–“Pam” from “Frazzle”

I am grateful for the many gracious and generous people who came to my aid in my ongoing healing process. Some were in the medical realm. Some were family and friends, and some passed briefly through my life, perhaps delivering a few lines that gave hope or lifted me out of darkness.

It took me 9 months to assemble the poems from Thrown Again into the Frazzle Machine—what to leave in, what to take out, the editing, re-writing, and designing. Then, I thought of it as a “lifeboat through hard times,” poems to perhaps give voice to loss and offer comfort. Now, I mostly see all the help that came to me on the journey: the walks, music, inner guidance, books, nature, people…

My poems act as memory. This poem tells the story of a woman who helped me years ago. And refers to the previous poem about the gifts of remodeling—clearing away what is no longer serving. I am a saver. I have a hard time letting go things that once were dear to me. One way I’ve found is to take photographs, as many as I need. And then let them go. (It can also help to find a good home for certain things, as in this case.)

Listen to “Pam,” Poem 16 from Thrown Again into the Frazzle Machine: Poems of Grace, Hope, and Healing: https://youtu.be/DfovFAC842U

Does this poem bring anyone to mind from your own life? Perhaps you were the “Pam” for someone else?

Listen to more video poems from “Frazzle”

THROWN AGAIN into the FRAZZLE MACHINE: Poems of Grace, Hope, and Healing