Category Archives: cancer

Inspired by Tom Prasada-Rao

Heading Back Home by Margaret Dubay Mikus, Copyright 2015

For me, the past year has been a “Twilight Zone” of one medical crisis after another—a new “surprise” before I’d even healed from the last one. From heart problems, possibly related to cancer treatment 23 years ago (with talk of a pacemaker) to 6 excision biopsies and 4 subsequent surgeries for melanoma, with an extreme allergy to the hypoallergenic tape, which caused blistering of my skin. Extended vertigo. I was hit by a motorcycle (no serious injury). A kidney stone (not my first, not the usual composition) led to a sudden jump in blood pressure. The procedure blasting the stone, went awry due to an equipment malfunction, which led to a whole array of ongoing problems including, bizarrely, a strained knee, which months later, is still debilitating. Interspersed with a sprinkling of other “issues” just for spice.

Not to whine or complain, but really? As it turns out, I’m doing ok. One moment at a time, remembering to breathe. Remembering I have healing tools and support. Remembering to ask for help.

Over and over again help has come to dig me out of the depths. My loving husband stepped up big time. Very few days have we both lost our “cool” in all this mess. Family and friends and my support team kept me going. Doctors who listen. Nature to rebalance. Books to escape with. Music to uplift. And the moving stories of others going through their own big-time challenges.

Tom Prasada-Rao is a gifted musician with a healing story. He is a lovely singer/songwriter who went through major cancer surgery this past winter. He wrote about it on Facebook, showing a photo of his long scar. Normally I don’t really care for post-surgery photos, but his story and attitude about his “bad ass scar” “increasing his street cred” was potent healing medicine for me as I headed into more of my own surgeries.

These are the 3 poems inspired by Tom and his music and courageous, loving, healing presence. My heartfelt thanks, Tom Prasada-Rao!

2/4/19

“Badass Scar”

Thank you Tom Prasada-Rao
for changing my anxious mind
in one heartfelt line
about your long surgery
and re-emergence into the light

As I face another visible scar
another 2 surgeries, not nearly
as complex or dangerous as yours
my troubles lightened and lifted
a smile appeared, no lie

Each scar—of the many—
a badge of survival
And the pain that comes still
even after months of healing
is nothing to what could have been

if cancer had won.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2019

2/13/19

Wounded Healer

of T P-R

Sometimes
stay very still
in one place
quietly breathing
and listen.
It is hard and
it is your job
to receive.
Not at some point
to restore or resume
or even to refresh
but to find
the new threads to weave
and then follow them out
of persistent darkness.
Tell your honest story
invite in those needing comfort
not to rebuild what was, but
to create who you are becoming.
To trust more
to be patient more than ever before.
To befriend darkness
to release and reveal.
To fully inhabit
this body with scars
measured in miles
in tears, in fears.
To go away, to dive deep
and come back
deeper still
loving.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2019

2/23/19

Doing Healing Work

from Tom and Eric and Karla
who have never met as far as I know

The hardest
when traveling
through and past
abject darkness
it to not become
dark
soaked in it
through and through
no matter how
it may damage you
and then spraying dark all around you
unaware, even unwilling.
No
I tell you true
do not choose to
go behind that door
in this life game show
we are creating.
Even if a dark dip
choose love
choose light.
Begin with you
let dark slide off you
“like water off a duck’s back”
as my mother used to say
to her sensitive daughter.
Or let dark overtake
temporarily, feel fully
and remember to release.
Or find your own metaphor
your own goal to aim for.
No matter what has happened
is happening
let go of fear
let go of mindlessness
remember you are a wondrous healer
think of all the scrapes and bruises
you no longer have, inside and out.
You are headed somewhere.
And if this is it
this black bottomless pit
where no light escapes or enters
remember
this is not who you are
only where you are.
Find a bird singing somewhere
or a leaf falling in the flowing river.
Find a cloud of any shape or color
or a clear cloudless depth of azure sky.
Find a song that uplifts
already written or write your own
maybe from your re-formation.
Look anywhere, there is a thread
or beginning of an idea of a thread
that can be woven into
a rope to shape into a ladder
to climb back out on.
Not avoiding the rich loam of life
the shell or armor of protection
as if nothing harsh or fatal
will get out or in
but consider
allowing the possibility of
transformation and transcendence.
Without change there is no growth
without growth there is no life.
Why else did you come?

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2019

One more bit of inspiration by Tom:
Although I’ve often read my poems to groups of people, it took years for me to record my first poem-video—just after my birthday in 2014. I was painfully shy about it. My willingness to make that first recording was inspired in part by Tom Prasada-Rao and his deeply heartfelt songs that he posted on Facebook. (I now have almost 70 poem-videos on my YouTube channel.)
Here is the blog post with my reading of that first poem, “I Know That.”

Or is you prefer, you can go directly to YouTube:
“I Know That”—on YouTube

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