cancer, letting go



by Carmen H Gray


In the bath that night

When your hair of coppery wine

Fell out without a fight

Your cells committing suicide

A part of me died, too

They all told me, “this is hardest on the mother”

But I kept up appearances for you

I held in the fears and tears for the sake of others

Keep them all in smiles

Don’t disappoint

Hide the real hardship, the trials

Stay on point

The malignancies in both of us

Were put to rest

Releasing me from the superfluous

All that I had suppressed

In my long-running attempts to be infallible

Liberating me from my selfhood

Learning that the real “me” is valuable

Beyond a perfectly imperfect motherhood





Life Twice

“Luck is a very thin wire between survival and disaster, and not many people can keep their balance on it”-Hunter S. Thompson

Life Twice

by Carmen H Gray

One is the hand that was dealt

One is what emerges, how it is felt

One is the flush

One is the bluff

One is how to set yourself free

One is only what you choose to see

One is an excess of this

One is the lacking, all remiss

One is blithely balanced on wire

One is sinking into the quagmire

A living Hell or a Paradise

 In this Life Twice


The In Between

For My Beautiful Warrior

by Carmen H Gray

Somewhere along the road

Between sickness and health

Between nightmares and fantasies

A new me was forged

The poisons churned inside me

And those long, shadowy nights

When my hands served as my sight

Forever marked me

Like the permanent scars

That show where I was sliced

Somewhere along the way

I rose from this place

My wings unfurled

My strength anew

My heart unbroken

I came through

The In Between


cancer, hope, living, mystics, time

Zen and The Art of Survivor Maintenance


PET Scan

by Carmen H Gray

Whirring noises are the sounds of birds in flight

The cold air a misty San Francisco morning in the depths of summer

Prayers whispered to Whoever while my hand touches the soft fuzz of her delicate hair

Delicate shell, the inverse of Her being, Her soul, Her unconquerable spirit

We are not in that sterile place of radioactive inspection

We are in our own private world where time and beauty bless us

With their perfect embrace


The Sweetness in Real Time

My daughter and one of her best friends, who happens to be a boyIMG_20140829_171832 (1)

Caring transcends imaginary social boundaries that we create.

Today, after my daughter’s appointment with her oncologist (a check up, which revealed fantastic blood counts and all things wonderful still), we headed to the art store (I’m beginning to think this art store is another ancient holy site-the things that happen to me near here).  On our way, we couldn’t help but notice smoke billowing up into the sky.  Directly above us on the overpass was an SUV, the front end engulfed in flames, several firetrucks, police cars and ambulances were beginning to surround the scene. We watched in awe as a good samaritan had stopped to help out.  He pounded on the back window of the SUV with a crowbar, intent on getting into the car. Within minutes he was taking a baby carrier out of the car and handing it to EMS workers, who were racing in behind him.  Then, we watched as he and another bystander took it upon themselves to assist the fire fighters get the hose directed toward the car as quickly as possible.  I was just amazed at the kindness displayed by everyday people.  People who put the care of someone else ahead of their own needs.

Suddenly, I felt someone’s eyes on me.  I looked over and there in the car sitting directly next to us in traffic was my former neighbor, who I had not seen since running into her at the store in the summer, right after my daughter’s cancer diagnosis.  In the midst of the insanity, we rolled our windows down.  “She’s free and clear!!”  I pointed to my daughter.  My former neighbor just smiled her amazing smile at us, “I love you!!!!”, was all she had time to say before the light changed.  And really, that’s all that needs to be said most of the time to each other.


Always and Evermore

Cancer is insidious.  It wants to thrive and remain and continue to haunt you like a bad dream.  I knew this back in August when I prayed in vain that her results would not be cancer.  It is mentally challenging in the first few years for a survivor, lucky that one is, to not dwell in the possibilities.  And we are only in the first few months of remission.  My friend Amanda told me once, “the journey is not a sprint, it is a marathon”.  Keep up your strength.

I had to remind my thoughtful warrior last night that life gives us no guarantees. We can only live for today and hope for tomorrow.  She described her feelings of being shackled by the possibility of cancer’s return for the rest of her life.  “and I’m not 80 mom.  I’m only 13.”  “I am not you and I cannot pretend to understand your burden, my daughter”, I told her. “I can only carry a part of it as your mother and give you this piece of advice my father once told me: worrying about the theoretical is a waste of energy.  If the imagined nightmare becomes a reality, there is time enough to worry then.  And even at that point in time, worrying is not going to help you.”  My brightest light then said to me, “Life is stupid.  It’s senseless.  We are surrounded by corruption, poverty and disease.  I am not glad for any of the people I met because of the cancer.”  A pause.  “Except for Jackson.  He has made this whole thing worthwhile.”  Pain has purpose.  A young boy her age that she only met twice before he died so unfairly from brain cancer has purpose and will for the rest of her life.  It makes no sense now in the great, messy tapestry of life where your vision is obstructed by the details.  But in the bigger picture, it has meaning and purpose-the ugliness, the pain, the sadness.

“Into My Arms” 
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds

I don’t believe in an interventionist God
But I know, darling, that you do
But if I did I would kneel down and ask Him
Not to intervene when it came to you
Not to touch a hair on your head
To leave you as you are
And if He felt He had to direct you
Then direct you into my arms

Into my arms, O Lord
Into my arms, O Lord
Into my arms, O Lord
Into my arms

And I don’t believe in the existence of angels
But looking at you I wonder if that’s true
But if I did I would summon them together
And ask them to watch over you
To each burn a candle for you
To make bright and clear your path
And to walk, like Christ, in grace and love
And guide you into my arms

Into my arms, O Lord
Into my arms, O Lord
Into my arms, O Lord
Into my arms

And I believe in Love
And I know that you do too
And I believe in some kind of path
That we can walk down, me and you
So keep your candles burning
And make her journey bright and pure
That she will keep returning
Always and evermore

Into my arms, O Lord
Into my arms, O Lord
Into my arms, O Lord
Into my arms




Today is a beautiful, sunny, breezy day.  My sweet daughter had her port removed (hopefully forever).  Her loving father took this beautiful photo of her post surgery.  The pediatric surgeon put this heart shaped bandage over the spot where the surgery took place.  A heart just above hers.  A heart to symbolize the pain endured, the lessons learned, the strength we’ve shared and the kindness we’ve received.  The Kindness poem I wrote in an earlier post resonated with this image to me.

Kindness propels itself through
a world of fear and greed and hatred
Its impression leaving some respite in
the dis-eased, mal-contented and mis-understood
Keeping itself hidden in dark places when
you may feel its tiny, yet profound reach
course through your blood
Going straight into your heart mixed with the
fear, greed, hate, disease, malcontent, misunderstandings of the world
At which point it transforms to pure Kindness once again
to circulate through you and out into
the big, wide world so that it is involuntary, like your breathing
An involuntary hopefulness restoring
a voluntarily negative space



For a Boy I Have Yet To Meet

Cancer is insidious.  It multiplies and thrives and spreads, but so do your connections when it invites itself (however unwelcomed) into your life.  It has been difficult, this journey, and the lessons persist.  Today I have been schooled by a young person that is my daughter’s age who has shared doctors and teachers with her.  I haven’t even officially met him, but my daughter has.  All I can say to honor his beautiful life that has graced mine and is fated to be much too short is to live a great story.  Live a great story full of passion, love, kindness, hope, dreams, beauty and care for every living thing around you.  That is the least we can do.  The least and the greatest we can do for those whose lives we see unfairly taken.  Taken: captivated, overcome, selected.  So many meanings in such a small word.

“Rage, rage against the dying of the light”-Dylan Thomas