May 31, 2012

"KARMA": A Poem about Cancer by Loene Trubkin

I asked my pal Hugh Yarrington to write the following introduction to Loene's poem. Waging his own battle against cancer, Hugh wrote this intro from his hospital room after a week of chemo treatment. Hugh and Loene have exchanged many messages of support and encouragement. I cry when I read both Hugh's intro and Loene's poem. I love and admire them both. From Hugh:
If you know Loene Trubkin and suffer a bit yourself, you will cry when you read her poem - for her, for yourself, for every one who has felt -- but been unable to express so precisely -- these awful feelings.  
Loene has comforted and inspired many with her courage and -- heretofore -- calm, quiet dignity. For all those who respect her, depend on her, and love her -- as I do -- this poem is a happy shock. Her deepest feelings are here so openly exposed and so like our own.

For those who don't know Loene, it is important to say that her poem is a good cry, a rant, an emphatic piece of pure rage in the face of the utter unfairness of all that comes with decades of incurable disease. Still, today, and every day, I know that she will wake up and look for as much happiness as she can find in it. In the hardest of times, she will always say, "Just hang on. Better days are coming." And, happily, better days are here for her now - in a nice remission with six months before her next PET scan.
Here's the poem Hugh so beautifully described. Loene gave me permission to share it.


Sarcoma, blastoma, carcinoma
Tumors erupt, multiply, metastasize,
Replicating through trunk and branch.
Infiltrating from head to toe:
Brainstem, bloodstream, lymph node,
Bone and kidney, breast and bladder.
Fucking cancer.

Cells proliferate, uncontrolled,
Binding together, running riot.
Invisible, until a billion cells unite.
Then unstoppable, deadly,
Co-opting blood supplies,
Ransacking nutrients,
Penetrating body parts,
A perfect storm.

Toxic remedies feel worse than the malady.
A sinking feeling when doctors counsel
Chemo, radiation, radio-frequency ablation,
Brachytherapy, brain surgery,
Hysterectomy, lymphadenectomy.
Each a shocking exposure
To poison, photon or scalpel.

Side effects propagate:
Nausea ratchets up to retching;
Fatigue, not cured by sleep;
Mouth sores, weakness,
Neuropathy, weight loss,
Intestinal distress.
Hemoglobin plummets,
Platelets disappear.

Always something unexpected,
Arbitrary and capricious, like
Transfusions unplanned or
Disappointing scans.
Even a positive perspective
Strains to balance the stress.

So much suffering.
Pain and fear and dying.
Doubt and indecision tailgate
Fortitude and valor.
Rage concedes regret.

No simple solutions.
Cancer not one disease but 200.
Maybe even 15 million,
Because each genome is unique
Specific as a finger print.

Oncologists seek new toxins that
Decimate disease while rescuing patients,
Novel recipes that work, always work,
Not just another experiment
On patients already sick to death.

If not a vaccine that prevents cancer,
Then the next Gleevec, Herceptin, Rituxan,
A concoction that might be tweaked
To each individual finger print.
A contemporary targeted therapy
That gives more than hope, it cures,
Or at least makes truth of the label,
"Chronic disease."

Until then . . . cancer still sucks.
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