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.


Ruth Morris said...

Heart wrenching!

Becky Karnes Hensley said...

Wow. This poem should be read by every person who does not have cancer, but knows and loves someone who does.

Kathy Mundle said...

Right, and having read Hugh's introduction, Loene's poem, and Pat Swords commentary on John's blog, I am reminded once again how fortunate I am to have so many extraordinary people in my life.

Judy Hashem said...

 Very powerful. Thanks to Loene for permission to share.

Kathleenxxx said...

Best wishes to both Loene and Hugh, two extraordinary people whom I so admired during the years they gave to BNA.  Their exceptional intellects and spirits still shine through.

Stan Degler said...

I feel for both of you. So far so good for myself, but I understand what you are going through because of what happened to Sandy, with me watching helplessly. I hope the treatments help in your cases.--Stan Degler  

MP Swords said...

The tears were flowing even before I got through Hugh's introduction.  Loene's poem just finished me off.  I am in awe of you both.

Bennie Meyers said...

Althought I don't have cancer at this point if my life, my life also changed quite abit when I turned 70 yrs. old. I had a heart attack, then congestive heart failure. I have been on many medications since then. I suffer from arthritis and caroid artery stenoisis. Cancer does run on my mother's side of the family, so, I expect to get it somethime in the future.
Loene's poem hit home with me as my mother died of colon cancer.  Bennie Meyers


Jackie said...

Hot damn, Loene!  I wish my mother could have been privy to this as she soldiered through her own battle with the quiet grace and dignity that exemplified her life.   I sorely wish she would have just screamed fuck at least once in my presence as she soldiered through the battlefield.  And to Hugh...your eloquence is, as always, awe inspiring. God (how ever you may conceive her) bless you both for these contributions to our shared universe.  I will preserve them, and with your permission pass them on to others. 

Mat Thorp said...

I`ll just comment on the literary quality-not the personal tragedy. The poem reminded me two written about Queen Victoria`s 50th Jubilee: Rudyard Kipling`s "Recessional", and A.E. Housman`s "1887".-Mat Thorp

Anon. said...

a raw, honest, and touching poem! I was expecting a saccharine sweet rehashing
of the glass half full theme. The best account of what it's like to be in the
trenches battling a cruel disease, and one of the most realistic pieces of
writing I've read.