ST. PAUL (AP) -- Before Molly Redmond agreed to allow her poem "The Cancer Patient Talks Back" to be included in a new collection of cancer poetry, she called the editor to make sure that the anthology would feature more than "happy" poems.
During her battle with breast cancer, Redmond quickly became annoyed with cancer literature that was exceedingly positive. Redmond, of Roseville, says she wanted to read materials that reflected the entire range of emotions associated with battling cancer.
Finding poems and essays expressing anger was especially hard, says Redmond, 57, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in spring 1993.
"When you're really down and without energy, it helps to have the whole range of emotions," she says. "I was (upset) at how much of the cancer literature concentrated on a return to 'normalcy' as opposed to acknowledging that normal is in a whole new place."
Redmond's poem, included in "The Cancer Poetry Project: Poems by Cancer Patients and Those Who Love Them," describes how intrusive and insensitive people can be when dealing with a cancer victim.
"I don't want to hear about your uncle/ and how he lived three years/ after being diagnosed," she writes. "And I don't want to hear/ how many times your cousin threw up/ when she had chemo./ Nor how your neighbor's baby/ had twelve toes/ maybe from radiation."
She wrote the poem -- her first published piece -- while undergoing cancer treatment.
"The point was this happens to so many people, so suddenly everyone feels like they have to tell you these horrible cancer stories," she said. "Half the time they don't have what you would call a happy ending and when you're going through rugged treatment, it's not what you want to hear. Sometimes you get a little crabby instead of sweet -- like you've become a magnet for these kind of stories."
Redmond is one of about 140 writers from around the country whose poems are included in the new anthology, said editor Karin B. Miller, a St. Louis Park writer and poet. The book features writings by cancer patients and survivors, their family members and friends, and oncologists and nurses. Ten of the poems have the theme of anger.
Miller's husband, Thom, was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 1997. A tumor the size of a football in his abdomen had taken over one kidney and threatened his heart. At the same time, Karin was pregnant with the couple's first child. Daughter Gabrielle Hope was born just three weeks after Thom's final surgery.
During Thom's five-month battle with cancer, Karin wrote poetry and later came up with the idea for "The Cancer Poetry Project."
"I thought that surely there must be hundreds, even thousands, of other people who can speak of their cancer experiences best in poetry," she says.
Miller received 1,200 submissions and selected 140 for inclusion in the book, published by Fairview Press.
Ruth "Molly" James wrote her poem "Reminiscence" last spring when she finished radiation after breast cancer treatment. James, who lives in Grant, says she wishes there had been a book like "The Cancer Poetry Project" available to her while she was battling cancer.
She plans to share the book with cancer patients as she volunteers with Reach for Recovery, a network of cancer survivors that calls on people who have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer.
St. Paul writer Susan Steger Welsh wrote her poem "Dinner Party" for a close friend and neighbor who died exactly one year after her cancer diagnosis, on May 13, 2000.
When Steger Welsh and her husband moved to the Mac-Groveland neighborhood, it was Bill and Anne Kirchgessner who welcomed them to the neighborhood. The couples shared dinner parties and New Year's Eve celebrations for 20 years.
Unlike James and Redmond, Steger Welsh, 46, is a published poet whose book "Rafting on the Water Table" has been nominated for the Minnesota Book Award in Poetry.
In "Dinner Party," she writes about a gourmet dinner that the couples shared a few months before Anne died of abdominal cancer.
"We settle on Friday, her best day,/ right after treatment but before it kicks in," she writes. "I cook without restraint, no regard/ for cost or calories."
She concludes the poem pensively: "Nineteen years of dinner parties all tumble/ to this meal, this table, the four of us./ I have the urge to take their picture/ but don't."
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