For an Inspirational Breast Cancer Survivor: Maxim, a Poem
What is a maxim?
A maxim is an expression of a principle or truth. What is the maxim in this poem?
I do not like my hands.
They’re worn and coarse,
as if I had been using them, forty years,
for hard labor.
because I have not yet counted
so many years.
Why do I care?
Why should I care?
Everyone in my town knows the pleasant woman,
who rides around, unashamed,
with no hair on her exposed, naked head.
She is a true heroine.
Life eating madness—C-A-N-C-E-R—claimed the life of
her first husband,
stole the childhood breath from
her only son,
and robs her from her
yet she rides through town,
without any hair,
Life goes on.
I hear the phrase exhaling
from my mouth.
Do I live by that?
What is it in these frail temples of our
souls that inhibits us from
Why is it so painful, so draining
Hey, I’m okay.
Yet we see them every day—those superhuman beings
taking small strides,
never allowing us to see any
signs of lost hope…
because there isn’t any.
Without any hair.
My hands—coarse, hardened, scarred,
My soul—coarse, hardened, tried, tempest tossed,
Life goes on.
Light still permeates the darkness;
the moon only reflects that light on one visible side.
Smiling—without any hair.
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A Poem about an Inspirational Breast Cancer Survivor
This poem started out as a free writing activity one summer afternoon a few years ago. I had been angry about circumstances in my life—being told I was too young for something—hence the questions, “Why do I care? Why should I care?” I started writing about my hands, just as a reflection to take my mind away from everything else.
It was then that I saw the subject of my poem: my grandmother’s cousin, who lived in the same little town as I. She was driving around to see other family members and her mother, who lived right down the street. At the time, she had been going through rounds of chemotherapy for breast cancer and had lost all of her hair. She never wore a hat, wig or scarf though, except to church. She did not care one bit about how others might have viewed her and took the experience as another challenge in life. ‘The pleasant woman’, a play on the meaning of her name, kept on with life, not letting anything stop her.
And she smiled. She had always smiled, and in fact if you met her now, you would notice how much she smiles, but this time it struck me, how beautiful it really was. How could she, when going through so much strife in her life, still smile? Yet there she was, battling cancer, without any hair, moving on with her life.
It made me realize how lucky I was, that I was simply just alive. It made me realize that human nature makes us feel sorry for ourselves at the drop of a hat. We never consider how others who have it so much worse than us still keep their heads held high and continue on with the blessing of life.
Things will always be the same, nothing stops for us when we are faced with a crisis in life. Everything keeps on going with time: the sun shines in the day and the moon reflects the light at night. The saying, the maxim, holds true for all: ‘Life goes on .’
And it has. ‘The pleasant woman’, cancer free now for a few years, still pushes forward with life. She has her beautiful family, is the hardest worker I will ever know, and is now blessed to have two adorable grandchildren she will be able to watch grow and learn. She is an inspiration to me.
And she’s still smiling.
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