2003, paperback, 21 pages, $4.00
PWJ PublishingBox 238
Tehama, CA. 96090
Patricia Wellingham-Jones, author of a twenty-poem chap book, Don’t Turn Away: Poems About Breast Cancer, has written a spirited and courageous account of her breast cancer experience. From her first discovery of a lump in her left breast through the doctor’s diagnosis and a mastectomy, Wellingham-Jones shares the joy of living each day, while at the same time undergoing treatment for this disease that has claimed her grandmother and friends. The author gives me, a woman who does not have cancer (so far), strength to move forward in my own aging process.
Wellingham-Jones’ poems sing the note of the baby robin learning to fly. All the while she confronts the loss of one small/huge piece of herself, there is a newness of spirit and tone in her chest that spurs her to ask the nurse for her notebook and pen. Wellingham-Jones is a woman who remembers not to whine (not that there is anything wrong with whining) at the moment of swallowing her daily dose of tamoxifen.
In Estrogen Free, the poet confides that sweating is better than cancer, and on the day that she dons her first good new bra, she recalls in the poem Put A Sock In It, her pre-teen self padding her mother’s brassiere. Out of the corner of her eye, watching the twinkle in her father’s, she pulls on her older sister’s best sweater and smoothes my front into place enjoying her mother’s gasp and her sister’s shriek.
The poem that might have been most heart-breaking, Don’t Turn Away, about love-making after surgery, brings my hands to my heart in a love for this poet whose life record gives others courage to write on.
Read Don’t turn Away: Poems About Breast Cancer. You will want to keep it on your shelf and order a copy for your favorite library.
-Esther Altshul Helfgott
National Association of Poetry Therapy, Museletter, Fall 2005