Category Archives: Poetry by Cancer Survivors

Read poetry by cancer patients and cancer survivors.

The Bucket – poetry by a cancer survivor

This week’s blog post is a featured poem by Linda Nielsen, a cancer survivor.

The Bucket © Copyright by Linda Nielsen

The doctor had the answer,
and the news, it wasn’t good.
With one word my world stood still,
I totally understood.

A bucket of icy cold water,
came cruelly sailing my way.
It’s the only way to describe,

my feelings that gloomy day.

Than that same cold bucket,
came crashing down upon my head.
It’s how I felt when told my options,
could surely leave me dead.

So through the grueling treatment,
I had to wonder at the irony,
drink those buckets of water,
was what they kept telling me.

Even though I did it all,
I really still wasn’t sure.
If my thoughts of surviving this,
wasn’t a little bit premature.

But here I am years later,
after thinking I’d surely be dead.
But instead of kicking the bucket,
I’ve planted flowers in it instead!

Linda Nielsen

Click here to check out more poetry by cancer survivors featured on’s blog.

The Bucket by Linda Nielsen - Poetry by a Cancer Survivor

Cancer Survivor Poem – Baseball and Sarcoma

Today’s guest post is by Lisa Bartoszek who participated in the Write to Heal webinar co-produced with Institute for Life and Care. Lisa graciously shared her inspiring writing with us.

I grew up with a love of sports which has spanned my entire 52 year old lifetime.  Baseball is my favorite sport and so I contrasted the very favorite sport in my life with the worst situation ever faced in my life. Being diagnosed with a high-grade undifferentiated Sarcoma of my leg in August of 2012, changed so many aspects of my life.  But, it did not end my life! Currently in remission, I celebrate each day and am working hard to adjust to the “new normals” in my life.

Writing words to my Sarcoma was very meaningful to me; it was my way of challenging the presence of something so uninvited and unexplained. has been a wonderful resource for me and I am especially grateful for their innovative offering of the Creative Writing Webinar.  Game on Sarcoma!!


Lisa Bartoszek

Baseball and Sarcoma

Where did you come from, a mass of mutated, lethal cells, so unlike all others in my healthy body?


Why did you stay and grow and destroy – form, function and dreams?


Little did you know the host you invaded; determined, vibrant, energetic Hungarian bull.


For now, you have struck out – cut away, burned up and sent to the dugout.


Should you reenter the game, beware – I am stronger, wiser, ready for you.


Game on if we must, Sarcoma. I am going to secure the win in this game.



– Lisa Czanko Bartoszek


If you’re a cancer patient or caregiver looking for your own place to write blog or journal, you can sign up for a free site at

Free Writing Webinar and a Cancer Poem

Cancer is invasive. It affects the people who were diagnosed, caregivers, family and friends. Cancer Foundation and the Institute for Life and Care believe writing is an important step people can take to begin dealing with the emotional effects of cancer.

Join us on August 29th for a Write to Heal webinar presented by Rev. Becky Porter, MA, MDiv, BCCC, CMT of the Institute for Life and Care.  She will walk participants through some cancer poetry readings including the one below, then invite participants to write for themselves to explore the ways in which writing can enhance self-awareness, self-care and emotional healing.

Participants can share as much or as little as they feel comfortable.  Becky creates a warm, safe atmosphere for all participants and typically leads day-long writing workshops, the webinar is a new adventure.

We are limiting participation to the first 10 to RSVP, and there are only 2 spots left! So sign up fast


Oxygen, Mary Oliver


Everything needs it: bone, muscles, and even,

while it calls the earth its home, the soul.

So the merciful, noisy machine


stands in our house working away in its

lung-like voice. I hear it as I kneel

before the fire, stirring with a


stick of iron, letting the logs

lie more loosely. You, in the upstairs room,

are in your usual position, leaning on your


right shoulder which aches

all day. You are breathing

patiently; it is a


beautiful sound. It is

your life, which is so close

to my own that I would not know


where to drop the knife of

separation. And what does this have to do

with love, except


everything? Now the fire rises

and offers a dozen singing, deep-red

roses of flame. Then it settles


to quietude, or maybe gratitude, as it feeds

as we all do, as we must, upon the invisible gift:

our purest, sweet necessity: the air.


Oliver, M. (2005). New and selected poems: Volume two. Boston: Beacon Press, 25


Shut In – Poetry by a two time cancer survivior

Shut In

It isn’t the weakness and sickness so much

Nor is it the staring at food that’s untouched

Not even the wondering if we will win

And whether I’ll finish the race that is mine.

Today it’s the knowledge of life going on

Outside the small world of my invalid bed

 I used to be part of in days before this

But now feel shut off from, unable to help

To meet and to work with, to be knitted in

So used to a value that’s based on my deeds

Get out, make a difference, do wonders for God.

Well now it’s not possible, just can’t be done.

Accept and adapt to this other existence

Is all I can do, find my worth in myself

It’s not what I do but it’s who I can be


Has your cancer experience inspired you to write about it?

Another poetry piece by Lynette

Sorry – poetry by a two time cancer survivor


This chemo effects not just physical cells

It’s not just my body that’s feeling so weak

So floppy and useless, just like a wet rag –

My mind, too, forsakes me at critical times

Or is it just lazy, not wanting to think?

Sloping off for a doze when I’m trying to read,

Refusing to give me the word that I seek

And just can’t be bothered to understand things

But by far the worst is the fog on my heart

Just wanting to hide on my own and retreat

From all socialising, it all feels too hard

Forgive me, and know I’ll be back before long



For more on chemo brain

Chemo Brain Myth from Fox News

Chemo Brain facts from the American Cancer Society

Chemo Brain May Last 5 Years or More from the NY Times 

I Wouldn’t Go Back – poetry by a two time cancer survivor

I Wouldn’t Go Back to me without Cancer


Before I had cancer I had no idea

How precious this life is

How fragile and fleeting

That all for some cells not behaving themselves

Can be snuffed out and finished

Like blowing a match


Before I had cancer I had no idea

How people can rally

And gather around you

Compassion, encouragement, meals and prayer,

Fresh food from the garden

Surrounded by care


Before I had cancer I had no idea

What strength lay within me

Deposit of power

Available now as much as I need

To  find in the battle

My peace and my joy


Before I had cancer I had no idea

How deeply involved

In each other we are

The sweet bonds of love binding us all together

A glimpse of God’s heaven

Right here on earth


Don’t take it for granted, you’re not here for ever

This beautiful world

And the wonder of life

Cancer has shown me just how great my love is

I can only be grateful

And never look back

Another piece by Lynette. Has your experience with cancer inspired you to write?  Post your comments.

Unfair – poetry by a two time ovarian cancer survivor

We’re starting a new feature on our blog with poetry written by cancer patients. Here’s the first one from Lynette.


I have cancer, he does not

Until now forever one

Common life, we plan our future

With each other all the way

Cancer comes and draws a line

Separating him and me


I have cancer, he does not

All the focus goes on me

I’m the patient, he the carer

Doctors, scans, reports and treatment

All about my precious health

No-one asking how he is


I have cancer, he does not

He’s supportive, loving, patient

But it’s thrust now in our faces

That which couples always know

But they never want to look at

Death will surely part our ways


I have cancer, he does not

Not for us the sweet forgetting,

of the imminence of death

Every joy and love in this life

Now accompanied by this –

One day it will be no more


I have cancer, he does not

Feelings now are sharp as knives

Deeper love means deeper wounding

As I cherish every moment

Every look and voice and gesture

All unutterably dear


Lynette was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in August 08, at the age of 64. She had an operation and went on chemo for 6 months. It recurred in November 2010, and she is now going through her second lot of chemo. The poetry has been written since her recurrence, and the mylifeline site has been a great chance to share it with friends and family.

If you would like to submit a poem for our blog, please email with your poem and a short bio.