Emily Marie Shaw

Contributor Biography

Emily Marie Shaw is an attorney, cancer survivor, artist and unpublished poet who lives in New York. Poetry has provided a means to express and share on a deeper level her experience with a life-altering disease.

CAUGHT 

     The expected news was not forthcoming last year, hugs

were replaced with somber embraces,
and the words, You have cancer. Oh, how a few words can

alter the course of your life. Normalcy slips away, upended

by an urgency that leaves no margin for error or delay.
 
     While leaving the doctor’s office I gazed at people

laughing, eating, sipping drinks, and staring intently at their

cellphones, and I was feeling caught between the healthy and

the dying. There was no safe middle ground here, no undoing

the diagnosis with a shrug or a laugh. I was in the world and

yet separated, close to everyone but simultaneously

stigmatized, branded with a Hester Prynne “C” that was

emblazoned on my chest and seared into my consciousness. 

     My bubble of wellness burst and splattered everything. I

was left shell-shocked, fearful, doubting and above all angry.

Following quickly behind was a dizzying barrage of

diagnostic tests, debilitating chemotherapy treatments,

invasive surgeries, Himalayan piles of medical forms, and a

coterie of oncologists, surgeons, nurses and social workers.

   Cancer treatment and its side effects: nausea, vomiting,

sapped energy, anemia, hair loss and oozing wounds that

healed at a sloth’s pace became my constant companions.

Scars abounded, crisscrossed my body, and met at crowded

intersections, creating a patchwork of medical prowess and

my body’s compromised response to a new normal. I was

caught between evaporating vanity and a more malleable

definition of beauty. 


    I was caught among the well-meaning who offered

unsolicited advice (You should try this. or I read somewhere

that if you do...), the stupidly callous (Are you sure that you

did everything you could have done, did you...), the

insatiably curious with a penchant for gossip and bad news
(What’s the prognosis? or So and so was in remission, how

sad that there was a recurrence and then it metastasized.),

the seemingly spiritual with their pious platitudes
(God never gives you more than you can bear. or 

Everything happens for a reason.), the avoiders who were

easily identified by their noticeable discomfort in my

presence, feigned offers of help and abrupt exits (Gotta run,

so busy with work and family. Call me if you ever need  

anything.).
 

    I pushed past these displays of sympathy, dismay and

avoidance. I slowly advanced, sometimes stumbling and

struggling to rebalance on my fraying tightrope between the

known and the unknown. I leaned into the silence. Out of

nowhere extended hands caught me when I faltered;

soothing, empathetic voices shared their stories of similar

woe and urged me not to lose heart. 

    
    More than a year has passed and “in remission” is now my

status. Now, I rejoice in the ordinary: walking without

quickly fatiguing, eating without incident and the sunrise of

another day. 
I don’t permit the 5-year window of possible recurrence to

diminish my present actions.
I am forever a wayfarer in a retinue of ever increasing and

sometimes decreasing survivors. 
I remain caught but not bound. Now I am more present in the

moment than I was prior to the bursting and the splattering. I

am reaching out, stepping into the darkness and then the

light, again, and again, and again. 

Scott Ennis

Contributor Biography

These poems are sonnets, written shortly after Scott Ennis suffered a near-fatal bicycle accident that also involved a severe TBI (traumatic brain injury). Because a TBI can blur the line between fantasy and reality, Scott was able to heal with the help of writing poetry. Metaphors and similes are the artistic blurring of fantasy and reality.

Normalcy

I laughed about my injury today
I tried to think what “normal” was and failed
I wondered what the “normal” folk would say
if asked what they thought “normalcy” entailed
I hate to think that “normal” is my goal
I’d rather strive for Beauty, there I find
the friends who’ve been attracted to my soul
whose love can calm and bring me peace of mind
I wonder what I used to be and why
I don’t fit in with “normal” anymore
I know that thought is important so I try
to check my laughter at the “normal” door.
I know my thoughts and injury are real
But I will save some thoughts for when I heal.


Hate and Loss

I hate what I’ve become; I hate to hate
But loss deserves no better frame of mind
I know it will come back if I but wait
I wish it was a penny I could find
Both hate and loss congeal within my brain
Emotion’s heart still beats; it isn’t luck
They gave me pills to stop emotion’s pain
And now I’d cry, but all my tears are stuck
I only have an accident to blame
I only have a life of hate and loss
I had a love, but then I lost her name
I hate the bridge to find her I must cross
I love to love and love what I will be
When I have found my thoughts and they’ve found me.