Poetry Friday

The Summer Day
by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean—
the one who 
has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down—
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Must Read: What science can do**What launched a thousand ships?

Couple of important action items

BREAST CANCER ACTION, the organization that brought us Think Before You Pink, What The Cluck?, and Stop Milking Cancer is trying to raise $5,000 by June 30. And they are offering one heck of an incentive package. With your $75 (or more) donation, you will receive:

–  DVD of Pink Ribbons Inc – Critics are raving about this game-changing, hard-hitting documentary that examines the commercialization of the pink ribbon. If you’ve seen it, you know what a powerful tool it is for understanding and unpacking the breast cancer industry. With your gift of $75 or more, you’ll receive a voucher for a Pink Ribbons, Inc. DVD, available immediately upon its release this September. Be the first to own a copy that you can share it with your community.

–  Autographed copy of Pink Ribbons, Inc.: Breast Cancer and the Politics of Philanthropy by Samantha King
–  Think Before You Pink® Toolkit – BCAction’s handbook for making change

It took me about two seconds to make up my mind on this one. HERE is the donation page.

Also Read: Poetry FridayWhat science can do**

Army of Women and the National Breast Cancer Coalition are teaming up for a petition drive.

The Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation and its Love/Avon Army of Women program is proud to partner with the National Breast Cancer Coalition to ask the president to make breast cancer a national priority. It is an election year and the candidates are discussing many important issues. Regardless of who wins the election in November, we want him to make breast cancer a priority for the next administration. That is why we are partnering with the National Breast Cancer Coalition to secure signatures on a petition to the president that will be delivered on Inauguration Day, January 21, 2013.

There are also lots of open studies mentioned in that link. No doubt most of you know this, but in case you don’t, Dr. Susan Love was recently diagnosed with leukemia. She has temporarily stepped back from her duties but plans to return soon. Despite recent controversy regarding the partnership with Ford and other choices, few people would argue that we’ve had a better advocate than Dr. Love. Please join me in wishing her well for her treatment. In fact, here is a part of her letter of gratitude for the support she has received.

The outpouring of support my family and I have received since letting people know about my leukemia diagnosis has left me speechless.

It is one thing to be diagnosed with cancer. It is quite another to know that thousands of women and men have me in their thoughts as I embark on my personal journey to cancer survivorship.

Having completed a few marathons, I can say I know a bit about endurance, and fighting through pain. I expected to draw open that experience during my treatment. Now, I will also draw upon the words so many of you shared: words of hope, words of inspiration, and words of encouragement.

Gives me chills to think that this tireless advocate is in that same dark place so many of us have visited.

Kick its ass, Dr. Love. We desperately need you.

What launched a thousand ships?

I am rereading The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee and am just as fascinated as I was the last time I read it.  Today I am going to share a long passage from it, one Sidd tells when countering the notion that there is something modern about cancer.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  There are passages dating back to 2500 BC that describe what sounds like breast cancer.  And consider this fascinating story.

In his sprawling Histories, written around 440BC, the Greek historian Herodotus records the story of Atossa, the queen of Persia, who was suddenly struck by an unusual illness.  Atossa was the daughter of Cyrus, and the wife of Darius, successive Achaemenid emperors of legendary brutality who ruled over a vast stretch of land from Lydia on the Mediterranean Sea to Babylonia on the Persian Gulf.  In the middle of her reign, Atossa noticed a bleeding lump in her breast that may have arisen from a particularly malevolent form of breast cancer labeled inflammatory (in inflammatory breast cancer, malignant cells invade the lymph glands of the breast, causing a red, swollen mass).
If Atossa had desired it, an entire retinue of physicians from Babylonia to Greece would have flocked to her bedside to treat her.  Instead, she descended into a fierce and impenetrable loneliness.  She wrapped herself in sheets, in a self-imposed quarantine.  Darius’ doctors may have tried to treat her, but to no avail.  Ultimately, a Greek slave named Democedes persuaded her to allow him to excise the tumor.

Soon after that operation, Atossa mysterious vanishes from Herodotus’ text.  For him, she is merely a minor plot twist.  We don’t know whether the tumor recurred, or how or when she died, but the procedure was at least a temporary success.  Atossa lived, and she had Democedes to thanks for it.  And that reprieve from pain and illness whipped her into a frenzy of gratitude and territorial ambition.

Must Read: Couple of important action itemsPoetry Friday

Darius had been planning a campaign against Scythia, on the eastern border of his empire.  Goaded by Democedes, who wanted to return to his native Greece, Atossa pleaded with her husband to turn his campaign westward – to invade Greece.  That turn of the Persian empire from east to west, and the series of Greco-Persian wars that followed, would mark one of the definitive moments in the early history of the West.  It was Atossa’s tumor, then, that quietly launched a thousand ships.  Cancer, even as a clandestine illness, left its fingerprints on the ancient world.

White flag

I started this year with goals and plans, rock solid in my idea that I finally after 45 years figured out my purpose was in life. Now six months later, I’ve made no progress toward my goals and question all that uncharacteristic certainty.

I am tired of breast cancer. Tired of writing the same old thing about commodification and sexualization of a deadly disease. Tired of the battle, of the exhausting blowback. Tired of the lack of progress. Tired of the fractured advocacy community, the infighting, the branding, the lack of transparency, and the self-serving exploitation. I’m disillusioned by the Animal Farm nature of it all; no matter where I shine my light, some animals are always more equal than others.

And tired, oh so tired, of good people dying. Tired of my utter powerlessness to do anything about it. Most days, I believe that I am a part of a larger, albeit imperfect, movement that changes the world, but sometimes I am overwhelmed by the fundamental uselessness of it all. About a year ago, when Ashley died, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I can lure the giants into battle. I can get shots in. I can build a readership and empower others to do the same, but at the end of the day, so what?

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I can’t save my friends.

I’ve inadvertently built a brand here, the angry chick causing train wrecks. Yes, I am that and I created that perception. I’m also a lot more. I’m a mother, a wife, a sister, a daughter, an employee, a citizen, a writer, a thinker, a friend. I cook dinners, plant flowers and tomatoes, and taxi the kids. I recycle, I compost, I mess up a lot. I am a member of a community that doesn’t make breast cancer the only measure of its attention, and I am grateful. I ponder and contemplate – culture, religion, politics, parenting, right action. I am an optimist who believes in the basic goodness of the universe.

When I look at my blog’s stats, I get exponentially more hits when I agitate. When I post my poetry: nothing. I don’t need constant praise, but it’s frustrating to think my outrage is so highly valued while the rest is tree falling in the forest stuff. I don’t want to choose my topics based on what will play the best because that turns me into nothing more than a trained monkey begging for treats.

I was not cut out for the circus.

Like so much of the world, I’m suffocating in the toxic air of my own invention. A virtual and well-intentioned Frankenstein. I avoid this space entirely and am considering a total shut down. But I think I can still work toward making peace and meaning here; I have an inkling that I’m missing something.

I don’t know what I’m going to do and this post is not an attention-seekin