Friday, February 29, 2008

The Valley of the Shadow of Death

The Valley of the Shadow of Death
by Shauna Berglund-Immel

It is here
That I dwell.
On the outskirts
But with one toe in
Like testing the bathwater.
Close enough to smell
The staleness.
Close enough to hear
The silence.
Close enough to see
The devastation.
Close enough to feel
The stillness.
Close enough to taste
The bitterness.
Close enough to fear
The lonliness.
It is here
That I dwell.

This is a poem I wrote on Wednesday 2/28/08 at my Writing Around Portland workshop ( for women with cancer. Our writing prompt was to read 4 poems and then take a line or word from one of the poems as inspiration for our writing if we chose. I chose the phrase "The Valley of the Shadow of Death" from "The Line" by Sharon Olds.

The Line
by Sharon Olds

When we understood it might be cancer,
I lay down beside you in the night,
my palm resting in the groove of your chest,
the rachis of a leaf. There was no question of
making love: deep inside my body that
small hard lump. In the half-light
of my half-life, my hand in the beautiful
sharp cleft of your chest, the valley of the
shadow of death,
there was only the present moment, and as you
slept in the quiet, I watched you as one watches
a newborn child, aware each moment of the
miracle, the line that has been crossed
out of the darkness.

I can't tell you how many beautiful and moving pieces came out of the women that day. They all touched me deeply and spoke to me in some way or another.

Some of the other writing prompts we've done since we started were:

2/13/08 Write a valentine to yourself or "I come from..."

The Permission Slip
by Shauna Berglund-Immel

Dear Self,
you have my permission to put yourself and your health first. To love yourself enough to make yourself a priority. To nurture and care for yourself. To make and take the time to fully and completely love yourself. For only through taking care of and loving yourself can you fully take care of and love your friends and family. You have my permission to treat yourself like a god/goddess. My gift to you this Valentine's Day is just that. Permission to think of yourself. To be selfish. And in this gift you will find healing. And in healing you will find love. Love of yourself. Love of your body, mind and spirit. Love of your being. And in that you will find the gift of feeling well. Feeling good. Energized. Happy and content. In control. And that in itself is a gift. To feel any sense of control at all in this crazy life infested with cancer.

2/20/08 "On this lunar eclipse..." or "The Moon in Me"

The Moon in Me
by Shauna Berglund-Immel

The moon in me glows luminous and bright as it orbits around my heart, lighting the way for hope in the darkness that engulfs me. It casts a glow that the cells inside of me can see to find their way as they work on healing me.

For this next assignment, we chose a photo from a pile of photos and we wrote from the perspective of the character in the photo or we could use the prompts "On that day..." or "When I awoke". I chose a photo of a big black and white dog wearing a red sweater.

The Little Girl and I
by Shauna Berglund-Immel

The things I must endure just to get outside and for for a walk. At least red is my color. It goes fabulously with my black and white coat. And my big brown puppy dog eyes. My name is Scout by the way. I'm a 3 year old part Great Dane, part Springer Spaniel or something. I have 4 humans, 2 full grown and 2 little humans. Although one, an 8 year old female, acts more like a puppy than I do. We have so much fun together. We're best friends, the little girl and I. We love to play tug of war and keep away with my favorite ball. The one that doesn't squeak anymore because I chewed it up the first time I played with it. My little girl shares her twin bed with me and doesn't mind that I spread out and hog most of it. I'm the first thing she sees when she gets up every morning and the last thing she sees when she goes to bed each night. For her, I wear the red sweater.

"What you should know is..." or "This unchartered terrain..."

This Unchartered Terrain
by Shauna Berglund Immel

The unknown scares me. I'm the type of person who likes to know what to expect so I can plan, schedule and organize accordingly. Managing a family of 4, plus a live-in mom, a dog and a bird takes a lot of organizational skill and artistry to pull off. All of the plans and organization I've made for the future don't apply anymore. For "we" have cancer, and it's an unchartered terrain for all of us.

2/27/08 "When spring comes..."
For this assignment we all completed the phrase and then we combined them to form one long poem about what spring brings. It was fun to hear the different perspectives.

When Spring comes...we shall dance among the flowers.

Here's another poem we read in class (I got to read it outloud to the group!) that I wanted to share:

"Hope" is the thing with feathers-
That perches in the soul...
And sings the tune without the words-
And never stops - at all -

by Emily Dickinson

I'm really enjoying this workshop and look forward to it every week. I just wanted to share my writings here.

I'm processing what my oncologist said on Monday and the results of my latest CA125 (93. up from 34 (normal range) from Feb. 6th in Reno). I meet with my new oncologist (a woman, Dr. Lyset) on Monday. Elizabeth offered to go meet with her with us. She's been our medical interpreter and we appreciate her knowledge and empathy so much. She always thinks of good questions to ask and explains things to us in terms we can understand. I have been in a mood all week and need to process everything before writing an update here. So give me a few days. It does look like chemo is a need again with the spike in numbers. Although I seem to recall reading something in the Reno clinic literature about that happening at first, either with the polyMVA or the Salicinium. That it is known to get worse before it gets better. So I need to get ahold of the doctor in Reno before meeting with my new oncologist on Monday. I just feel so discouraged. Stupid cancer keeps chapping my high. I'm starting to feel like I'm fighting a war I know I can't win and how long can I keep fighting before I can fight no more? anyways, let me sit on it and i'll update later.

thanks to everyone for being here for me.


Paris said...

Oh, wow... you are such a talented writer. I'm in awe of your words. I'm sitting here in tears reading everything. My heart is breaking for you... again. Know that I will continue to be here for you every step of the way. I just know that everything will be okay... has to be. We will keep walking and being strong together. We will keep fighting the fight. Thank you for being such an inspiration and thank you for being my friend. Love you, p

nic said...

OMgoodness Shauna - these poems are beautiful. Yet sad, yet beautiful. They contain a few lessons I think too. Love to you.

Jean said...

shauna, your writing is absolutely amazing! You are so talented and such an inspiration to me.
I feel so bad that you have to go thru all this stuff but I know you will beat this!!
Hugs to you!

Rachel said...

I don't know what to say but just wanted you to know that we are rooting for you here in NZ. You are an inspiration as I watch a close scrapper and friend fight the same horriable fight that you are, keep your chin up you are stronger than you think!

laura said...

oh shauna - your words are so beautiful. i won't soon forget them. we all could learn so much about how to LIVE our lives. i'm holding you close to my heart today. (((((hugs))))) and love to you.

Laura Nicholas said...

Shauna - your poems are amazing... I bet you could put them together in a published book... You have a knack for words, girl... We can all learn from the life lessons.

Love and hugs to you my friend.

ali said...

Awesome poems Shauna...they are truly amazing....the emotions I feel right hard to put into words. I feel know you....sorrow...for your pain...helplessness...I can't be there in person for you....amazement...for your courange and are truly awesome Shauna! I am thrilled and honored to call you a friend! And to think, we have never even met in person! Many hugs to you, my friend!

Nightscrapper said...

Wow, you are an amazing writer. Poem after poem touched me in ways I wouldn't have even thought.

Besides sitting here in awe of your writing, I'm sitting here in sadness...for the not so good results...for you...for the uncertainty. Please know that you continue to be in my thoughts and prayers. Don't give up on the have the cancer the cancer DOESN'T have you.

Hugs, marlo

Anonymous said...

You are an amazing writer Shauna. You touch ones soul, you really do.

The test results sux but do call the Dr. in Reno and find out if that is normal. You can fight this. Just know "Shauna's army" is right behind you dear one. You are one very loved woman and we'll do anything for you.

Hugs dear friend, giant hugs! Jaci

barb said...

Shauna, you have such amazing strength... I admire you for the courage you show in fighting this awful disease. Thank you for sharing your writing here... it's all beautiful, and it speaks volumes about the kind of mother, wife, daughter and friend you are. I am thinking of and praying for you, for you have touched my heart.

Sandy said...

Beautiful poems Shauna. Thank you for sharing them.

Anonymous said...

Amazing poems, thank you for sharing.
They bring back so many memories of when my husband went through Chemo. Stay strong & positive, I know it's hard but it helps. It is surprising were we get our strength from when we need it. Hugs

Erica L