Chemo Patient

She tried

To imagine herself dead
As she lay on her bed
Staring at the ceiling
With chemotherapy
Seeping into her veins
But she couldn’t
She could only think
Of her husband
And her children
And how they had laughed
When her hair had fallen out.

In order to die
Everything had to stop
Her heart
Her brain
The blood surging
Through her arteries
But she could not imagine it.
Everything
Seemed to be running so well.

She was not frightened of dying
But she had always
Looked forward to the future
And now it seemed
There may not be one.
It was not like her
To look backwards
So she carried on
Staring at the ceiling
And tried holding her breath.

About the poet:

Geoffrey Bowe has been writing poetry since he was sixteen and has written nursing poetry since he trained as a nurse, nearly thirty years ago. His work has appeared in two anthologies of writing by nurses (Between the Heartbeats and Intensive Care, both U of Iowa Press) and also in Nursing Standard and The International Journal of Healthcare & Humanities. He has now changed from general nursing to mental-health nursing and works in a medium-security forensic unit in Kent, England.

About the poem:

“While nursing a young woman on chemotherapy, I observed her deep in thought–but rather than ask her, I tried to imagine what she might be thinking. Suddenly on the cusp between life and death, but still very much alive, could she possibly be imagining death itself and thinking how much has really got to happen before anyone dies? Her heartbeat, so strong–as it should be in a young woman–would have to stop, as well as all that goes on in her brain. Surely this, I thought, would seem unlikely and distant to her, even in this situation.”

Poetry editors:

Judy Schaefer and Johanna Shapiro

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