Word Of You

Surprise! Bonus blog this week. Why? Today is the 13 year anniversary of my initial diagnosis of Breast Cancer, my cancerversary! In cancer house we are told not to count these anniversaries– to count birthdays instead. Yeah, okay.  Like I would ever forget the day I went in for a routine mammogram and left with a bloody, bandaged and iced breast from a sudden and unexpected biopsy at Faulkner Hospital. I practically sprinted to my car reeling in shock and disbelief. Two of my sisters already had breast cancer–didn’t that mean I would beat the odds? It was a sunny, beautiful summer day on the Jamaica Way; we had just celebrated Tim’s birthday with a party on our brand new deck and we were making vacations plans for a trip to Chicago. I called Tim on my cell phone. His relaxed, soothing voice came on the line. The world was spinning. The depth of my emotions converged in my throat and I couldn’t speak. He knew immediately that something was terribly wrong and said “I’m on my way home, I’ll be there.” Calling my parents was even harder–I knew it was best to tell them by phone so I wouldn’t have to witness their anguish and trust me–there  was plenty of anguish and pain and guilt–none of it any of their doing.

That level of emotion had only hit me twice before—a sudden miscarriage of a very wanted baby when I was 30. I remember my panic and sadness in the Emergency Room. The attending physician condescendingly asked me if I was crying because I was in pain or because I was sad. I am not a fighter (a badass maybe, but not a fighter)–but at that moment I wanted to punch her in the face with everything I had.  Two years of infertility testing and surgeries later, I finally conceived baby Kelsey. Seven weeks in, at work, the miscarriage started again. I walked calmly to my car despite feeling inside like the Edvard Munch painting of “The Scream”. I called Tim. He said “I’m on my way home, I’ll be there” –it was Christmas Eve. He set up a Christmas tree in our bedroom at the foot of our bed and I remained on bed rest for seven very long weeks while we learned I had a luteal phase defect and Tim would have to give me an injection of progesterone every day for weeks. And those were the easy days.

Eleven years ago my sister Mary died of breast cancer. We were still newbies in cancer world then, so innocent. Ten years ago, in June, I entered the hospital again for a 16 hour surgery and 3 days of intubation in intensive care while I had bilateral mastectomies with reconstruction. I went home with 4 drains and a very tight corset thingy they never mentioned I would have to wear for 3 months.  I guess Tim had a lot of time to think during that week and the several that followed. While I was in surgery he wrote the following:

Word of You

Beneath an atrium of glass,

Now cooled from outside’s

Daylight fire,

I settled down to sit,

To wait.


Is everything alright?

Is anything okay?

Could soaring walls, that held their place

With girders left and right

Give way?


There’s no allowance left to think.


Until today, when word of you

Depended on some strange,

Unknown alignment of

some random stars.

When word of you had

Been reduced to surgeons

Suturing your scars.

When word of you,

As yet unformed

Had been deferred.


The heat, though held by walls,

Just would not wait outside.


And sliding slowly inward,

To ignite a kindled mind,

The flickers of a first formed thought.

Then flame.

Then conflagration.


And a steady, slow destruction,

Deconstructing walls once firm,

Like footage from the TV news,

Of old historic forms

Brought down:

The thought,

And fear,

Of you as gone

When word of you would come.

Tim Bigelow

And now we wait again, for word of me.


(Mario, nice to have you back buddy)



  1. Good morning Barb,
    How to acknowledge this day? “Unhappy Cancerversary”? Wishing you have a happy day today, but also wishing you had never had that day 13 years ago. I remember Tim calling us with the news. Very much an unhappy day. And then, very happy you have had so many great years since then. I hope and pray for many more great years. You may not think of yourself as a fighter, but I think those of us who know you would disagree. You have fought mightily for these last 13 years. I imagine you’re sick and tired of the fight, but I don’t ever believe you’ll give up. You have way too much to fight for. ☺️
    On another note, I learned something new about my brother: I never knew Tim was a poet. What a beautiful poem, in an awful time. You two are such a tribute to marriage. I am in awe.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m speechless and always sit quietly for a few minutes every time I read your blog, this one was a whole new level of tongue tied, Word of the day is “you” xo

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow! This one was very moving for me. I first off want to say thank you for sharing all that you are and have been sharing. For me, to be able to go through this journey with you in this way helps alot. I feel like im right there with you. I know miscarriages are absolutely devastating so to read what you went through just shows me the stuff that made you the woman i have come to know in the short time weve known eachother. To read about your emotions when having to call tim and your parents and what your sister went through is moving for me. You are helping me understand life in a way i havent before. Because of you i am going to buy that painting and hang it up in your honor. I didnt know what it was until i googled it and of course recognized it but now it actually means something to me. So thanks! I hope when you read this that you are in a good place and feeling good.

    And tim thank you for being who you are and writing that beautiful piece to your wife…it was touching! You are both lucky to have eachother! 🙂

    Thanks for having me back!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. A belated awful anniversary. Always thinking of you. I look back and realize we had no idea the extent of what you guys were going through. I can remember the night Tim called and told us and I remember making eggplant parm and maybe an apple crisp but a 16 hour surgery? Unfortunately I think I’ve blurred the details of the hell you went though. I hope we were there enough. The poem is beautiful, like you and Tim! Thanks for sharing this❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Barb, your husband is an amazing poet! I just found your blog through a Facebook post from MBCN. I will look forward to reading your updates for years and years to come. I am a fellow Stage IV BC patient (diagnosed early 2012) and know the road you are traveling too well – I recently started Pablociclib with monthly Faslodex injections. I started to cry when I read your tagline, as I am also a school psychologist (in Minneapolis). I am facing an upcoming LOA at the end of July (I work with little kids so we work summers!). I hate that this disease is stealing my career 20 years prematurely. So hang in there and know that you have sisters across the land who will root and root for you and your family. Feel free to email me if you wish.

    Liked by 1 person

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