World Poetry Day: Holly’s Cancer Poems (Part 1)

9 minute read time.
World Poetry Day: Holly’s Cancer Poems (Part 1)

Today is World Poetry Day, where we’re taking this opportunity to share Holly’s poems. Here on the Online Community, it’s clear how much being creative can help. Poetry can be a way to cope, a fun distraction and sometimes even a form of art therapy. Members in our “Express yourself” group and across the Online Community enjoy writing and sharing poems.

Holly was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2005. Holly has shared her experience through poems, written at different points of her experience with cancer. In today’s blog, Holly shares her emotions, thoughts and worries from her initial breast cancer diagnosis. We’re sharing 4 poems from Holly’s poetry collection, titled “Holly’s cancer poems…The truth behind my smile.” Holly also describes what was happening and how she was feeling when she wrote each poem below.

If you have also been affected by breast cancer, we have a supportive “Breast cancer” group where you can find support and talk to other people going through a similar experience.

Holly’s cancer poems… the truth behind my smile

Life is wonderful and I embrace it.

It tastes of chocolate, and I won’t waste it.

These poems are dedicated to all those who saved my life,

and to all those who have lost theirs to cancer.

I give them, with love and best wishes,

to anyone struggling with cancer,


trying to come to terms with

the loss of their

loved one.

This is the life


This is the life –


I’m sitting, relaxed,

With my faithful dog,

Aware of gently aching limbs

Following a wonderful, riverside walk.


Around us are the Washes in partial flood,

Rippled pools shifting under a clear, blue sky.

There’s good music playing on my car radio,

And companionable friends hail us as they’re driving by.


Refreshing breezes

Contrast the Autumn warmth of the sun,

As I sit here, secure, in a restful oasis

Within the comforting hubbub of my life as a mum.


Yes, this is the life!

… and then, the bomb dropped!

I found a lump in my left breast, on the 2nd of January 2005.

One week later I went to the doctor.

Two weeks later I was at King’s Lynn Hospital,

in the Breast Care unit, terrified.

Screaming inside my head

(3/2/2005 – written three days after my breast cancer tests, still awaiting diagnosis confirmation)

“Hello, Mrs Morgan, how are you?

What can I get you – is it tea for two?

That’s one-eighty, please, there’s sugar on the table.”

I’d go home and sob now if I was able.


Pick up the children at twenty past three,

Chatter as usual and smile cheerfully.

Steady my nerves with some chocolate to munch

And wish the butterflies would let me eat lunch.


Type up an e-mail – keep it funny and bland,

It’s okay, the computer doesn’t mind trembling hands.

Don’t talk about health, it’s a slippery slope

That brings up lies and makes me start to choke.


Write all the letters, make all the calls

That I’ve been putting aside – quick!  Do it all.

Time seems suddenly precious – too short to waste –

I’ve got to breathe Life before I get Death’s bitter taste.


Swallow my pudding and laugh with my mates,

Scrape up the custard and wipe clean the plate.

Look at the rooks’ nests dark in the trees

And scream in my head “Why’s this happening to me!?!!!”


Desperate joking gets wilder and crude

As we run from the terror and refuse to brood.

Screaming inside, I face the world and smile,

Hiding the curled up, crying and frightened child.


“Hello Jon love, how are you?

What can I get you – a chocolate cake too?

You’ll find sugar in a bowl there on the table.”

I’d wake from this nightmare if I was able.


I was working part-time in a local tearoom in the weeks when I found my breast cancer lump. I went to my GP, attended my referral at the hospital’s Breast Care Unit. When I had the confirmation of my cancer diagnosis, the bottom fell out of my world. I had a house to pay for and two children to bring up so, naturally, I went to work as usual. Until I had official confirmation of my breast cancer diagnosis I told no-one about my suspicions, except my Mum and a friend who was living with us at the time. I just carried on as if nothing was happening – well, you do, don’t you?



My façade is as fragile as an eggshell –

It’s hardened with grit -

Strike it hard and it will break.

My faith in me is strong as steel,

My faith in God is stronger still.

The Devil has no sway with me

Though his blows can push me easily.

I listen to his poison –

Strongest coming from the lips of trusted folk –

Then listen to good reason

And breathe …

Devil, get behind me!

Gritted teeth relax,

Embracing shell of faith surround me –

In true, bright colours – Holly’s back!!


It was difficult keeping a smile on my face and acting normal for the outside world. I had my lump removed on the 4th March 2005, aged 38, just, and stayed overnight in hospital to recover. A neighbour stayed at my home with my two sons, to look after them for me. Our live-in friend chauffeured me to and from hospital. They were there when I went to sleep, and when I woke, armed with a sick bowl!

I found it hard keeping my emotions in check at that time, with Death leaning over one shoulder much of the time, and Fear of not surviving to bring my children up to adulthood leering at me over the other shoulder. This meant telling people about my cancer and, more so, receiving their words and expressions of sympathy and encouragement, was very challenging. I barred my Mum’s telephone calls for a while because she had almost got me nailed into my coffin in her head, and her negativity was not helpful. She soon got over that and was really helpful, but at that point I could not tolerate negativity around me.

I decided to write a poem about my diagnosis, operation and planned treatment, and to email or post it to family and friends. That way, the news was shared without me having direct contact with anyone hearing about it for the first time. I felt that the poem had to be upbeat – a smile on the page, to help the reader to cope with the news better.

King’s Lynn Hospital hop

(9/3/2005 – how I broadcast my cancer to the wider community of family and friends – emailed or posted - so I didn’t have to speak to people directly)

Let me extol the virtues of ‘The National Health’ to you,

With a tale of my hospital visit in words light and true.

I praise King’s Lynn medics with very good reason

As they’ve just snipped a cancerous lump from my bustier region!

It took just two months from the first fearful fumble -

First biopsies and scans in the cancer scare jungle,

Then kind-hearted consultations and a checking of dates

For my surgery time – a mere three-week wait!

In on the Wednesday - two months complete,

With white surgical stockings clinging tight to my feet.

Anti-bac wash was spread liberally around

To keep the fearful MRSA superbug down.

On with the sexy gown, rear all adrift

Then down to the theatre for the bust-busting shift!

Rapier-neat cuts to remove cancer growth cells

And a cluster of lymph nodes in the bin bag as well.

Two hours beyond and the wounds were sewn up –

Time to awaken and spectacularly … throw up!


Celtic wode dye indicators created that scene.

Then the hospital DJ had us all rocking

In our deep vein thrombosis-proof surgical stockings.

If you can’t find a partner, use a saline drip stand

While you jig to Rolf Harris and his kangaroo band!

Lettuce, cake, custard, and chocs were the gifts

That created speculation and jocular fits.

Two days on and my stay came to an end

As I said a hasty “goodbye” to my new hospital friends.

I’ve some months of treatment still ahead –

A little unpleasant, but better than ‘dead’!

Life is wonderful and I embrace it –

It tastes of chocolate, and I won’t waste it!

Keep your doom and gloom away,

There’s no place for them near me today.

I’m full of praise for my medics and friends

And my gratitude to them all will never end.

Writing poetry and notes scribbled on scraps of paper helped me to exorcise my fears, order my thoughts, and observe what was happening to me throughout the year of my discovery, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer. I was a single parent of two sons, aged 8 and 10 at the time. I couldn’t let them bear the full weight of my heavy load, that wouldn’t be fair. They knew what was going on, and were fantastically brave, helpful and supportive, but I didn’t want them to see how dark the shadows were or how sharp the fear inside me. They had enough fear of their own, as nightmares in later months showed. So, I wrote poems in the early hours, or while they were at school or having their fortnightly weekends with their Dad. Writing the poems helped. It still does. Reading them later, I wonder how we survived that year. I also remember all the fun we had with friends, the ridiculous times, and the laughter shared. Acquaintances became friends, and my sons and I became a loving, strong unit that is still a source of fortitude for us now.

In the next batch of poems which I would like to share with you, the effects of my chemotherapy treatment begin to impact our lives.

We’d like to thank Holly for sharing her poetry with us. There are lots of ways to think about poetry and creative writing here on the Online Community. Some members find it helpful to share poetry they have found helpful, such as ‘The Dash Poem’ by Linda Ellis. Other members share their own poetry, such as this member’s poem, ‘Poetry = power tree’. Like Holly has mentioned, poetry can be helpful in lots of different experiences. Poetry can be helpful if you have been recently diagnosed, bereaved, or are just looking to explore ways to support your well-being. Poetry and being creative can be a positive way to support your mental health.

If you are interested in ways to get started with writing poetry, have a look at our blog ‘Have you tried expressing yourself? Creativity and coping with member Wee Me’. In this blog, Community member and Macmillan volunteer Wee Me gives an example of how you can try writing your own poems.

Read more of Holly's poems:

Holly’s Cancer Poems: Coping with chemotherapy (Part 2) 

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