Cancer Poetry Project

I am feeling a bitter-sweet buzz inside my chest as I look at the cover of The Cancer Poetry Project 2, a powerful anthology of poems edited by Karin Miller. One of my poems appears within these pages and I feel honored, humbled, and a-flutter.


This collection of poems is composed of words by patients, spouses and partners, family members, friends and caregivers — all who have been touched by cancer.

The first anthology, published in 2007, has been described in the following ways:

“Readers will recognize themselves, find validation for their innermost feelings, and derive comfort from knowing that they are not alone on the road they are traveling.“
—Geri Giebel Chavis, The National Association for Poetry Therapy

“This collection is so poignant, so honest, so cellular, I could barely read more than one poem at a time without pausing for my heart to heal.“

“Every stage of the cancer journey is expressed and described in vivid and unforgettable language. You cannot fail but to be inspired. These poems will touch your heart.”
—Sharon Bray, Ed.D., author of When Words Heal: Writing Through Cancer and A Healing Journey: Writing Together Through Breast Cancer

This anthology is not yet in stores or on Amazon (yet), but you can pre-order a copy here at the Cancer Poetry Project website. You seldom meet a person who has not been impacted by cancer in some way. Because these anthologies come from a variety perspectives, it is true: you will recognize yourself in some way as you allow each poem to expand your heart and warm your bones.

I now share with you the poem that I submitted to the project and that will appear in beautiful pages of The Cancer Poetry Project 2:

One Small Pleasure

Today I am an alchemist, combining the ingredients
into a small glass bowl: sugar, dried rosemary leaves,
and peppermint with warm almond oil.
I roll my dad’s khakis up to his knees,
and with a white towel under his legs to catch
the sprinkling of my exfoliant mixture, I softly scrub
the dry, scaly skin chemo has left.

He closes his eyes as I massage the mixture
from the bottom of his feet, circling up his shins and calves,
to his knees and back down again.  With warm moist towels,
I wash away the excess and see his legs turn pink
and smooth. “Feel how soft they are, dad,” I say,
as he smiles and rubs his shins, then asks for more.

This is one small pleasure—
to be touched without latex gloves, skin to skin, sugar
and herbs instead of alcohol and iodine,
his own couch to sink into,
his wife nearby watching this experiment unfold,
and his daughter saying through her touch,
This is one thing I can do, dad.  This is at least one thing.

Courtney Putnam c. 2013

in peace, healing, and strength,



About Courtney Putnam

I first came to healing work through art and writing. Creating collage art and poetry in particular allowed me to deeply understand the benefit of self-expression in the healing process. But, I also began to see the benefit of bodywork (manual work in the form of massage and energywork in the form of Reiki) as keys to unlocking the emotional stresses we hold in our bodies. I became a Reiki practitioner in 2002, received an MFA in Creative Writing in 2003, received my massage license in the spring of 2006, and became a Reiki Master in 2010. In my practice I bring together these three areas -- the body, the mind, and the spirit (or energy body) -- so others may experience profound and positive change in their lives.
This entry was posted in bodywork, grief and loss, healing, inspiration, life events, life lessons, personal growth, poetry, writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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