In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we're pleased to share an excerpt from the beginning of Katy Bowser Hutson's new book, Now I Lay Me Down to Fight: A Poet Writes Her Way Through Cancer. In stirring verse and essays, Katy chronicles her battle with breast cancer and the complications of faith amid such a fight. Through it all, she shows what it means to struggle in a battered body and to pray to a God who is near to the broken. If you find yourself intrigued by the journey she describes here, check out her book at InterVarsity Press.
from the Preface and Chapter 1: "Beginning"
One of the worst days of my life followed one of the best weeks. I’d just completed a week at the Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing, courtesy of a scholarship from the Sustainable Arts Foundation for artists with young children. After a long stretch of homeschooling young children, writing music, and holding down the fort while my husband was on the road playing music, this week was an utter godsend: a week to rest, write, learn, and make plans for my next creative steps when I returned home. To drag out the trope, little did I know . . .
That evening, as I got ready for bed at a friend’s house in Boston, I saw warning signs on my body: my breast was hot, swollen, puckered. Within a week I was in chemotherapy for a rare, aggressive cancer called inflammatory breast cancer.
I felt an immediate awareness that there was no accident in the timing. The week of honing my writing skills had given me tools in my arsenal for this battle.
In his book The Body Keeps the Score, psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk notes that trauma is preverbal. There is a magic, a medicine to putting words to terrible things. I wrote through all of it: to face fear, to say it out loud, to pray, to fling it all away from me. I wrote most of the poems during cancer treatment. The essays, as well as one poem, are written with the benefit of hindsight, five years later. My hope is that my writings cross paths with someone who could use these words. Every cancer story is different. Maybe there are moments in here that resonate, that help. I hope so.
Meeting My Oncologist
Waiting waiting in the room of a doctor
The very good recommended doctor
As cancer is in my body I wait for her, my general, to tell me the lay of
Hello, so thankful to meet you:
Can you save my life?
If ever a first impression felt important.
All of the previous stories we both have.
Do you know?
How many battles waging?
How many fronts lost?
Can we rally?
Can we retaliate?
Can we win the day?
Do I live?
This beige room has no clues.
I looked her up
She digs deep into new questions.
She has children.
She looks kind.
Words, I know.
I know people.
Not cells much.
Not treasonous cells.
Not heroic cells.
But I know the fall, and the overcome.
A low timpani roll rising to crescendo.
We are past the cymbals and trumpets
In the long, certain denouement
Fraught with casualties
Foes getting in punches on the run.
Taken from Now I Lay Me Down to Fight by Katy Bowser Hutson. ©2023 by Katherine Jane Hutson. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press. www.ivpress.com.
Photo by Macro Mama on StockSnap