I know I’ve been slacking on Tuesdays since I discovered the nirvana of waiting, but there were two moving events for me in the waiting room this past Tuesday that I wanted to share.

One involved the ringing of the bell. I’ve mentioned before the bell at the chemo unit. When someone is finished their last treatment, they are encouraged to ring the bell. (I have looked longingly at that bell I must admit.) Today there was a man about my age who posed for pictures while ringing the bell. Upon walking out of the unit, him and his family all stopped and cried with happiness and hugged each other over and over again. It was such a moment of joy, optimism and accomplishment. I felt like a bit of an intruder, but also felt happy to be witnessing this celebration.

A little while later a nurse came out to speak to the woman who had been sitting waiting near me. I thought she, too, was waiting for her treatment and we both were in our own worlds. When the nurse sat down with her she said “You’re Mr. Brown’s mother? We just finished giving him his treatment and he started to shake and now has a fever. We need to send him up for blood work and it looks like we’ll need to keep him overnight.”

The mother just looked crushed. Again, I felt like an intruder into a very private moment, but I couldn’t move. The nurse was extremely kind and tried very hard to make it easier for the mother. But the man looked very young on the gurney as he passed me by and I just felt the mother’s heart ache.

This is the waiting room at the chemo unit. I bounce in every week for my treatment pretty happy most of the time, confident that this treatment is keeping me healthy and stable. But for many people, being at the chemo unit is an intense experience, full of anxiety and then, potentially, more positive feelings when the intensity is over. I’m just an observer, but I feel as if I have a window into some deep humanity by witnessing the experience of others.

It’s definitely more than just a waiting room.



Ultra Sounds Mondays, May 28, 2012

Today I’m delighted to present another art work by Viola Moriarty. I love this painting and the surreal combination of the every day domestic with the reality of a life with cancer.  You can  learn more about Viola  and her amazing art work at






live your life (my oncologist says)

by Viola Moriarty

Check out these incredible by Brian Mengini as part of the Empowered ME project. In his own words:

Empowered ME is a photographical series dedicated to those battling cancer ~ men and women alike.

This series, using dancers as symbols, will look to portray many of the qualities of these warriors fighting this evil disease.






Using dancers as a vehicle for this project seemed inevitable. Not just because of my own work, but if you look at their body of work and all that they represent and traits they must possess in order to do their jobs, I can find no better representation for this.
By design, they portray grace, strength, at times vulnerability, but also must show courage, determination and poise. So, it was a clear choice.

Story behind the series:

Also watch a video of the making of the photoshoot



On a different note, also take a look at the . Bob Carey takes pictures of himself in a pink tutu all over the world to raise money for breast cancer.  The pictures are fantastic and whimsical. You can purchase prints to help fund the publication of his book Ballerina.

It’s a rare treat to find a health care provider who puts out their creative work to the world. Today I discovered Julianna Paradisi an oncology nurse who is also a cancer survivor. Her art work is compelling as is her writing about art and science. Her musings about nursing as related to art resonate with me deeply. I keep reading her entries and thinking to myself “Yes, that’s it! That’s right! Tell it sister!”  Take a stroll through her  and her  to engage in and enjoy her work.




I thought this was a  fun way to demonstrate a scientific process.

On April 26, 2012, 200 Boston-area students, MIT scientists and local community members came together to make cutting-edge cancer research come to life in the Bio Flash Mob. This event was organized for the Cambridge Science Festival by the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT. Learn more at  and .

Hello everyone,

It is a lazy Monday on a long weekend here in Canada. I hope you are all enjoying your day.

Today’s poetry submission comes from Margery Hauser. Here is what Margery has to say about herself:

In 1999 I was diagnosed with cervical cancer and had surgery that, at the time, we all thought had taken care of the problem.  However, it came back for a return engagement in 2008 and again in 2010, now taking up residence in lymph nodes and moving its way up from my pelvis into my abdomen. The poems below were written in response to various experiences during diagnosis and treatment.  I have had work appear in Poetica Magazine, Möbius, The Jewish women’s Literary Annual, Umbrella, and other journals, both print and online.


I am delighted to post some of Margery’s poetry for you. These poems reflect back to me my own experiences, in eloquent, elegant language. Look for more of Margery’s work later this summer here at Ultra Sounds.





Three Haiku

In the waiting room
time snails, stalls, stutters, suspends:
Impatient patient
- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – -
Blue hospital gown
prevents exam room gooseflesh
but not chill of fear
- – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - – - -
Clear skies and clear scans
I smile my way along streets
sparkling with sunlight
Before Chemo

Ninja-steeled for battle
black robed
I determine time and place
No victim helplessly shorn
before death march
nor shaven-skulled
shame-branded traitor
not a novice
humbly submitting to God’s will
Rather a warrior
defiant, powerful
who will not mourn
each disappearing strand
in shower or on pillow
I choose the time by my volition
parade my choice

Just when I think I’ve found everything there is to find to do with creativity and cancer, I stumble upon something new.

Enjoy this trailer from the play ““.




Check out this fantastic for the National English Honor Society induction ceremony. It will make you swoon with happiness in its recognition and celebration of the importance of literature in our lives.

Here’s an excerpt:

One day you might be 37 years old, sitting in a Laundromat and remember a scene from a book, a stanza from a poem, a line from a play that will grab you by the throat, whisper in your ear, massage your shoulders and it will make you feel more alive than you have ever felt- connected and strong and devastated and engaged with everything in a way that takes your breath away- at the exact same moment everyone else at the Laundromat is watching their towels spin in the dryer.  Or checking their Twitter accounts.

Doesn’t it just set your hearts a fluttering?


The other night I had a different kind of waiting room experience. I had to go to emergency for what turned out to be mild pneumonia (no don’t gasp in horror, I will be fine). My point is not to elicit sympathy, but to share my waiting room experience.

I have blogged a great deal about my frustrations with waiting rooms  until more recently when I discovered the “joy” of waiting. Well, maybe joy is too strong a word, especially when you’re feverish or in pain. But I’ve found a certain resignation in waiting and am even able to relax and settle in

Well, I came prepared both with in body and spirit for a good long wait. I know emergency waiting rooms well from Zev’s early years and the early years of my disease. I kicked out my husband and son (I do waiting better alone – the others are too fidgety) and tucked in for the long haul.

Clearly I was surrounded by newbies. I heard more expressions of discontent than I have ever heard “How dare they keep me waiting this long”. “Why is it called emergency? Nothing is happening fast”  ”This is unbelievable having to wait this long!”  There was a community building around the shared sense of injustice over the long wait. I could understand that many of them were in a state of distress, but there was a certain amount of vitriol that was out of my experience.

Despite feeling sick and feverish, I thought the waiting room was quite nice and, for the most part, the nurses were kind and attentive. When I was taken in, I saw the doctors running from room to room. There was no time being wasted, just a large volume of patients.  And, most importantly, not one person in that emergency room was paying out of pocket or would be turned away because they didn’t have enough money.

Of course, it’s easier to see all this when you’re a veteran like me.


ps. enjoy this . How was your morning commute?

Today’s submission, a personal essay,  comes from writer, Eularee Smith of Eugene, Oregon.  She is a cancer survivor of 20 years. Her Dad survived stage 4 melanoma for over 30 years. Her younger brother was not as lucky. He died of brain melanoma. Her writing reflects a personal perspective of hope and the joy of living. You can read more about Eularee at

A Sacred Place

 by Eularee Smith

My younger brother Barry, passed away unexpectedly on July 1,, 2011, from melanoma of the brain. From diagnosis to death was less than three weeks. He leaves behind a wife, five children, six siblings and both his parents. And a garden.

After the memorial service, complete strangers told me stories of my selfless brother. From being an elderly neighbor’s on call handyman to offering his home to a homeless family for three months while they got back on their feet, Barry’s life resounded.

At one point, my sister in law and I found ourselves standing by my brother’s vegetable garden. Surrounded by a chicken wire fence with a gate adjacent to the chicken coop offering easy access to the free fertilizer. A common thread in our lives was the garden and our chickens. He and I would eat, breathe and talk gardening.

Together we stood silently staring at the hoe leaning against the gate where he last left it. My sister in law shared with me that she didn’t know how to garden.

“That was Barry’s sacred place. He would let me sit and watch but I was never allowed to do anything,” she said tearfully. “I don’t know what to do about the garden. It’s dying.”

I told her that was what it was supposed to do. The gardener was gone. Mourning the loss of its caretaker, the tomatoes were curled with withered blossoms, most of which had fallen to the ground. The peppers were stunted. Lettuce gone to seed and all were thirsty and sad looking.

It made sense to me that the garden was reflecting the tragedy of my brother’s death. At one point during the last weeks of his life, he said he knew he would never go into the garden again. Unable to leave his chair, let alone pick up the hoe, he looked at the garden through the window. If pain medication dulled the physical symptoms of the cancer, I believe that seeing his garden, even if through a window, eased the pain of the gardener’s soul.

When I had breast cancer, I planted an area of my garden with alyssum, a small white flowering creeper, shaping the letters G R A C E. I spent hours in the summer of 1992 in daily radiation and chemotherapy treatments. And just as importantly, I spent hours in the garden, keeping the weeds out and the growing letters trimmed neatly to spell out the blessings of my garden. It was as necessary to my fight as the chemo cocktails dripping into my arm. There were five women who I came to consider friends as we battled cancer together during the summer of 1992. Of the five women, I am the only survivor. I am a gardener.

I believe the garden reflects the gardener. Each is dependent on the care and the nurturing of the other. A simpatico relationship that grows and dies not only in seasons of the earthly calendar but also in the heart and soul of the gardener who tends it. I thought about taking the standing hoe to the weeds that flourished while the gardener was away but somehow, that didn’t seem right either.

I will give my sister in law a few books on gardening and she can take her time reading them. She can browse and wander through the pages and perhaps she will see my brother, the gardener, between the chapters on tomatoes and peppers. And then when the season is right, she may pick up the hoe and introduce my brother’s garden to a new caretaker. When the winter frost gives way to the new buds of spring, the gate will open and new life will bloom once again in my brother’s sacred place.