Ultra Sounds Monday, April 30, 2012

I hope your week is starting off well. To give it a shake I offer you a poem by . Nigel is a “writer and artist with a strong interest in the relationships between media, culture, society and politics.”

Nigel says:

 I was driven to write it as my family have been affected by cancer on a number of occasions and I feel that there is little more tragic than cancer in the young.

This poem will stay with you. Do check out Nigel’s .




(She’s) Dancing With The Idiots (Tonight)

by Nigel Paul


She’s just nineteen and she’s got cancer and she’s the only one that knows,

She doesn’t want to tell anyone until she knows that the cancer grows,

And although the secret eats her, like the cancer eats her,

She’s dancing with the idiots tonight.

They say that ignorance is bliss, knowledge is a dangerous thing,

But when you’re forced to count and can only hope,

You see things for what they are,

So the show goes on, the boys flock round, stop and stare, pretend to care,

It means nothing to her now,

She sees things for what they are,

It’s not a game of  ’let’s pretend’, it’s clear thinking and self preservation,

It’s the sensible thing to do,

Carry on, put on the show and dance with the idiots tonight,

They say the truth will out, the story will be told,

And she will look into their eyes, searching for the genuine sympathy, the genuine empathy,

And the truth will out,

But until she is ready, until it’s time,

She’s dancing with the idiots tonight,

And we cry, a sadness by proxy, our personal release, our personal relief,

And we will cry,

So let us dance like only an idiot can dance,

Let’s dance as only idiots dance,

Let’s dance like idiots tonight.

A new treasure


Have a look at the website of poet . His poetry about his experience with lymphoma resonates for me and is worth checking out. He has an upcoming book being published called  and you can read excerpts on his site.


Also, I’ve stumbled across a new cancer art show in Oklahoma that is accepting registration until June 1.

Here is the link:  


May you have a poetic day.



Hi all,

I have so much to share today to catch you up. Be sure to read all the way through!

I will start by shamelessly promoting my own work. If you visit the current issue of  you will find an article I wrote about Marianne Moroney, hot dog lady extraordinaire. Marianne submitted a beautiful piece to a few months ago about what it was like to serve up food to cancer patients in Toronto.


A while back I  wrote a posting about , a journalist from Washington, D.C. who does very funny cancer cartoons. Recently Amy was featured on a TV interview in Washington promoting her book “Cancer is SO FUNNY”. You can watch her .


If you were inspired by the artistic masterpiece that I shared with you a few months ago and you live in the Toronto area, there is an upcoming workshop with the on April 23.

ART for Cancer Foundation workshop


There are some competition deadlines approaching:

- The in Australia are open to everyone and there are prizes in a variety of mediums. These submissions are due April 27.

- The t submissions are due April 30.

- Registration for the is due by April 30 (although submissions are not due until June 29).


Last, but not least, I have a good friend who is participating in a fundraiser for Princess Margaret Hospital – my home away from home. Here is his letter. If you would like to sponsor him, know that you are supporting a tremendous hospital that plays a central role in the lives of thousands of Canadians.

Paul writes:

Hi Everybody,

Again this year I am doing the Ride to Conquer Cancer. To catch you up, this is a 200K bike ride over a 2 day period from Toronto to Niagara Falls in support of treatment and research at Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto.  Last year 4700 riders participated and raised a new record high for a single event of 17 million dollars. I personally raised $6500.
I am now approaching my fifth year since diagnosis and fourth year since the stem cell transplant. I believe that many factors have contributed to my recovery but the biggest factor was the treatment I had at PMH. Ten years ago I may not have been so lucky. While I also believe that not nearly enough is being done to address the causes of cancer, places like PMH are finding miraculous ways to extend peoples lives and help them live with cancer with a reasonable quality of life.
The ride gives me motivation to train and stay fit which is a highly recommended way to stave off any reoccurrence. It also makes me feel like I’m giving something back to the place that has essentially saved my life. If this is a cause that resonates with you please help out with any amount you can by clicking the link below and going to my donation page. Thank-you so much in advance!
Paul Shilton

Today’s submission is a poem by Julie Maloney from her wonderful chapbook, Private Landscape (if you live in Toronto, she donated a copy to the Princess Margaret Hospital Library). The chapbook centers around her journey through breast cancer. She is well now after traveling through cancer twice – once in 2000 and again in 2003.

Julie is the founder/director of an organization dedicated to supporting women writers called WOMEN READING ALOUD. Please visit:  for more information. She also leads writing workshops for cancer patients and their caregivers at the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center in NJ.

This is an amazing love poem that resonated deeply with me. I would encourage you to seek out Julie’s chapbook.





He scoops me up off the toilet bowl

    and carries me back to bed

I have fallen asleep again, not deeply,

    but my eyelids are closed

And I cannot move one inch

    from the tissue paper roll


I recognize his hands under my thighs

They are strong and clean

For cutting vegetables in the kitchen

Chopping away the brown spots into the sink


He brings me oatmeal and tea and toast

     with jam

Grills cheese and tomato sandwiches

    and plates them with a pickle

Buys bruschetta and Italian bread to sop up

     the red juice

Never mentions my bald head and round belly


At night he tucks the sheets under my chin

Places the prayer beads in my hands

Climbs next to me in bed

Near the hole in my chest  

Bonjour everyone!

Today’s poem comes from Charles Phelps-Penry in Shanghai. It wins the prize for the most exotic locale (at least from my Canadian viewpoint – maybe Toronto, Canada is an exotic locale when you live in Shanghai).

I like the terse, tense language of this poem. To me, it effectively captures the feeling associated with a diagnosis. You can read more of Charles’ work at his blog .

Here is the bio Charles shared with me:

I was diagnosed with Oesophageal (Gullet) Cancer in September 2010 during a routine check for something else.  The shock was huge and I was very scared at the start.  I quickly went through tests and staging (Stage 3 with lymph nodes involved) and then on into 11 months of treatment which, after major surgery and chemotherapy, has been successful. I am back at work, active and feeling good.  The cost was almost a year of my life, being torn from all I knew at very short notice as we live inShanghai, and returning to theUKfor treatment, leaving everything behind.  I’ve learned much about myself, including facing my own mortality, and I’ve seen my family, especially my wife go through hell for me.  But in the end I still have my life, and I am so very grateful for that.  It’s not what it was but no bad thing that.  Cancer no longer defines my life, though it did for a time.  And I have to watch out for the beast coming back for another go, but I’m ready for a fight.  The fight of my life.

When Charles shared this poem with me, I had to ask him to define “spiv” for me (it’s just not part of my Canadian lexicon). Here is the definition he provided:

A “spiv” is a term used during and after WW2 for people who used to trade goods on the black market, they were flash but seedy, could get hold of stuff that wasn’t easily available, usually illegally, and it is not a positive word. 



by Charles Phelps-Penry


No introduction

no knock on the door

no polite cough or tug at the elbow


Just creeps in

unseen, insinuates itself

invisible and



Bides its time

lurking darkly

a chancer, a spiv looking for a break


When it finds a good grip

it clings on for dear life

my dear life




I found a treasure! There is an International Symposium on Poetry and Medicine coming  up in London, England on May 12. An international gathering to just talk about poetry and medicine!!! Themes include the intersection of medicine and poetry in history, the effect of illness upon poetry and, conversely poetry upon illness. Read more about it

Linked to the conference I also found an article that explores whether poems make one a better doctor. You can read the article  According to the authors, Johanna Shapiro and Sarah Mourra:

...[poetry] can help medical students by offering a unique method for re-examining self, others, and the world.

…poetry about going through medical education and the nature of doctoring can help students who feel isolated or are experiencing burnout. It can also provide insights into the socialisation process of medical education, and what practising medicine is about. (from BMJ Careers, December 8, 2010)

With this inspiration I did a bit more searching on poetry and medical students. There is a wealth of material out there.

For example, I stumbled upon the book Body Language: Poems of the Medical Training Experience (which you can find on Amazon)

I also found an interesting article by a doctor who dispenses poetry to patients and medical students. It’s called 

So let’s hear it for more poetry in the world!


I came across this blog entry by Janet Ruffin, a woman who does art therapy with children with cancer. To help restore her mental energy she developed a creative exercise that she can do on her breaks.

I will put the instructions directly in her words:


… I created a short exercise I could do during my workday.At lunchtime, I would choose a book from the library, sneak upstairs to the 11th floor, scratch paper and lunch in hand, and find a chair facing a window.I would open the book at random, write down three words and three phrases from the page and then turn to another section and do the same. I would play with combining these words and phrases until something emerged. Here’s an example:

A place under the moon
where bleeding bees
drumming frogs
try to hold sucking things

In this process, words combine that would normally never be put together. Refreshing, curious or eerie, a “thrown poem” shocks the mind. It takes you away to sit under trees and smell lilac and lavender — even on the 11th floor of a hospital.Try it and see what you come up with.
I decided I’d better give this exercise a try before passing it along, so I sat down with one of my twelve-year old son’s fantasy books. Here’s my thrown poem. I don’t know if I followed her rules exactly the way she intended, but it was sure a fun exercise and felt very free and breezy to write this way.
He was a great power,
but now he is decrepit
no longer leaving prints
in his gloom he is blurring at the edges
“I couldn’t understand the rules”, he says
“All I saw of it was a great crash
and then a great roaring bonfire in instants”
He shouts as he dissolves into mist.
To read the full blog post go to 


The Lady In Blue by Jyne Greenley – from the ART For Cancer Foundation art show



I was able to attend the ART for Cancer Foundation art show opening last Friday night at Toronto City Hall. It was very exciting to see my painting framed and the accompanying poem in print. Sadly I did not get a picture for you all to see.

Taken as a whole there was a tremendous body of work there. The stories represented at the show were powerful and often sad. At the same time, each of them had a component of joy as expressed through the art work. People who had never done anything creative found that they had an unexpected creative muse lying in wait. Others who had already been creating found tremendous comfort and healing from continuing with their efforts.

Walking through and breathing in these stories was an intense experience, but, I also felt, a hopeful one. As if the power of the art could transcend the illness.

The has many new workshops and events coming up. Do go and check out their site.