Ayla, five months old, fell asleep at my breast,
milk trickling down her chin onto me.
At 33, while nursing this new life,
inside me grew the threat of impending death–
a cancer that would wrend my body from my child .
I didn’t feel less of a woman
when the chemo took my hair,
and the surgery my ovaries – my fertility death.
Resilience grew, outpacing my tumor.
When I couldn’t give milk, my baby swallowed love.
I hope I’ll become a little less afraid of death,
that my daughters don’t sense their mother’s ultimate worry.
So they learn the strength to cope
with little deaths of all kinds:
dropping an ice cream, losing a game, saying good-bye.
After treatment, I returned to my childhood home.
Within my yellow bedroom walls I dreamed the woman I would become—
fun, strong, larger-than-life mother.
Now I conjure her amidst the nagging fear of death,
fear that saps my energy,
as blood draining from my breast.
Fear is the hardest part of surviving cancer.
In my mother’s kitchen I see pictures of my younger self.
My eyes settle on three-year old me, in pigtails, bright, brown eyes staring back.
I want to feel how she felt –unafraid.
I turn away from the fridge to give Ayla her spoon, Yael her water.
Silently shifting from child to adult,
aren’t we all just trying to become
a little less afraid of death?