Breast Cancer in the Family

Schneiderman, Henry

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poems (Sequence)

Annotated by:
Willms, Janice
  • Date of entry: Nov-18-2001


This is a cluster of seven short poems focusing on the response of husband to the diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis for the future of his beloved wife who has breast cancer. For example, "The Cloud" speaks of the passage of the uncertain weeks and years: "And into this idyllic time breast cancer crept. . . Wonder if it’s coming back. It’s life writ small / You don’t know what’s around that curve. . . ."

"For Rosemarie" is a plea for strength, while "Mommy’s Getting Chemo" contemplates the stance of the couple’s very young son. "Lymphedema Hand" is a loving tribute to the power and competence of the altered body of the woman. In all, the collection is forthright, painfully frank, while sustained by the gentle love that propels it.


Because of its underpinning of love and respect, coupled with recognition of the reality and uncertainty attributable to the diagnosis of breast cancer in a young woman, this little collection brings a special sense to the poetry of illness. It is written by a physician and exposes his contemplations of life with, and fears about life without, the beloved. The child, interwoven through the contemplations adds a dimension of poignancy that is especially powerful.

These poems are easily accessible, and because of their brevity would serve very nicely as classroom reading experiences for medical students as well as considerations for support groups and families living with cancer. Note: A relevant Web site about and by artist-model Matuschka,, has been annotated in the art section of this database ( Matuschka Archive).

Primary Source

Connecticut Medicine, Vol. 59, No.1, January, 1995

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