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Obstinatus | Cancer Poem

August 21st, 2017 |

by lawryde | Fighter: Astrocytoma    Connect

When I was 33 and diagnosed with brain cancer, I was in shock. I was scared, I felt lost. Throughout surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, I struggled to move past the frustration, the anger, and the emptiness that brain cancer treatment created for me. I went through counseling, support groups, medication, kept a journal, and began to write my own poem of my struggle.

Throughout my drafts, I kept coming back to the poem "Invictus" by William Ernest Henley, written in the 19th century. Henley had tuberculosis, and the short Victorian poem's title means "unconquered." It was incredibly moving for me as a teenager when I first read it, but it struck a deeper chord in me as I was also overcoming a life-threatening health issue.

Obstinatus is Latin for "unyielding to the point of being obstinate and stubborn." I continue my battle with brain cancer and I am Obstinatus.


A limitless world to explore
unaware of the hell inside
the truth spirals down to my core,
unable to move on with pride.

The ash mixed together felt soft
yet pain, near forgotten, still burns
My eyes open to look aloft
A single tear falls down and churns

Sulking in wreckage

    Veiled in dirt

      I search in darkness, still dreaming,
      while sparks of salvation would flirt
      with fueled redemption gleaming.

Like a phoenix, born from the mound,
suffering held back, flames shielding
I do not have limits or bound

I rise up fully


Do you have a poem or work of art that you reconnected with after your diagnosis? Share the piece and its title in the comments below!

Photo courtesy of Jared Erondu.

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lawryde's picture
Andrew was diagnosed with a grade 2 Astrocytoma brain tumor in August 2014. He underwent surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy and the remaining tumor is stable. He is currently undergoing chemotherapy for radiation necrosis caused by the radiation treatment. He is 36 and lives with his wife and 3 kids in Milwaukee, WI.