“Unbuttoning” My Cancerversary

Extending my sincerest gratitude to Julian Parker-Burns Photography for capturing these candid moments of me at Luthier’s Co-Op during “Unbuttoned, An Evening of Spoken Word!”

Writing short stories and creating poetry is something that, throughout most of my life, has helped me come through the darkest of circumstances with a healed heart – however bruised it may be. When I began my cancer journey, it was no different. 

This blog allowed me to connect with all of you, to not feel so alone on the road to wellness. For that, I can never begin to thank you enough  – for reading my posts, for following me on my journey, for sharing your own stories of how mine has impacted you – I am so truly grateful.

After listening to a “School of Greatness” podcast with Lewis Howes and Rupi Kaur, a few months back, something in me shifted. Rupi’s story inspired me. As much as I had spent the past year unearthing my truest self – another part lay hidden, beneath the layers of motherhood, being a woman, working hard and achieving my goals. A part of me lay buried beneath the ash of pain and sorrow, waiting to be brushed off with life anew.

A few days after listening to the podcast, a completely unrelated conversation with a friend led me to discovering a local open mic night. It offered poetry in the beginning and live music afterward, the second Tuesday of every month. It was pretty clear what I had to do.

The first time I sat down to write that poem for open mic night, was beneath the shade of a large maple tree. That is, until a group of ants decided to use me as their personal playground. I quickly moved my blanket out onto the open field. My best friend Emmylou from England was a few hundred feet in back of me, sitting on park grass, journaling away. I remember how warm the sun felt on my back, beating down without a cloud in the sky.

I was nervous about writing again. Would my poetic muse still be there for me after all this time? I had abandoned her when she was always by my side. For a good five to ten minutes, I heard that old “worrier” voice in my head, “You’re not a poet anymore, it’s been too long.” Followed by “You’ll never have time for this, it can’t be done.”

I hadn’t come this far, to give up now. I regrouped, put Lindsey Stirling on in my earbuds, took a breath and that’s when I heard her. My inner Warrior shouting to me, “It can be done, you’ve got this, MAKE the time for it!”

Like a distanced lover, who you never really had a falling out with, but instead just drifted apart from – my poetic muse embraced me with open arms. I did finish my poem that afternoon and read it that night, aloud at that open mic event. It was INCREDIBLE!

Last week I returned for open mic again. The poem I prepared was “A Letter to Cancer,” about both the struggles of treatment and the people who pulled me through. Just minutes before going on stage, it hit me that it was also my three-year Cancerversary. What a beautifully raw, emotionally charged, empowering way to celebrate being three years in remission!


Dear Cancer,

You thought You damned me,

condemned me to death.

But instead…

You breathed into my life

a power I had yet to know.

More fulfilling than the first breath that, 

into newborn lungs, flows. 

Dear Cancer,

You gave me,

bee sting pinches

for port access

just below my collar bone.


every other Tuesday

that took away my glow. 

Nine months of…










My son lent me his strength.

My daughter guided me with her light.

You thought I’d give up

when I got you.

But I had butterfly kisses

and little league baseball games to go to.

Berry bubblegum serenity

lingering on my little one’s

freshly shampooed hair.

Dear Cancer,

 Chemotherapy caused me pain…

physical pain.

I walked on invisible shards

of broken glass

each time bare toes touched cold concrete.

Put on socks

to go in the basement.

Wore gloves

just to wash clothes.

Dear Cancer,

I had enough!

In spite of You

I didn’t give up.

One week on treatment,

the next at the gym.

Protein shakes,

power lifting,

then chemotherapy again.


5 pounds on.


ten more.

Dear Cancer,

I’ve gained weight now. 

You have…

forged a fighter,

within me.

A survivor, 

an inspirer. 

Dear Cancer,

I dont hate You


You thought You damned me,

condemned me to death.

But I see now,

You were never my disease…

You were..

my CURE.


2 thoughts on ““Unbuttoning” My Cancerversary

  1. Amber,

    We don’t really “know” eachother, but I have followed your story after reading about you quite awhile ago through Ann Derosier (sp?) facebook posts. I was/still am amazed at your strength and courage in dealing with your cancer. I was diagnosed yesterday with breast cancer. When my MD first told me (via late day phone call), she was saying it was DCIS (ductal carcinoma in-situ), and was rather positive that it had not become invasive. At yesterdays official appointment, she explained that after receiving all reports it is in fact invasive. The extent is still unknown until surgery. The reason I am telling you this is not to be a stranger giving waaaaaayyy too much info, but to be a person who after first hearing of my diagnosis, thinking of, of all things, you. I thought that you were so honest and so strong. I also thought that if I could get through this with half of the strength (not to mention grace & beauty) that you have, then I would be very happy.

    I wish you all the best and I Thank You for being such an amazing inspiration.

    Lisa Bishop


    1. Lisa!

      Yes, we have had conversations in the past since first connecting. I “know” who you are girlfriend! Your vulnerability in sharing your diagnosis here has moved me to tears. If you want to ever talk one on one or meet for coffee or need a friend to be a sounding board or ANYTHING please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. You’re not alone in this, please know that. You’ve at least got me girlfriend!!! Please let me know how the surgery goes and how you are doing. One of my aunts was diagnosed with cancer when I was a child. She was given 6 months to live and lived for another 15 years plus. I’ve found with these things that no matter what the doctor tells you, your personal outlook is what matters most. If you’re in a place emotionally, where no matter what, you have a grateful heart and focus on the good in your life – it won’t feel like such a burden, though i know at times it will feel heavy. I am here for you, thank you for sharing your journey with me.

      -Amber xoxo

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