On the fourteenth anniversary of 9/11—an event that caused their downtown apartment to become “suffused with the World Trade Center’s carcinogenic dust”—Dan O’Brien’s wife discovers a lump in her breast. Surgery and chemotherapy soon follow, and on the day of his wife’s final infusion, O’Brien learns of his own diagnosis. He has colon cancer and will need to undergo intensive treatment over the next nine months.
Our Cancers is a compelling account of illness and commitment, of parenthood and partnership. This spare and powerful sequence creates an intimate mythology that seeks meaning in illness while also celebrating the resilience of sufferers, caregivers, and survivors.
As O’Brien explains in an introduction, “The consecutiveness of our personal disasters, with a daughter not yet two years old at the start of it, was shattering and nearly silencing. At hospital bedsides, in hospital beds myself, and at home through the cyclical assaults of our therapies, these poems came to me in fragments, as if my unconscious were attempting to reassemble our lives, our identities and memories . . . as if I were in some sense learning how to speak again.”
PRAISE FOR OUR CANCERS
“[O’Brien] has produced an exquisite and terrible beaty in these pages.” —Stephen Wilson, The Times Literary Supplement
“Dan O’Brien’s collection has brought his experience of his wife’s and his own cancer into the realm of shared memory. Although deeply personal, his poetic memories transcend into the universal story of grief and caregiving.” —Megan Kuklis, The Fiddlehead
“[A] powerful [meditation] on being a husband, a father, and a human while dealing with the very real possibility that it could all come to an end.”—Katie Couric Media
“Our Cancers tells [O’Brien’s] truth not only skillfully but masterfully, making from pain a lasting chronicle of art that traces fragmentary moments of healing over time.” —J.D. Schraffenberger, North American Review
102 pp., 5 ½ x 8 ½
ISBN 978-1-946724-42-7 (pbk)
ISBN 978-1-946724-43-4 (ebook)