Don’t Turn Away: Poems About Breast Cancer
book review by Esther Altshul Helfgott, Ph.D.

Don't Turn Away: Poems About Breast Cancer
by Patricia Wellingham-Jones
2003, paperback, 21 pages, $4.00
PWJ Publishing
Box 238
Tehama, CA. 96090

Patricia Wellingham-Jones, author of a twenty-poem chap book, “Don’t Turn Away: Poems About Breast Cancer,” has written a spirited and courageous account of her breast cancer experience. From her first discovery of a lump in her left breast through the doctor’s diagnosis and a mastectomy, Wellingham-Jones shares the joy of living each day, while at the same time undergoing treatment for this disease that has claimed her grandmother and friends. The author gives me, a woman who does not have cancer (so far), strength to move forward in my own aging process.

Wellingham-Jones’ poems sing the note of the baby robin learning to fly. All the while she confronts the loss of one small/huge piece of herself, there is a newness of spirit and tone in her chest that spurs her to ask the nurse for her red notebook and black pen. Wellingham-Jones is a woman who remembers not to whine (not that there is anything wrong with whining) at the moment of swallowing her daily dose of tamoxifen.

In “Estrogen Free,” the poet confides that “sweating is better than cancer,” and on the day that she dons her first good new bra, she recalls in the poem “Put A Sock In It,” her pre-teen self padding her mother’s brassiere. Out of the corner of her eye, watching the twinkle in her father’s, she pulls on her older sister’s best sweater and smoothes “my front into place” enjoying her “mother’s gasp” and her sister’s “shriek.”

The poem that might have been most heart-breaking, “Don’t Turn Away,“ about love-making after surgery, brings my hands to my heart in a love for this poet whose life record gives others courage to write on.

Read “Don’t turn Away: Poems About Breast Cancer.” You will want to keep it on your shelf and order a copy for your favorite library.

Editor's Note: October is both Breast Cancer Awareness month AND Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness month. While you wear that bright pink ribbon that is so readily available and recognized, I hope you also proudly display that blue & yellow one right next to it. When people ask what the other ribbon is for, you can share with them, the story of a child you loved and lost all too soon. With all the awareness events, it can be a busy and overwhelming month. So more than anything, take good care of you this month!! Raising the awareness for both causes should also be about taking better care of ourselves as we move through this world at large!!

Esther offers writing groups at Cancer Lifeline in Seattle. It's a wonderful place with women's collage art all over the walls, an open art studio, gardens, yoga, writing to heal, caregivers' groups, and more.  You can check it out at


Loss  | Vashon | Services | Art | Poetry | Store | Contact

© 1999 KotaPress All rights reserved.  ISSN 1534-1410
Please direct comments regarding this web site to