How Are You Doing? This Post-Chemo Poem is Going Viral!
Photo Cred: Andrea Gibson Facebook Page

Andrea Gibson’s poem about their experience post-chemo is being shared by thousands online. So really… how are you doing?

 

Global (21 February 2022) – Because you don’t always have to answer “I’m fine” when someone asks how are you doing…

Andrea Gibson is an American poet and activist who live in Boulder, Colorado. Their poetry focuses on gender norms, politics, social reform, and the struggles LGBTQ people face in today’s society.

Gibson uses gender-neutral pronouns, specifically they/them/theirs. Many of their poems are about gender identity, such as “Swing Set” and “Andrew”.

Gibson has said, regarding gender, “I don’t necessarily identify within a gender binary. I’ve never in my life really felt like a woman and I’ve certainly never felt like a man. I look at gender on a spectrum and I feel somewhere on that spectrum that’s not landing on either side of that.”

Gibson was recently diagnosed with Chronic Lyme Disease, and they have spoken openly about their experiences with CLD – both in terms of physical suffering and in difficulty accessing care and treatment. They have worked towards spreading awareness of CLD.

Most recently, Gibson wrote a poem about their experience post-chemo, which is being shared by thousands online.

“Like most folks, when asked how I’m doing, I often respond with “fine” or “good” or another stock answer, perhaps assuming that the person asking isn’t really wanting the details. But as the details are what makes life – life – and as I suspect the people who have been asking recently genuinely would like some details about my post-chemo time, I decided to write out an answer in the shape of a poem.

As you read it, I hope you are inspired to spend some time today honouring the complexity and fullness of your experiences. Even if I only share my responses with myself, I find that diving deeper into “small talk” questions is a fantastic exercise in greeting my inner state with a listening ear.”

You can read it below…

For Those Who Have Been Asking, “How Are You Doing?”

I feel stronger than I ever have.

I feel softer than I ever have.

I feel like flexing my biceps

because I’ve never had biceps

until now. I feel like flexing

my singing voice because

I’ve never had this much

to sing about. I look in the mirror

and mistake my head for the moon.

My dark thoughts are 238,856 miles

away from me believing them.

I throw pride parades in my hallway.

I throw cry parties in the shower.

I throw tantrums I catch

with my own hands, hold them

so gently they turn to lullabies.

I sometimes wake up scared

in the middle of the night,

but then I’ll wake up

in the morning like an A.M radio,

humming the words to every song

I forgot I loved. I’m becoming

more comfortable with uncertainty

than I am certainty. I know one is a god

and the other is god’s opposite.

I want to learn EVERYTHING—guitar,

whittling, mountain climbing, calligraphy,

how to dance in an end zone

when the game isn’t over. I’ve watched

every video there is about how to survive

in the wilderness with nothing

but an ax and a handsaw.

And I’ve made every joke there is

about how many bunny rabbits

have sent me screaming back

into my home whenever I’m alone

in my yard at night. I have a brand new

affinity for making fun of myself—

making Fun of myself. I can’t believe

how much of my life I made unfun

of myself. I feel ancient and newborn

at once. I talk to the dead as much as I talk

to the living, but I’m more inclined

to take the advice of the dead.

They know Infinity and This Very Second

have the exact same voice.

Sometimes I get nervous about how little

I care to “make something of myself.”

It’s new for me to prefer the unmaking––

all my covers torn off by a dream I had

during the first nap I took in 19 years.

After the nap I danced for days

to Olivia Rodrigo and tried hard to think

of someone who has abandoned me,

but no one has. No one in the whole world.

No one in all my years of living.

I didn’t always think that. It may take me

some time to know how to explain.

A few days a week I take a chocolate bar

out of my backpack just to hold it

in my palm. It was a gift from a man

in the chemo room on Halloween.

I don’t know if he’s still alive. I just know

his wife was made of so much hope

she looked like a firework in the sky

above his chair. Somedays I think

I could put on the right pair of shoes

and sprint 2200 miles back

to my hometown without breaking

a sweat. Somedays I catch myself

running, literally running, from one room

of my house to the other. I have so much

energy I’m pretty sure I could stand

on my roof wind-milling my arms

and heat my home for a decade.

I can’t find my lifelong hypochondria

anywhere. It left me months ago

and hasn’t returned. If you find it

in a Lost & Found box, please

leave it there. I don’t need it,

and never did. My whole body

is a garden of soft growing

hairs. I root for each one

like a parent at a little league

game. I root for each one knowing

something that saves me over and over

to know—the growing is the home run.


Sources: Andrea Gibson | How are you doing? 
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Recognised as one of the Mail and Guardian’s Top 200 Young South African’s as well as a Primedia LeadSA Hero, Brent is a change maker, thought leader, radio host, foodie, vlogger, writer and all round good guy.

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