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Linda Defeudis

Lisa Shea

Life is Beautiful by Linda Defeudis

You wrote "Life is Beautiful - Poems of Survival after Cancer" while you were enduring treatment for your own breast cancer. Was there something that drew you into writing that first poem to start the process? Did you think at the time that you'd keep writing poetry throughout the treatment?

Linda: Actually, the very first poem "Uncertainty", was written years prior to my cancer diagnosis and treatment but I included it as I thought it fit, exactly, how I felt when first told I had cancer.

As you wrote more poems, did you find they helped in some way?

The next poem and subsequent poems were a therapeutic process for me to help me with my feelings and getting them out through writing. I was drawn to writing poems, therefore, as a helpful tool for me.

When you wrote the last poem in the book did you know at the time it'd be the last poem you wrote on that topic? Did you have a sense of closure? Or did you assume at the time that you might write more on the topic?

I did think I would continue writing, throughout my treatment, as it brought me comfort.

As I continued writing poems, I found that I felt the comradery of others dealing with the same problem, the disease, in mostly greater degrees than myself. It made me realize that I was one of the lucky ones. I had been spared and chosen as a voice, not only I for myself, but also for others.

As I wrote the last poem, "Survival' " I knew it would not be my last as I write when feelings come to me. I was sure I would have future feelings regarding cancer; whether it be in regards to myself or to someone else facing the disease.

At that point in time, however, the last poem did mark closure for the end of treatment and cancer's subsequent remission.

How did the ideas for the words and phrases in the poems come to you?

The words and phrases for the poems came to me from the heart, mostly when sitting in the waiting room, at the hospital, prior to each radiation treatment. This is when I thought the most about my cancer and about the cancer of other patients I encountered there. It was also a time of reflection of my luck of both early diagnosis and of having a lot of family support.

What advice would you offer to other people facing cancer?

The advice I would give to others facing cancer would be to try to not be overwhelmed by fear but to rather, just take one day at a time. I remember when first diagnosed, I couldn't even say the word "cancer." It was just so scary to me. I was told, by a counselor, that " your mind protects you." Meaning, I think, that it allows you to take small steps toward the knowledge and acceptance of cancer. Your mind does not allow you to be swallowed up by it. Perhaps that's why I couldn't say it at first. It took time to realize and accept cancer.

What advice do you have for aspiring poets?

My advice to aspiring poets would be to just WRITE whatever comes to mind and see what happens. You might surprise yourself! Remember, you can always critique your own work and learn to write more clearly and more discriminately with your word choices. The main focus should be to get your thoughts on paper. Thinking about rhyme, non-rhyme and cadence etc. can come secondary, in this process, I believe.

I really don't recall when I wrote my first poem but I think probably as a pre-teen. Everyone's experience with words and poems is different. Something draws one to write, in general, and then to arrange these thoughts into poems.

My desire to write, I believe, came at around age seven or eight , when I would write letters to my oldest sibling, a brother, who was away at college in Florida. This is when my true creative energy emerged as I wanted to please him. It was sort of a contest, between me and my two sisters, headed by my father, to see who could write the best letter. Of course, my father was the judge of our writing.

Sometime later my poems emerged out of this creativity and a desire to express my feelings in a more easily read, quick and concise manner. I thought poems were a good way to elicit and incorporate the feelings of others; perhaps to experience moments as I had.

Linda’s book can be found at:

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