Thrive by IU Health

September 14, 2023

Patient celebrates end of cancer treatment, pens poem about survivorship 

IU Health North Hospital

Patient celebrates end of cancer treatment, pens poem about survivorship 

Written by Emma Avila, epackard1@iuhealth.org, writer for IU Health’s Indianapolis Suburban Region   

During radiation treatment at IU Health Joe & Shelly Schwarz Cancer Center, Joan Martinez found solace in poetry.    

Joan Martinez went in for a routine mammogram in early 2023. By the end of March, she had a diagnosis that changed her life: invasive lobular breast cancer.    

Since she lives in Huntington, she began her treatment in the Ft. Wayne area. She was referred to IU Health University Hospital, where she underwent surgery to remove the tumor in her left breast as well as reconstructive surgery.    

Her oncologist recommended Joan undergo radiation treatment after the surgery. She was referred to Dr. Namita Agrawal, a radiation oncologist at the IU Health Joe & Shelly Schwarz Cancer Center in Carmel, since the facility is closer for Martinez.    

“I knew IU Health would be able to do the job well since they did the surgery,” she said. “It was a very good experience. I had complete confidence in Dr. Agrawal and the radiology staff.”   

Martinez underwent 15 rounds of radiation between July 5 and July 27, the day she rang the bell to signal the end of her radiation treatment.    

“I’m doing well and my prognosis is good. There is a very good chance I will not have a reoccurrence,” she said.   

During her time in treatment, Martinez found solace in writing about her experience. She began a poetry class at a local facility at the end of June.   

“The first night, the instructor asked us to do some free writing. I had thought of nothing but breast cancer for three months,” she said. “The writing group challenged me to look for a metaphor so people could find some commonality."

She found that metaphor in the Amazon warrior women.    

“Part of their myth is that they burned or cut off their right breasts to steady their bow,” she said. “Writing during my radiation treatments was therapeutic for me, even though it was very emotional at the time.”   

When Martinez rang the bell at the end of her radiation treatment, she had the poem on her phone.    

“When I rang the bell, I believe one of the staff members asked if I was going to celebrate that night. I replied that I wasn’t going to celebrate with my husband that night because I was going to a writing group and we would celebrate in a day or two,” she said. “Someone asked, ‘Oh, you write?’ I said, ‘Yes, I actually wrote a poem about this experience and have it on my phone would you like to hear it?’ They all said yes, and then I read it. I had not planned on doing it at all. It just happened spontaneously.”   

Afterward, the team was so moved by Martinez’s poem that she shared it with Dr. Agrawal to share with the rest of the team.    

Now, she hopes her poem may help other women going through a similar experience.   

“It’s natural to feel alone, but as you go through the process, you’ll be amazed at the support you get from so many people,” she said. “You are not alone.”   

Here is the poem Martinez wrote:   

Survivors, B.C.  

No wonder they fear us,  

We Warrior Women  

Of the Amazon. 

  

We grasp, raise, and draw our bows 

Close into our breastless bodies  

To steady our shot.  

Trained on the invaders,  

We relax our fisted hands  

And release our arrows into the sky.  

They arc towards our enemies, 

Burned, bloodied, and poisoned, 

We are undeterred.  

We ring the tribal bell, 

A new fierceness coursing  

Through our veins. 

Astride our steadfast mounts,  

We gallop together toward 

Wholeness.   

J. Martinez 

July 2023 

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