Welcome to this week’s edition of Sunday Morning Lyricality, featuring a breast cancer story-poem by Minnesota writer, Hedy Tripp.

“In the spring of 1996, I was diagnosed with stage one intraductal breast cancer and had undergone a modified radical mastectomy. I am a breast cancer survivor, and so far, am still cancer free. In my research, I found that Asian American women are the least likely group to have a mammogram done, and 41% are diagnosed when the cancer has metastasized (spread beyond the breast). This results in higher death rates. As an immigrant woman, I learned from studies that I am more likely to get breast cancer than US-born Asian American women. Cancer led me to spoken word, and I’ve presented throughout the state of Minnesota, across the country, and even in Cambodia. I emphasize the need for early detection. I’ve also used my experience and work to bring awareness and push for policy changes to increase research that includes all ethnic groups within the Asian American diaspora. I have advocated for more funding to provide culturally competent outreach to Asian American communities. I am an immigrant Asian American woman and this is my breast cancer story.”

Hedy Tripp

My Breast
Hedy Tripp

My Husband holds my hand

No…It’s not true
Why me?
It can’t be happening…
My Husband holds my hand

Why, why cancer?
What did I do?
There was no lump, no pain…
Are you sure?
My Husband holds my hand

Would I lose my breast?
Would I be radiated?
Chemotherapeed? Poisoned?
Would I die?
My Life Partner holds my hand

I see death passing by
She stops at the bed’s edge
And shakes her head
It is not yet time…
My Lover holds my hand

Has the cancer invaded?
the other cells of my body?
Or just those few clusters
In my left breast?
My Black Husband still holds my hand

My breast that nursed three babies
Their sweet succulent lips suckling
Their very first drink of human life

A woman’s breast
Source of infinite pleasure
Yet conjured into sexual fantasies
Swollen in pornographic ecstasies

My breast
Cut and Assaulted
Mammogrammed and mastectomized
Radiated and Poisoned]
But … My breasts do not define me
I am beautiful, I am a woman and I am whole.

*****

Hedy Tripp is an elder leader and one of the founders of the St. Cloud, MN chapter of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (www.napawf.org). NAPAWF St. Cloud chapter is a progressive Pan-Asian, multigenerational, mixed-race and LBTQ inclusive group that has been active in Central Minnesota since 2005.  She was the former Chair of NAPAWF’s national governing board and one of the NAPAWF delegates to the first United State of Women in Washington D.C. in June 2016.  She is a retired lecturer in Asian American Studies at St. Cloud State University (SCSU) and continues her work as co-facilitator of the Anti-Racism workshops hosted by SCSU. Hedy identifies as an Asian American and ethnically Singaporean Eurasian and uses she/her/hers pronouns.  She is a wife, mother and grandmother to a fiercely social justice activist Black and multicultural family.

“My Breast” from The Power of Me: MinneAsian Stories Graphic Book ©2020, published by Coalition of Asian American Leaders. Appears with the permission of Hedy Tripp. (Buy The Power of Me) (Read More About The Power of Me)

*****

How to Build a Caring Community through Poetry

Would you like to connect with caring people and build community? Are you ready to invest in real-life, meaningful conversations with real people? You don’t have to write poetry to build community around the wisdom-power of poetry. Join the Bodega, (Lyricality’s Read Poetry 2020 Program) featuring Su Hwang’s award winning collection of poems, Bodega.

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Click this link to find out how to “Join the Bodega” — with resources for book groups, individual readers, and teachers.