Dancing with Breast Cancer: A Memoir in Poems

by Janay Cosner

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One out of eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer. What many breast cancer patients don't open up about, read about, or discuss are the fearful moments, the angry moments, and the sometimes funny moments that women experience, beginning with that first scary doctor's appointment.

Freezing-cold mammograms that flatten breasts like two fried eggs. Crushing loneliness. Nightmares about confronting mortality.

But in Dancing with Breast Cancer, Janay Cosner gets real about her journey with the disease. Through a series of poems, Cosner opens up and shares her experience. Each poem is a snapshot of her odyssey. What does it mean to be a survivor, these poems ask. What does it mean to be a warrior?

From diagnosis and surgery to chemotherapy and radiation to what is now her new normal, Cosner asks all her readers—patients, family members, friends, doctors, nurses—to join her in a raw and very real dance with cancer.

My head high, I shout,

I'm alive. My shoes start

to dance again to the rhythm of life.

Come dance with me.

Praise for Dancing with Breast Cancer

"I am going on vacation to the sick world," Janay Cosner announces in these courageous and compelling poems that detail her struggle with cancer. Startlingly evocative—what does cancer sound like? "the howl of the lone wolf"—and unflinching in their portrayal of illness, the poems push through self-pity toward affirmation: "I'm dancing now… / out of breath and glorious." Dancing with Breast Cancer is full of flourish and grace, darkly humorous, and surprisingly sensual and celebratory. Cosner has journeyed through a ravaged country to bring us this remarkable gift.

—Michael Waters, author of Celestial Joyride


Every woman who has been diagnosed with breast cancer will relate to the emotions, the drudgery, and the multiple steps they take while "dancing" with cancer. As a medical oncologist, I have treated many women with breast cancer. However, I never knew how they really felt till I read Janay's poems. They speak to me of the patients' pain, loss, fear, and daily struggles as well the hope of a future when they will be able to dance again with their partners and not with cancer. Ms. Cosner bares her soul so that we (the healthcare providers) can be better prepared to care for the "person" and not just the "cancer."

—Khalid Rehman, MD, FACP, medical oncologist and assistant professor of medicine at The New York Medical College


What’s most impressive about Janay Cosner's Dancing with Breast Cancer is her gutsy willingness to relive her ordeal from the first suspicious mammogram, through the traumas of treatment, to a wary recovery. Cosner has chosen poetry as the medium for her memoir, a choice that allows her to move swiftly yet with detail through the shifting phases of her illness, and all the accompanying emotions from horror and terror to humor and hope. Cosner is no sit-back survivor. She’s a savvy, sexy lady doing a defiant dance—a dance many women will recognize—a dance that will be eye-opening for everyone else.

—Joan Murray, author of Swimming for the Ark


I was hesitant to start reading Dancing with Breast Cancer because I usually don't read poetry. Once I started reading, I could not put it down.

—Dave


When reading Dancing with Breast Cancer, I felt I was walking every step of the way with Janay, feeling her pain, anger, frustration, and strength. Great read!

—Carol





















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