Things I Didn’t Know I Loved

I want to share excerpts from a powerful poem written by 14 year-old cancer patient Jamie Connors. Jamie wrote the poem from her room at the Dana-Farber Cancer Center in Boston in March 2004.

Things I Didn’t Know I Loved
(Jamie Connors)

Fourteen years old
I’m sitting in a wheelchair
Being pushed by a nurse down a stark white corridor
She stops to get my chart

I close my eyes
I’m running
Muscles flexing, adrenaline pumping
Sweat trickling down my forehead as the sun beats down on my back
No one can catch up
Speedy Gonzalez
Pure ecstasy
The best high in the world…

I open my eyes to the cold, harshly-lit hallway before me
My blanket slips
I adjust myself,
It’s extremely difficult
I’m practically out of breath
All seventy five pounds of me ache
Only skin and bones
I knew I loved running
I never knew I loved muscle,
Never knew I loved fat

My nurse comes back
She starts wheeling me again
We’ve been passing so many people
They’re all staring, but I ignore them
My mind is wandering
I never knew I loved daydreaming
I’m everywhere and nowhere all at once

The chair is still moving
But my mind comes to a complete halt
I feel myself flush
Don’t look at me, don’t look at me…
They look at me
I smile and look at something else, anything else.

I close my eyes
I’m walking into a crowded room,
Feeling all eyes upon me
I smile humbly, but it’s a lie,
I’m hot
I know I look good
I open my eyes
People are staring
The boys aren’t smiling back
Children, not knowing any better, point
Like I’m some animal in the zoo…
I never knew I loved blending into anonymity.

I fiddle with my hat
I know I look strange
I’m bald,
I have no eyebrows,
No eyelashes
To be honest, I don’t think I look that bad bald
Some people encourage me to embrace it
When I’m out in public
With everyone staring
I wish I could hide all of me under the hat
But when I’m all alone
I’ll look in the mirror and smile
I always knew I loved my hair
I never knew I’d love it gone

I never knew I loved fresh air
I take a deep breath of artificial oxygen
Trying to remember the taste of happiness
A cool refreshing September morning
Leaves changing
Dewy grass
Hospital air tastes horrible.

Turning a corner, I rub my eyes
The florescent lights are so harsh
I never knew I loved the sun
I close my eyes
I’m on a picnic
My mother is making sandwiches
Singing the wrong words to a Beatles song
My sister is cheerfully picking dandelions
The breeze is cool
But the sun is so warm and protecting
I feel so content,
Everything is right in the world…
I open my eyes
Nothing is right.

A lady walks by with a tray of food
A hot dog and french-fries
The smell makes me nauseous
I try to hide my disgust, but it’s hard
Cafeteria food, no,
Hospital cafeteria food
I never knew I loved my mother’s home cooking
Pans crashing
Earsplitting screams
Smoke and flames
But finally a delicious meal
I don’t think I’ll ever beg for pizza again.

My nurse leans over
She asks me how I’m feeling…
“I’m fine, thanks”
She smiles
So sweet and caring
I feel so safe in her care
I love her;
I love all of my nurses.
I never knew I’d love lying to a nurse

I see a little boy
He has cancer
So small and skinny
A little Red Sox cap covering his little bald head
He looks up at me and smiles
In so much pain and still smiling
It makes me smile.
They’ll do that to you,
Those kids with cancer…They know when you’re scared
When you’re in pain
Feeling insecure and all alone
That’s when they sneak up on you
And smile their beautiful innocent smiles
I never knew I loved how much a smile can say
It’s going to okay
I know what you’re going through
Be brave
Be strong.
They give me strength
I hope I’m able to give someone
What that little boy has just given me.

I’m fourteen years old
I’m sitting in a wheelchair
As a nurse is pushing me down a stark white corridor
Just me and the nurse
Nothing to look at
No one to think about, but myself
I never knew loved myself
Never knew I’d love doing whatever I could to save myself
Because I love myself so much.


Talk about perspective. Each time I have read her poem to an audience, it has understandably had a powerful impact.

Jamie passed away three years later.