Welcome from Amy D. Unsworth

Language, Literature, Learning & Life.


I left work rather abruptly after my diagnosis in January. I loved my windowless office at the university; it was my first work office of my own. Sure, I’ve held other jobs but none of them came with a space to call one’s own. The small room in the less traveled hallway meant that I was on my way to what I’d longed for: a life in academia.

I moved out on a weekend when no one was about; I didn’t think I could speak to anyone without crying. I didn’t want to have to talk about cancer or my treatment. The first cancer diagnosis was hard enough; the second was distressing and heartrending because this time I knew what to expect. I knew I’d have to give up teaching for the immediate future; life would shrink to treatments and doctor visits. Goodbye students, office, friends at the university, peace. I threw everything in storage boxes and we brought them home and put them in a closet. My books, my notes, my lesson plans, paperclips, highlighters: everything.

Now fall is here and I’ve been organizing. I opened the closet and began to sort through my papers. I went to the old office downstairs and brought up my poetry-writing papers and found all of my Army -wife- volunteering paperwork. The three stacks of belongings feel like evidence of three different lives. I have always had strong boundaries between different aspects of myself. I imagine that this is good for focus. When I am writing I am consumed by it, when I teach I am dedicated, when I volunteer I am committed, when researching and thinking critically: riveted.

You wouldn’t think that sorting through pens and papers and binder clips would elicit so much emotion. But the task has been a challenge for the emotional weight. I must be an imagist. Objects carry meaning for me. Manila folders: writing classroom and the flood of my student’s faces. Binder clips: reading final portfolios with my peers in graduate school. Notes and books: the pleasure of learning something new. A poster of a Monet painting: the moments when graduate school was overwhelming and I sat and stared into the painting to find peace. Sticky tabs: the excitement of marking pages of poetry as I planned my classes and the nervousness of standing in front of 30 strangers and declaring my passion. A small collection of floppy disks: the editors’ meetings and the informal conversations about poetry with my poet friend Dennis. A red chair, a bowl of silk geraniums: the silence of my office early in the morning before students as I prepared for the day.

Sometimes it is hard to breathe, but I have been making headway. I am preparing everything for the future and for the opportunities that the future must certainly bring.


Anonymous said...


I'm sorry to hear. I do wish you well and am certainly sending prayers and positive thoughts your way. Do keep us informed.

Take care,

Amy Unsworth said...

Oh Nate,

It's not a "sorry" post. It's a "I'm finally being able to act after all these months" post. And about being able to look back without breaking down and to look forward and believe in the future once again.

I've been finished with active treatment now for 2 months. I'm picking up the pieces.

Thanks for stopping by and for your kind thoughts.

My Best--

Dick said...

No, not a sorry post - it's courageous & positive. All good wishes to you, Amy.