Written by Marcel Duclos
Reviewed by Nancy Eichhorn
There is no right way to approach the imminent death of a loved one with an incurable disease. Each must follow his or her own footfalls through the darkness that envelopes all through the stages of dying and death as well the passages through denial, anger, grief, surrender, acceptance, and in time, forgiveness. Faith and hope may companion resignation and collapse. The ‘will’ may want the patient to survive despite the odds. Yet, thoughts of the loss may actually eclipse the true resonance one feels when the loved one finally transitions, when the pain and suffering end, when medical interventions and hospice care are resolved. There may be thoughts of peace, of release—a final letting go and moving on.
Many find solace in fighting for a cause, raising money to find a cure, creating a foundation to support research and patient care. Others spread the word about the disease and its impact on people’s lives and turn to public speaking, audience motivation, workshop presentations. And some achieve all of this in and through their passion for poetry and prose.
Marcel Duclos dedicated over 45 years of his psychotherapeutic career to client care, consultation, instruction and supervision. He led nonprofit agencies specializing in crisis intervention, substance use disorder treatment, child abuse and domestic violence, all manner of trauma and homelessness. He is a lifelong student. His study includes philosophy, theology, developmental psychology, Jungian Archetypical Analysis, Core Energetic Evolutionary Therapy, EMDR, Body Inclusive Psychotherapy, Internal Family Systems Therapy, and Gnostic Christian spirituality. And, he’s co-authored four books with his dear friend and colleague, Connie Robillard, MA, LCMHC: Common Threads: Stories of Life After Trauma; Necessary Illusions: Musings by a Man and a Woman in Prose and Poetry; A Doorway in the Desert; and Cultivating Hope for Abuse Survivors: Watering Cracks in the Sidewalk.
Marcel wrote this latest book in honor of Connie. It is a collection of thirty poems, one written every day as she navigated her way through the last month with ocular melanoma as a companion.
According to the Ocular Melanoma Foundation website, OM for short, is an aggressive form of cancer of the eye diagnosed in approximately 2,000 adults annually in the United States. Similar to melanoma of the skin, OM is little understood—the exact cause is unknown. It is a silent killer. Approximately 50% of patients with OM will develop metastases by 10 to 15 years after diagnosis (a small percentage of people will develop metastases even later i.e. 20-25 years after their initial diagnosis). Metastatic disease is universally fatal. This 50% mortality rate is unchanged despite treatment advances in treating the primary eye tumor.
The Day of the First Poem
Connie’s husband emailed Marcel to say that her conditioned had worsened. Marcel decided that he would write her a poem each and every day from this moment forward. His motivation was in fact a response to an invitation she had offered “on more than one occasion”, one that he had resisted mightily years ago. He writes in his letter to her that very day in the introduction of his self-published book (Createspace) that “the need to take up your challenge, however belated, arises from the promptings of my inner world, a need you encouraged me to welcome and express in prose and poetry a few years into this millennium. At this moment, the desire emerges irresistible.”
Each day as he sat to write, the experience flowed as needed. The words themselves he revised before sending; the emotions, sensations, thoughts and feelings were preserved as written in the moment. The book itself is not meant to be a literary process as much as a heartfelt reach to “journey with” Connie “in a small but intimate way.” In his initial letter, he pledged: “I am prepared to write a thousand and more.”
“I did not filter my thoughts,” he writes. “I did not screen the images, the insights, the feelings. At least I did not do so intentionally. I fully admit to having aligned at times with the chorus of my cowering parts, swallowed my loss alone, put on a mask of serenity.”
On Day 18 (since the unexpected email) Marcel writes:
I DUMB PREFER DELUSIONS
You are asleep when I call
In this early afternoon
Because I submit to fright,
I dumb prefer delusions.
You are weaker. Sleep Mostly.
No interest in much:
Meds, the cares of this world.
Your eldest, wordless, grieves you.
I search in vain, No thoughts, no
Sentiments to match the breath
Locked in his chest. Together,
We end the call. We choke on grief.
On Mother’s Day, May 10, 2015, Marcel writes his final poem entitled, Died an Hour Ago.
His intention when putting the poems together in book form was to offer it “for the benefit of The Ocular Melanoma Foundation as a tribute to one who lived courageously, eyes wide open, always curious, and abidingly compassionate toward others as she hospitably embraces her prognosis.”
The Foundation, a 501(c) (3) Public Charity, was established in 2003 by Robert C. Allen, an eye surgeon, and his son. Their goal was to offer a lifeline for ocular melanoma patients where nothing else existed before. Few resources were available for patients. Even Dr. Allen struggled to find information on the latest forms of treatment and promising immunotherapy trials. “OMF’s mission is to accelerate and enhance scientific research, advocacy, and awareness of ocular melanoma and to provide education and support to patients, their families, and healthcare professionals.” According to the OMF website, “This orphan status also meant that minimal public funds were available to support the programs OMF wished to roll out across its split mission: support and educate patients (help in the now) while backing scientific research to one day see a cure (help in the future). Given the limited financial resources available, especially from the public sphere, the OMF founders knew they needed to take a disciplined, capital efficient approach to enable OMF to be sustainable over the long run. They built the website (now the #1 destination online for OM-related patient information) themselves; and today host it for $8/month.”
Any and all monies raised from the sale of the book are ear marked for the OMF. The book is available on Amazon
Click for information about Ocular Melanoma
Donations may be made directly to:
PO Box 29261
Richmond, VA 23242
This blog post was originally written in Comic Sans MS as the font and a bold 16 to honor the visually impaired just as Marcel chose to do in his book.