I remember the shock I felt when I learned that my friend, Cristina Trapani-Scott, had been diagnosed with breast cancer. She was 38 at the time and her children were only eight and nine years old. That is why, today, I am thrilled to celebrate her 10-year survival anniversary and the publication of her first chapbook, The Persistence of a Bathing Suit.
To me, Cristina has always met her challenges with humor and honesty, and her poems reflect this ability. Her poetry collection “looks at the in-between space,” Cristina said. “Finding out you have cancer, it changes everything – my body, my perspective. It felt like everyone around me was getting on with life and I was in this space.”
“The way I looked at things changed and it was instant,” she said. “The title poem definitely speaks to adjusting to who I am now, with half a boob, all of this extra weight from treatment and bags under my eyes. It seems superficial, but it really hits you.”
Even harder is facing the unknown and continuing with your life, which can seem the same on the surface yet is so completely changed. “There’s this lingering thought, in the background - what if I’m not here for my kids and how do I survive in that knowledge and move on?” said Cristina. “You have all this support going through it, but once you’ve survived, you have this whole other thing and you’re more alone. I’d think, how do I do this?”
Cristina does touch on her time in treatment, but focuses more on her life after treatment was over. “It was more about living every day, raising my kids, paying bills,” she said. “Some of my poems take a humorous look at cancer. One is titled, A Day at the Chemo Spa. As funny as it seems, that was my one time a week where I could sit and be waited on. The nurses would bring me warm blankets and cups of hot cocoa.”
Other poems focus on her children and her relationship with her husband, Jay, whom she calls her solid soldier and sentinel.
“To be honest, I didn’t have this ‘embrace life moment,’” Cristina said. I’m guessing, though, that through writing and walking her dogs and cooking gourmet meals with Jay, through watching her son surf and her daughter sing and all sorts of everyday life events, Cristina learned, as she said, that there are no ‘shoulds’, there’s only the constant coming to terms with just being.
Author Laura Kasischke wrote a lovely review of Cristina’s chapbook:
This collection is a celebration of life, an acknowledgement of heart-ache, a searing series of poems that manages “to step out of the in-between / where past and present twist / like filaments around each / other…” Cristina Trapani-Scott’s poetry is musical, visual, sensual, and full of brilliant observations and precisely-rendered moments. This is work you’ll read again and again, and want to share. The world this poet brings to the page is odd, and very lovely, and her poetry is as full of risks as the act of loving one another is, and just as important, remarkable, and full of big and little miracles.
If you’ve never read a book of poetry, I would encourage you to try this one, especially if you or someone you know has had cancer. You can pre-order your copy at Finishing Line Press here.
Photo Credit:Photographer Paul Trapani, Cristina's brother, took the compelling shot of his wife, model Lee Ann Berry , for her book cover.