'It's Probably Nothing ...': Poet Micki Myers leaned on humor to get through breast cancer

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How do you describe having breast cancer surgery?

For Micki Myers, 46, of Squirrel Hill, it was writing a book of post-surgery poems titled "It's Probably Nothing ... (Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Implants)" (Simon and Schuster, $19.99).

The title comes from something women with breast cancer "hear all the time when going through the testing," Ms. Myers says.

"The nurses always say, 'Don't worry. It's probably nothing.' But it's never nothing. It's always something."

She now teaches English to middle school and high school students at Hillel Academy in Squirrel Hill and writes book reviews for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

In connection with her book's release this month, Ms. Myers will participate today in a daylong series of events for National Breast Cancer Awareness Month at Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC in Oakland. She will read from the book at 8 p.m. Nov. 19 at Coffee Buddha in Ross. She also will be attending events in Toronto and New York.

"I wrote this book because there are no other books like it," she says, noting that she checked out every one related to breast cancer at the library when she was diagnosed.

"There were no books of poetry and less material that takes a humorous look. ... I wanted to find all kinds of things that the books didn't meet.

"You overcome pain and overcome the treatments more quickly if you're capable of laughing at yourself."

Ms. Myers, who had been lecturing on literature and poetry at the University of Pittsburgh when she was diagnosed in May 2007, says one nurse told her she would recover because of her attitude.

" 'Ones with smiles get better faster. They're not miserable about it. A smile is a very good indicator of how well they will do,' " Ms. Myers says the nurse told her.

The poet and teacher was 39 when her cancer was found. Her two children, Javier, now 9, and Lucia, 11, were 3 and 5, respectively. Two months later, she underwent a double mastectomy and insertion of chest expanders. About a year later, Ms. Myers had a second operation in which the chest expanders, which had been filled with saline, were exchanged for breast implants.

Ms. Myers kept lecturing at Pitt after her surgeries. She describes how she was able to work in one poem, "Teaching on Percocets":

"... I wish I could tell you all about
how wild and crazy it is giving lectures
while amped up on serious painkillers,
and how much fun my students had
taking advantage of my compromised state,
or about how I eased my grading burden
by giving them all A's for putting up with me,
but after that second week, everything's a blur."

In "Recovery, a la Benjamin Button," she describes changes in her appearance as she recovered:

"At first, you look like a corpse
then a less dead corpse ...
then a seventy-year-old man with a crew cut ...
then one day,
the first of the new semester,
a student asks what classes you're taking
without knowing you're his instructor.
This is a true story."


Pohla Smith: psmith@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1228. First Published October 15, 2013 8:00 PM


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