For Survivors of Hysterectomy (A Poem)

Janet Ruth Heller's vulnerable and moving poem about women who have survived hysterectomy. She calls it a secret sisterhood.

We have survived the knife
That severed our wombs
From our reluctant bodies.

We have survived mornings of pain,
Afternoons when it was hard to stay awake,
And nights of fretful sleep.

We have survived the jeers of strangers
And the blank stares of friends
When we try to define our deformity.

We have survived our self-doubt,
Our worry that we’re no longer feminine,
Our confusion, our obsession, our despair.

Gradually, we find other women
Who share our loss
And we comfort one another.
We are a secret sisterhood.

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Janet Ruth Heller

Janet Ruth Heller, Ph.D., is president of the Michigan College English Association. She has published three poetry books: Exodus (WordTech Editions, 2014), Folk Concert: Changing Times (Anaphora Literary Press, 2012), and Traffic Stop (Finishing Line Press, 2011). The University of Missouri Press published her scholarly book, Coleridge, Lamb, Hazlitt, and the Reader of Drama (1990). Fictive Press published Heller’s middle-grade chapter book about sibling rivalry, The Passover Surprise (2015). Her children’s book about bullying, How the Moon Regained Her Shape (Arbordale, 2006; rpt. 2012), has won four national awards. Her website is

8 Responses

  1. Dear Vironika Tugaleva,

    Thank you for tweeting my poem to my followers recently. I’m so glad that you appreciate this poem about a difficult experience for me. Best wishes for the spring!

  2. Claudia Vidal says:

    Wow! Your words are powerful. Thank you for sharing 🙂

    • Dear Claudia Vidal,

      Thank you for your comment. I think that women have trouble talking about issues like the ones that I tackle in this poem. I want to open up more conversations about the problems of infertility and our feelings about gynecological surgery.

      Best wishes to you for 2018!


  3. Dear Karin,

    I appreciate your comment very much. Although one in every nine women has trouble with infertility, very few creative writers discuss this very personal topic. I have always tried to discuss difficult subjects in my work, and I have encouraged other women to discuss hard topics. Thank you for your kindness and support! Janet

  4. Devorah says:

    I can barely imagine what it must be like to go through this. Thanks for sharing the poem which I’m sure readers have found to be comforting.

    • Dear Devorah,

      Thank you so much for your comment on my poem. I have been trying to get this poem published for a long time, and I am very grateful to Vironika Tugaleva for posting my poem on The Real Us. I am lucky to have a lot of nieces and nephews and great-nieces and great-nephews. Also, I often read my book about bullying, discuss why bullying is so hurtful, and do creative writing workshops in schools, which means that I see a lot of children.

      Best wishes for your own creativity! Janet

  5. Karin says:

    Thank you for expressing and sharing your feelings, Janet. Karin

    • Dear Karin,

      I really appreciate your comment. Even though about one in nine women has trouble with infertility, very few creative writers discuss this topic. Infertility is very personal and perhaps embarrassing to discuss. I have always tried to tackle difficult topics in my writing. I appreciate your support very much!

      Best wishes for your own life and creativity! Janet

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