As I was working on my new book, Materfamilias, I was diagnosed with an HER2+ form of breast cancer. My prognosis is relatively good: 85% of people who undergo the treatment I’m now in the middle of are still alive after ten years. But the possibility of being in the other 15%, along with the news that I have the CHEK2 genetic mutation, which raises the odds that I’ll get another cancer, has changed my sense of priorities. It seems urgent to me now to live every day as meaningfully and joyfully as I can. And as I strive to do so, I’m amazed at the spiritual gifts I’ve received from many, many people. Kevin was one of the first.

Kevin Knows Color

For Kevin Thurston


Will almost certainly take

The twelve-years’ growth I love to feel

Flowing past my shoulders, almost to my waist

The tresses that are as much a part of who I am

As an organ, or a limb.

Before that happens, I want to make a choice.

I don’t know your personality he says

But you’re having surgery in October

It’s breast cancer awareness month

So while we’re going short

Want to go—pink?

He opens the salon in the evening

And we make it a party

With friends and kids, my husband, his mom

The rabbi, her baby in tow

We say a blessing, drink some wine, and watch him work.

Under his hands it feels safe

Each snip of the scissors not a loss

But a step on a journey

A movement toward something new.

In the end, when I look up and see

My face framed by his fingers

As he arranges a tendril or two

I think: she is hot

She looks like she has chutzpah

And my children just laugh and laugh.

He says to come back Thursday

Because he’s a crazy colorist

And wants to pink it up even more

But I find his madness divine

I feel like Sarah

Giving birth when she thought it was impossible

Laughing with her midwives

Beneath a desert sky.

–Kimberly Gladman Jackson

from Materfamilias