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The Mal O’Donnell poetry archive

Mal O’Donnell lives in Cardiff and has prostate cancer. He writes poems about his experiences.

The poem The waiting room

The waiting room or the outpatients in a cancer hospital are not like any other hospital, there is only one reason people are there, just saying the word is enough to frighten most people, but attending a cancer hospital over months and years can really wear you down, I wrote this poem hoping to convey, how hard it can be for people to show how they really feel, in a room filled with fear, anxiety, stress, hopes, doubts and wishes, while waiting for good news or bad.

It’s hard to find love

On show in this place

Backs against the wall

Stiff upper lip

Don’t let your emotions

Start to slip

If the floodgates start to open

You know they won’t stop

So, we must stick together

Before we go over the top

Let’s talk about the weather

It really looks like a nice day

But don’t look too far ahead

Storm clouds could be gathering

Inside your head

I can’t sit next to you or you or you

And invade your space

The subject you want to talk about

Is written all over your face

All the words fly around

We are just wasting time

So we can slowly move up

To the front of the line

When our name is called

No words left to say

We are going in

To find out

If it really is a sunny day

Same Old Clothes Same Green Light

My first day of radiotherapy had been a shambles, everything has been running late the waiting room was crowded, I didn’t know what to expect this was the start of four weeks of treatment, I arranged with the staff to stay in my car and they would call me when they were ready for me, giving me time to get my head around what was happening to me and to think about the one person who I needed at this time.

Same clothes same green lights

All the way

Same wait

It’s a de`ja` vu day

Sat in the car listened to music

Wait for the call

It’s changed no stress

No messing with my head

That first day has been

Put to bed

Now the routine of

The quiet man

Just time to try

And understand

What is happening

To me

To sit and think what

Has brought me

To this place

This space inside my


Filled with questions

All unsaid

I have come so far

Without the love who

Stood by me

And made me see

Where I should always


How I wish I could see

Your face

Hold your hand

For you to take command

Of me

To tell me what to do

With a smile or a frown

That told me

You would never

Let me down


Being told you have cancer is something you never wanted to hear, being the first to know, you now have the unenviable job of telling those around you, in most cases the reaction to the initial shock is one of help and support however, some times the people you thought you could rely on, can let you down at the hardest of times.

Why did you say?

You would give me a call

Give me a call

Why did you say it?

When you really

Didn’t mean it

You really

Didn’t mean it

At all

You left me

On the ledge

On the edge

Thinking I had

A friend

Who I could

Depend on

Some one to

Lean on

Some one to

Take the pain


For an hour

For a day

Some one I could

Say you understand

How it is

Now I know they

Were all just words

Crumbs you feed

The birds

Now your gone

I’m left to

Carry on

Looking for a crumb

Of comfort

On my own


When you start radiotherapy treatment you are assigned to a certain machine the number of the machine, I was assigned to was LA5, into my third week of radiotherapy you start wondering what is happening to me.

So here I go

Into the place

Where dreams are

Unable to flow

The lights are dim

The machine set free

Its power now

Focused on me

It saps my strength

It plays with my


It makes me sick

Turns my stomach

And makes me find

The things I thought

I’d left behind

The things I left


The things I wish

I’d Put to bed

Lying there with time

To spare

To wonder what

Is happening to me

Will I be the man

I used to be