Poet uses humor to cope with disease

Milaca resident Brenda Rueckert’s story is a stark reminder that colon problems are certainly not just a “man’s disease.” In fact, colon cancer affects women in almost equal numbers — 75,000 American women will be diagnosed with the disease each year, and more than 26,000 will die of colon cancer.

For Rueckert, the statistics didn’t give comfort during times of treatment and uncertainty when she faced her own cancer scare. But it did inspire her to share her experiences through the creativity and wit those who know the enthusiastic Milaca Public Schools paraprofessional have come to appreciate.

Rueckert’s first book, “Potty Poetry #2,” was released earlier in June. The embarrassment, discomfort, pain and anxiety that accompanies colon diseases and its treatments are laid out in no-holds-bar poetry, riddled with humor and wise cracks — Rueckert’s signature form of coping.

“That’s my personality. I could have taken the dark side and been really down in the dumps [she’s also a big fan of puns],” Rueckert said. “But I chose to take the lighter side.”

Although she didn’t set out to publish a book, Rueckert said she has always enjoyed writing poetry and found the art form therapeutic during her treatment and recovery.

“When I had to have everything done, it was a tough time,” she said. “With my insurance, I was able to see a therapist and she really encouraged me to do this.”

Once she had several poems penned, she started sharing them with friends and family.

“I wasn’t going to publish it, but they said, ‘you have to, this will really help people,’” Rueckert said.

The poems don’t necessarily share every gritty detail of Rueckert’s battle with ulcerative colitis, which she was diagnosed in 1983. The book doesn’t divulge a colonoscopy in 2007 that revealed pre-cancer cells throughout her colon and rectum and its eventual removal, and it doesn’t describe in detail 2010, “My year of hell,” Rueckert said.

For the full story, see the Thursday, July 12 print edition of the Times.