Thyroid Issues

For Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis

By Jen Karetnik

I follow idols down a scripted path
toward the reproduction of fickle cells,
swallowing substitutes like an oath.

With the return of desire is growth,
new hair, fuzzy as leaves, fingernails
punching points in the soft skin of the path,

and years released with every pent breath.
Yesterday, tomorrow, hope is a scale
that weighs substitutions like an oath,

and far above my head is the wispy wreath.
But today there is that glorious fuel
that powers me down an uncharted path,

and between day and night I can choose both;
today I dress in pearls that gleam like pills.
Wallowing in permission like an oath

I have no limits to argue with—
I can eat ice cream, pay bills, paint walls—
as long as I follow this prescripted path,
swallow forever the exact same oath.




“For Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis” was previously published in American Sentencing (Winter Goose Publishing, 2016) and is posted here with the author’s permission.

Jen Karetnick is the author of seven poetry collections, most recently American Sentencing(Winter Goose Publications, 2016), finalist for the 2017 Julie Suk Award, and The Treasures That Prevail (Whitepoint Press, 2016), finalist for the 2017 Poetry Society of Virginia Book Prize. The winner of the 2017 Hart Crane Memorial Poetry Contest, the 2016 Romeo Lemay Poetry Prize and the 2015 Anna Davidson Rosenberg Prize, Karetnick’s work appears or is forthcoming in Crab Orchard Review, The Evansville Review, Guernica, Prairie Schooner, Verse Daily and Waxwing. She works as the Creative Writing Director at Miami Arts Charter School and as a freelance dining critic, journalist and cookbook author.



For more information about Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (the most common type of thyroiditis), you can check out the UK National Health Service or the American Thyroid Association.

Cancer · Thyroid Issues


By Janna Layton

The first warmth of April
and there it is on Valencia Street,
where I am looking for distraction—
a ladybug, small and spotless,
clinging to my arm. I walk with it,
then ease it to a tree.
I don’t want it trapped, dead and dry,
on the wrong side of a store window.

The next day beside a Peninsula creek,
and the weeds, if you pause,
are full of ladybugs.
The heat, the scent of grass, these beetles—
elementary school.
Us girls at recess: gathering, naming,
trying to tame the ladybugs.
Enthralled by the variety:
no spots, two, seven, more;
round, oval;
red, orange, sometimes the cartoon villain composition
of black shell with red markings.
But never green.
We argued which was best.
The blank slate of brick?
The friendliness implied in a circle with simple spots?
A narrow little thing hording black dots?
Sometimes we saw them mating:
a calm piggyback ride.
Then there were the larvae, the ugly babies,
pale orange and gray the only hint
of what was to come from those soft squirms.

The ladybugs were pretty,
but when our fingers were too clumsy
bitterness oozed out, a reminder
that these were insects, which crushed
would be as visceral a mess as a swatted fly.

But here they all are by this creek,
looking as if they were the same ladybugs
from all those years ago.
What of those girls I played with?
Some I still know of, in Vegas and Davis,
one with a baby.
Others’ faces I only see in brief motions,
with clinks from swings’ chains in the distance.

There is a plethora of patterns,
but the ladybugs are always—even with odd-numbered spots—
which I am not. At least by touch,
by doctor’s touch.
Now there is a lump,
and waiting,
here by the water.


Janna Layton lives in San Francisco. Her poetry and fiction have been published in various literary journals, including The New Yorker, Menacing Hedge, Appalachian Heritage, Zone 3, and Caesura. She blogs at

“Ladybugs” was first published in REAL 34.1 and is posted here with the author’s permission.


If you or a loved one are suffering from/have suffered from thyroid cancer, check out ThyCa: Thyroid Cancer Survivors’ Association, Inc. In order to learn more about thyroid cancer, please check out the American Cancer Society and the American Thyroid Association.