Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Poet Fighting Greatest Battle, but Words Keep Him Strong; John Hammond, Now Facing Cancer, Won't Give in to Weariness

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Poet Fighting Greatest Battle, but Words Keep Him Strong; John Hammond, Now Facing Cancer, Won't Give in to Weariness

Article excerpt

Byline: LYNN SKAPYAK HARLIN

John Hammond is a poet, activist and environmentalist who lives by the mantra that the pen is mightier than the sword. The 70-year-old Orange Park resident uses words to fight for his beliefs, and since 1974, when his first book of poetry was published, he has been known for tackling such diverse subjects as world peace, religion and conservation, as well as his love of all people and places.

His latest book, The Gourmet Poet Cookbook, brings poems into the kitchen, and he is working on a large collection of his works, Hollow Bones. Lines from his poem I Learned to Fight, from his book Street Prayers, tell why he continues to create.

"When I was a street kid I learned to fight to survive, but later I would learn another way," Hammond said. "With pen in hand I learned to write; with pen in hand I learned to fight."

He has fought for many causes but now he is battling his greatest foe, cancer.

While he was hospitalized with leukemia in April 2005, doctors discovered his spleen was enlarged and 70 percent of his bone marrow was infected.

"The doctors hoped for about seven years remission. I began chemo and was in partial remission November and December. Then in January the bottom dropped out," Hammond said.

Tests revealed he had lymphoma, with 40 to 50 cancerous lymph nodes; including a massive tumor. The prognosis darkened.

"The doctors tossed around numbers like six to 18 months," he said. "I am now in CHOP-R chemo, a combination of drugs, along with other goodies to protect me."

He has good days when he feels he could go on forever and then there are times when he feels it would be easier to die than to live.

His wife of 47 years, Alverta, is the one who keeps him going.

"She keeps track of my medications and appointments. She comforts and urges me to keep fighting. It's our love that keeps us strong," Hammond said. …

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