Steamboat Springs Minneapolis poet Betsy Brown and one of her sisters, Maggie, named 1996 the year of morphines.
That year the sisters' father was dying from pancreatic cancer; a family friend was struggling with AIDS; and Maggie was going through treatments after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
"Each individual case was yet another person going through the route of morphine," Betsy said.
Maggie's cancer eventually spread to her brain. She died in 1998, not long after her father had died. Maggie was 32.
The cancer deaths weren't the first to hit the Browns. It also wouldn't be the last time breast cancer was seen in the family.
Mary Kay Brown, the mother of the family, died of breast cancer in 1982. Then, two years ago in March, Steamboat resident Julie Brown, younger sister of Betsy, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Julie's cancer is in remission.
Since Julie's diagnosis and Maggie's death, Betsy realized she had some stories to tell. The Iowa Writers Workshop alumni had been in a writer's block for years but finally put a pen to the paper.
"I was telling those stories about my sister," Betsy said.
The result is a poetry book called "Year of Morphines," which was published in April after being named to the National Poetry Series.
Betsy will be in Steamboat Springs Saturday to sign copies of the book at a benefit for the Yampa Valley Breast Cancer Awareness Project, an organization that her sister Julie is strongly involved in.
"It's so personal," Julie said about the book. "It's about my family."
In particular is a poem called "Easter." Both Maggie and Mary Kay died on Easter Sunday.
"It's her five stages of grief. At the end, it's the reaffirmation of life," Julie said.
Another interesting poem in the book is "Rage." It was written from information Betsy found on Maggie's laptop computer after she passed away.
Maggie was studying medicine in Paris when she found out the cancer had moved to her brain. Interestingly, she was studying cases of terminal illnesses. Betsy came across a case from 1764 where 20 people in the French town of Thiers came down with a form of rabies known as Rage after being bitten by a mad dog.
Betsy documents the case in her poem, at one point using a direct translation her sister made from medical manuscripts about the hospice the patients were taken to. It apparently was written by one of the victims.
"Eh Monsieur, I see clearly that I am lost, they place me in this unfortunate room, from which no one returns," it reads.
All the proceeds from the books sold at Saturday's signing will go to the Yampa Valley Breast Cancer Awareness Project. That money will help pay for breast cancer checks and treatment for uninsured women.
"It's nice to have the book do something for breast cancer," Betsy said.
The book signing is from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Steamboat Grand.
Betsy also will be signing at the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver Monday.