The American Cancer Society estimated 1,638,910 new cancer diagnoses in 2012. Life for many, changes at that moment ~ for those diagnosed, and the people who love them. In a world of medical interventions to treat the body, expressive writing, as an integrative approach, can treat the body, mind, and spirit.
This book will demonstrate how to implement expressive writing techniques into any program. Journal writing, or expressive writing is an easily integrated treatment modality for clinics that reduces stress related doctor visits, lowers blood pressure and improves the immune system (Karen A. Baikie and Kay Wilhelm Emotional and physical health benefits of expressive writing APT September 2005 11:338-346; doi:10.1192/apt.11.5.338).
Expressive writing is not creative writing, although it often is. For many, writing can initially feel intimidating. This book, written by "ordinary" people, under extraordinary circumstances, will invite others to utilize this process in their own healing. There are no rules of grammar, spelling, or punctuation. Instead, it is powerful vehicle in which the writer is guided to explore the hills and valleys of an incredible and ultimately, healing journey.
“Writing makes a map, and there is something about a journey that begs to have its passage marked.” Christina Baldwin
Using facilitated and/or structured writing exercises participants are invited to share their thoughts and feelings. Participants will respond to various “prompts”, appropriate for each setting, provided in waiting rooms, infusion rooms, as well as, group settings.
Cancer survivors and caregivers will be guided through a variety of journaling techniques that invite exploration of thoughts and feelings, encourage self care, and provide coping strategies to utilize in meeting the challenges of these life-changing circumstances. The participants in all settings will be invited to provide writing samples for inclusion into the book.
The book, Write Through It: Finding Life on the Other Side (working title) will chronicle the ups and downs of the project. Write Through It will allow readers to replicate a similar program, demonstrate journaling techniques with original works, and interview writers regarding the effect of writing in their lives.
In December 2010, after returning from a work assignment in Japan, I discovered an irregularity in my right breast. On January 27, 2011 the biopsy revealed that I had breast cancer~Invasive Lobular Carcinoma. On February 22, 2011 at 2:00p, my right breast and 47 lymph nodes were removed, 45 of them malignant. 4 months of Chemo and 32 days of radiation followed. In spite of a supportive group of friends and family, my mood deteriorated and frequent attendance in my own "tear parties" ensued.
One day, an email invited me to a writing group in Palo Alto for women with breast cancer. One by one we shared our stories. The facilitator skillfully provided us "prompts" to ease us into further exploration. Although I probably used a box of Kleenex that night, I noticed my sleep was more peaceful. In the week that followed, I also noticed that I didn’t cry for several days. My challenges felt lighter. I realized that something important had happened.
Personally and professionally, I was drawn to learn more about "journaling". I continued my personal group in Palo Alto. I devoured the research and literature. Finally, I sought training with The Center of Journal Therapy and became a Certified Journal Instructor for use with the curriculum, Journal to the Self, by Kathleen Adams.
I have presented writing workshops at Valley Care Medical Center in Pleasanton and at cancer retreats. As a Marriage and Family Therapist, I have facilitated many groups over the years. These have included groups for stress, grief, parenting, and many others on topics related to coping with challenges. As a “walk around counselor” for the military, I developed skills to build rapport in casual settings in order to bridge participation in healing conversations. This experience will lend itself well to waiting rooms and infusion rooms in hopes of starting the healing process sooner in initial treatment stages.
It is with great passion, experience, and planning that I am entering this endeavor. I will keep donors well briefed in its progress. Donations will cover the costs of all groups (free to all participants), supplies, provide time in the infusion and waiting rooms, and develop an inspiring collection of work, by and for cancer survivors that can be replicated in programs all over the country.