Writing Your Way Through Breast Cancer

This entry was written by Janine E. Guglielmino, LBBC Director of Information and Strategic Initiatives:

A breast cancer diagnosis can unleash a swell of emotions, seemingly impossible to contain. During treatment, these feelings often appear manageable because you are busy learning about and fighting the disease. Then, just when you expect life to return to normal, the enormity of breast cancer can knock you off your feet.

At Living Beyond Breast Cancer, we offer a variety of tools to help you cope at different parts of your journey. One of my favorites, journaling, is also popular among many of you (LBBC workshops on this topic are usually standing room only!). Over the years I’ve heard many reasons for keeping a journal—it’s inexpensive, portable, private, easy to maintain. But for many, the greatest gift writing gives is freedom from judgment, from ourselves and from others.

I have written in journals on and off since childhood. What I love about journaling is that it allows me to dump my emotional garbage and pick through it to gain a better understanding of my interior world. At dark moments, my journal helps me find a safe path.

That’s why I was so excited to write a story on journaling for the Winter 2009/2010 issue of Insight, our quarterly newsletter. The five amazing women I interviewed for “Writing Your Way Through Breast Cancer” came to journaling in different ways. For example, Glynis Rhodes, a meeting planner at the American Association for Cancer Research in Philadelphia, started writing about breast cancer while searching for ways to thank her caregivers. (You can read several of Glynis’ poems and essays at lbbc.org.) Laurie Kingston, a communications professional from Ottawa, Canada, started a blog so she could manage the way people got information about her diagnosis. The blog proved so therapeutic that Laurie ended up writing every day and connecting with thousands of women around the world!

Despite its popularity, many people remain intimidated by journaling. “Writing should be left to the professionals,” you may be thinking, or (more likely), “In school, my papers were covered with red marks!” If you take away one message from our article, we hope it’s that you can write, if you want to. You don’t have to follow a script, or write sentences that contain a subject, verb and object (no diagramming here!). You just need to express what you feel in your heart.

Journaling is not for everyone, but if you think it might be for you, don’t let fears or bad memories keep you from trying it. Learn more about writing and other coping strategies at our January 12 networking group meeting in Philadelphia, “Harnessing the Emotional Roller Coaster of Breast Cancer.” And don’t worry if you can’t make it; we’ll post a recording online after the event.

We’d love to hear why you write, or how you got started. Post your thoughts here, or visit our Facebookpage.

4 thoughts on “Writing Your Way Through Breast Cancer

  1. I agree, journaling while going through a serious illness is very healing and beneficial. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2008 and journaling was definately one of the things that helped me deal with all the emotions and confusion. I now help other women who are going through the same thing.

  2. Although I’ve kept a journal most of my life, when it revolved around my breast cancer diagnosis and treatment from 6/08 and beyond, I discovered the world of blogging. It added a rich dimension of interaction and support that gave a new meaning to “worldwide web.” By sharing some of our thoughts and fears this way, we not only become keenly aware that we are not alone, but help to pave a safer path for those who follow.

  3. Hi Laurie–great advice! Journaling does pave a safer way for people to follow…we never really thought of it like that before! By journaling/blogging about our experiences, we can hopefully help other women going through the same things. We’d love to hear from people who can share stories of how their journaling has helped others!

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