In the two years’ time it took me to get through cancer treatment, my journal grew to over 100 pages. I documented my time in CancerLand, from diagnosis to recovery with anecdotes, bad jokes, lists, rambling streams of consciousness and letters that I would never ever send. The form varied and most times didn’t matter much at all. I wrote. I rewrote. I cried, blew my nose, cried again, dried my eyes, then wrote some more. Sometimes using “I”; other times a royal “we.” The most satisfying writing was done using third person. As “she” I could be miles away from what was happening to “me.”
Whatever emotion bubbled up –fear, anger, grief for the many losses, shame – whatever was burning inside of me found its way out and onto the page. I lived alone and chose to keep my diagnosis a secret from all but my small inner circle of family and closest ‘bosom buddies.’ So my laptop computer immediately became my new best friend; always alert, empathetic and on stand-by, sitting patiently at the dining room table, eagerly awaiting my next daily update.
I ultimately printed out the journal and sorted the writing into sections with illustrative chapter headings: Slash for my six surgeries. Poison described eight rounds of chemotherapy. Burn documented my radiation treatments. I three-hole-punched the pages and filed them away in a binder at one point believing that the journal had served its healing purpose. Little did I know; that just wasn’t to be the case at all.
Over the years my CancerLand journal has been the well that I have returned to again and again for the raw materials resulting in the more polished pieces describing my ongoing path towards recovery that I have published online. At the time that I was creating the journal, I truly thought it was an end in itself. But the real healing gradually emerged from revisiting those initial impressions, reshaping them and ultimately sharing them with different audiences.
– Excerpt from Alysa Cummings’ “Greetings From CancerLand”
Writing Away the Demons
Sherry Reiter, editor
Minnesota: North Star Press of St. Cloud, Inc.
Alysa Cummings is a Certified Poetry Therapist who admits that the thought of being a “writer” was never a reality until she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
How do you feel about writing in relation to coping? Would you be interested in signing up for a 6-session writing workshop in Cherry Hill, New Jersey? Here’s your chance to find a safe and supportive place to share your story, read poetry and memoir before creating and sharing your own original writing related to your personal breast cancer journey, and learn about the importance of self-expression as a powerful and empowering tool.
Learn more about LBBC’s first ever Writing Series Initiative.