Cancer survivors take control by writing their own story

Posted by Sheryl M Ness, MA, RN @smness, May 15, 2015

I’m so inspired by the people I meet in our cancer education center at Mayo Clinic.

A couple of weeks ago, I met a woman who had twice been diagnosed with cancer. The first time was when she was a young mother, and more recently in her late forties.

She seemed to be so calm and wise. So, I asked her what she was doing to manage her feelings about cancer. She said, “When I was diagnosed the first time, I felt like my life was not my own any more. Then I decided to write about my story.”

She went on to say that by writing about it, she felt a sense of control over her feelings and her situation again.

Many times, people tell me that they feel a lack of control when they’re diagnosed with cancer. In a way, they become “the patient” who is defined by their cancer, the treatment and how their body reacts to the treatment. They lose their sense of who they are.

Writing can be a way of getting your feelings out. It can validate what you’re experiencing and may give you a sense of order to your life. Writing can also provide an outlet for emotions that are difficult to share with others. It allows you to reflect on what you’re going through.

Here are some ideas that may help if you’d like to write about your personal experiences:

  • Find a quiet and private place to reflect and write.
  • Keep your thoughts organized in a journal.
  • Write about how you felt when you were diagnosed.
  • Reflect on moments when you felt strength.
  • Think about moments when you felt vulnerable.
  • Express your thoughts of gratitude to those around you.
  • Write your true feelings as if you could say anything you like.
  • Imagine your future and write about what is important to you.
  • Regularly read back your thoughts from earlier journal entries.

Your story is your own. You can decide when and if you’d like to share it. I’d love to hear from people who have written their story. What helped you the most?

Read more on the Living with Cancer blog here


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