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Cancer: Journaling the Journey

Recording personal thoughts during cancer can be a helpful way to process feelings.
How can a six-letter word wreck your life in a heartbeat? You might not think it could, but I assure you it can. When I heard the word “cancer,” my life, as I knew it, was turned upside down and inside out. I knew from that point forward nothing would ever be the same. It’s been 984 days since I received my initial diagnosis, and it still feels like it was yesterday.
I can still feel –
…the crispness of the white paper underneath my legs while sitting on the exam table
…the weakness in my knees as I walked out to my car
…the wetness of tears staining my cheeks as I cried all the way home
…the tremor in my voice as I shared the news with my husband
…the icy cold gel poured onto my breast as the ultrasound tech prepared to test
…the horror at seeing the mass on the screen
…the sharp needle piercing my skin as the first biopsy was taken
…the excruciating pain radiating across my chest after surgery
…the uncomfortable pulling from dangling drainage bulbs at my side
…the shock and disbelief as I looked at my mutilated body in the mirror
And over those 984 days, I’ve experienced more than I ever dreamed I would. I’ve seen and felt more than I can say. It seems like another lifetime ago but it will only be three short years this June since I heard the dreaded words, “you have cancer.” Some of my feelings and experiences are very fresh in my mind and others I’ve carefully tucked away. Some too private and painful to share but others I think might be helpful to those newly diagnosed, and that’s one reason I’m so thankful I began recording my journey on the day my life changed.
It started out as a way to process my feelings. I needed a safe place to share my thoughts – a place where I wouldn’t be judged or criticized. I started writing daily in journals, but soon that became tedious. I wanted a more creative outlet, so I began blogging. It was much easier to sit at the computer and type up my thoughts. I could add photos, media and tags to my posts. If I wanted to share them I could. If I didn’t, I could mark them as private.
After the first couple of weeks, writing on my blog became cathartic. I realized, when I was blogging, it was like talking to an old friend. I looked forward to recording my thoughts and feelings.  At the end of the first year, I read back through my posts. I was amazed at the rollercoaster of emotions my life had traveled. I’d had so many bad days but the good days seemed to have outweighed the bad. I tried to be open and honest in my writing. I wanted my children to read through my posts one day and understand how I’d learned to deal with the hand cancer dealt me. I wanted them to know the reality of my pain, but also the joy of my triumphs.  
I made a point to chronicle my treatments and used my cell phone to document tests, take photos of facilities and medical professionals. I always made sure to ask permission before taking photos of doctors or nurses and made sure they were OK with me posting the photos on my blog. I didn’t meet any resistance, in fact, all of the medical team wanted to be included in my online journey! I was grateful for their willingness to participate and laughed as they made sure I captured their best side in the photos.

Talk about this article with other patients, caregivers, and advocates in the Breast Cancer CURE discussion group.
Bonnie Annis is a breast cancer survivor, diagnosed in 2014 with stage 2b invasive ductal carcinoma with metastasis to the lymph nodes. She is an avid photographer, freelance writer/blogger, wife, mother and grandmother.
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