Since being diagnosed with thymic cancer late in 2009, I have written articles, a book and blogged about the cancer experience mostly as a therapeutic exercise — a way to cast the demon outside of myself — and as an offering to others survivors.
Mike Verano is a licensed professional counselor, licensed marriage and family therapist and thymic cancer survivor with over 30 years experience in the mental health field. Mike has had articles published in national and international magazines and is the author of The Zen of Cancer: A Mindful Journey From Illness to Wellness. In addition, he maintains the blog, Confessions of a Pacifist in the War on Cancer. He and his wife, Kathy, live in Lanexa, Virginia.
“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”
When should I stop writing about cancer?
That’s the question that has been on my mind as I’ve been reading over the wonderful posts on the CURE
blog that I’ve been so privileged to be a part of for almost a year. Since being diagnosed with thymic cancer late in 2009, I have written articles, a book and blogged about the cancer experience mostly as a therapeutic exercise — a way to cast the demon outside of myself — and as an offering to others survivors. But when does writing about that experience turn from a healing mechanism to a neurotic obsession?
One of my professional offerings to my psychotherapy clients who are determined to journal the sufferings they face runs along the lines of, “Journaling can be a great help as a way to externalize our inner struggles; however, if one is going to revisit bad times over and over, it’s going to be hard to feel good.” At that point, I will usually suggest that once the psychic purge is over, they ritualistically burn the journal in a ceremony of purification that symbolizes a new chapter in their lives. (In the age of all things digital, I will suggest a less dramatic moment of hitting the “permanently delete” button.)
While I know I will always have thoughts, opinions, insights and rants related to cancer, I’ve come up with the following list as to why it’s the right time for me to move on from the “write what you know” mantra:
1. Due to chemo brain, (despite my wife’s correct assertion that it’s my age) I find myself repeating old themes. It’s embarrassing to become the cancer grandpa who keeps saying, “Did I ever tell you about the time I turned beet-red after my first chemo treatment?”
2. I find myself filtering way too many things through my cancer lens in an attempt to create a new post. The moment I found myself comparing the current political campaign to waiting for results of a CT scan, I knew I’ve been in too deep.
3. After reading another great post from a fellow contributor, one of my first thoughts is, “Man, I wish I had thought of that.”
4. Realizing that the reason I’m still tossing and turning in bed, rather than enjoying the restful CPAP-induced sleep that comes after the late effect of radiation therapy, is that I’ve been constructing the last article in my head.
5. Coming face-to-face with the, “therapist heal thyself,” moment of reliving the past while trying to honor the present moment.
I have thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to share with the CURE
community. I’m profoundly humbled when I read the challenges faced by other survivors and felt their awe-inspiring determination to look the beast in it eyes and refuse it the right to define who they are. That being said, I know that I will continue to turn to writing to heal and grow from the challenges that life is destined to hand me and still rely on the sagely advice of writing what one knows best. As I turn the page on my cancer story, look for me in cyberspace under the heading, 50 Shades of Turning Grey: Discovering The Neurotic Pleasures of Growing Old
. That is definitely something I know about.