3 Reasons Writing Enhances the Cancer Experience

Article

Being told to write was the best advice I could have ever received.

cartoon drawing of cancer survivor and blogger, Ron Cooper

We cancer survivors are barraged with well-meaning advice from the moment we make our diagnosis public. We’re counseled to exercise, eat well and to stay connected with friends and family. “Don’t give up hope,” they say earnestly. “Hang in there!”

I definitely appreciate that chorus of advice-givers. But by far the best advice I have heard is to write. And, boy, did I follow through. Since my prostate cancer diagnosis in 2014, I have honed my writing about this life-shaping experience. It’sbeen quite a journey, page after page of feelings, insights and lessons learned. I pick up my pen nearly everyday with a new revelation in mind.

It helped that I was pre-disposed to write. With a 25-year newspaper reporting career in my rear-view mirror, I am a disciplined writer. Words and phrases are part of my DNA, and rarely does a day pass that I’m not jotting down some reflection or observation. I love writing. My muse is my best friend. Writing sustains me. It is my elixir.

So, you might wonder, why should you write? Why should you, either as survivor or caregiver, use your precious time putting pen to paper? And, by the way, you don’t need a professional background like my own to appreciate and benefit from writing, so nothing should hold you back.

I have three good reasons why writing is well worth the effort.

1. It’s cathartic. Traveling the cancer road is demanding and exhausting. The cancer playback machine is always on, reminding us of the day we heard the devastating word “cancer” and the fear and stress that accompanied our diagnosis. Writing provides us with a safety valve to let off some steam and is a great way to cope with a life-threatening illness.

2. It’s revealing. Writing opens us up to self-reflection where we can gain valuable insights into our journey with the “big C.” We can learn how to deal with our disease andidentifythe steps to take for a more fulfilling life. We can learn to squeeze all the joy out of every precious moment, while shining a healing light on the many challenges that we face.

3. It’s purposeful. When we are in cancer’s cross hairs, we may at times feel drained, listless, and unmotivated. This is perfectly normal. But writing will give us a fresh purpose. Whether you’re writing daily in a personal diary or going public in a blog post or article, you will be engaged in something fulfilling and meaningful. You may even decide to go the full route and write a memoir.

So, go ahead, throw your entire being into writing. Allow your creative impulses to guide, inform, and fulfill you. Write, write, write, then write some more. You won’t regret it!

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