For over five years now since my de novo diagnosis, writing continues to provide a positive forum for my metastatic cancer experience. Essays and poetry as well as my blog are all unlimited in so far as opportunities for my creativity and outlets for my emotional ups and downs. Friendships develop through these forums – blogs, Twitter, dare I say Facebook closed groups, podcasts, and even in the comments sections of our writing platforms of choice.
Therapy happens in a number of ways: for ourselves as we express our feelings and thoughts; for others who need to find connections to people who are in similar circumstances; and for our friends, loved ones, partners, children, and our communities to understand us better or to revisit us after we’ve died.
Do you connect through any of these forums?
How do you interact especially during isolating times like the one we are experiencing now?
How do you express yourself when there’s few people to talk to?
Healing happens when we reflect on the life we lead, how we got here, and for us with metastatic cancer, our lives in the short term. There’s always time to change: in a minute the course of your life can change forever. Simply consider the diagnosis itself.
But that’s an outside force revealing itself inside of us. If 95% of cancers are not genetic, they come from outside forces and shift and mutate our insides until the good in our bodies no longer can recognize the mutated cancer cells. Simple yet so complex.
Writing allows for healing and therapy to happen out in the open: where cancer for most of us likely began. We write about life stressors. Evidence suggests stress exacerbates the physical situation that leads to a cancer diagnosis. Old psychological wounds, negative self images, depression, and nutrition all can lower the body’s immunity. Our ability to kill the cells before they grow into a part of us weakens and gives way to illnesses, not only cancer. We physically manifested the cancer – that’s true. So we can heal the body and allow it time to get rid of the cancer too, should we choose to manifest positive healing space.
And it’s never too late as far as I’m concerned. In fact my oncologist quipped that I’m alive past the time stamp where there’s not a lot of evidence based science as to what we should do next so it’s “guesswork” from here out. This is where writing publicly becomes even more important to my mortality, as one person could have experienced something similar to what I am. Our community is an outspoken one so chances are I’ll hear about a protocol my oncologist and I haven’t thought of and vice versa. So there is even a practical side to writing our experiences.
I fully believe writing our stories and reading others’ as well can create a space in which we can work through the negativity while refocusing our energy on the positive in ourselves, in the company of people who want to hear our voices either to help their own healing and to enrich ours.
Equally as important as writing, and to the point of letting others in to hear us and understand us, I’ve met incredible women and men on the same trajectory as I am on and I cherish the community that is just on the other side of the screen whenever I choose to reach out and communicate.
Do we write to be heard? Do we express ourselves to have others come to read or to read and do something active like think or write something of their own? Is a public internet based platform appropriate or is it that we don’t have any other way to connect to others like ourselves?
Who do we try to reach? Anyone can read blogs, not only people with MBC, but those with cancers of all kinds at all different stages including those with metastatic cancer. And those who’ve not had cancer and as unlikely as it seems don’t know anyone with cancer. My community includes the newly diagnosed with any stage of breast cancer, those afflicted with chronic illnesses, partners and spouses of cancer patients, carers/ caregivers, and women who I admire and feel blessed to know through a small and ever changing intimate group of writers.
I wouldn’t have the same rich experience with the isolation that comes with a life lived with MBC if not for my writing. Life opens up doors of opportunity because sharing such intimate experiences attracts those who need to feel they’re not alone in their own.
When we let our story tell itself we can focus very quickly on the negative. In fact my original post was about growing up with parents who were both narcissistic. It certainly led to a negative place and thus took me for a negative turn, a “pity party” rather than a “positive party.” We can take away from our lives the negative aspects, which we all have, and place those events at the epicenter of the tectonic shift and part of the cause of disease. However, if we face those events and heal them by using our own positive energy a little differently then we have a healthier platform on which to stand.
If we use that platform to speak our truth and listen for the support that’s out there waiting to hold us with love, we find such a rich and beautiful space in which we can freely express ourselves. Even though we may never meet face to face I feel I know some of my friends, whom I’ve met through writing, as well and in some ways better than people I know through in person interactions. Stronger levels of understanding as well as a verbal short hand exist for how we experience our lives with cancer. It’s difficult to say I can find that kind of support anywhere else.
I hope that my words encourage more women and men to try to write their own experiences as a way to help themselves through such a life altering disease. Writing is also a legacy of the deepest parts of ourselves. And one doesn’t have to publish a book if the desire is to leave a legacy for those who love us.
Leaving our voices to exist beyond our deaths anywhere – even in letters or journals – are available for anyone to revisit us and to feel our hearts beat again, even for a little while, to hear our breath through our words.