The Therapeutic Effects of Telling Our Stories

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.

Oh, It’s Been One of Those Weeks

Aside from starting my training for LBBC’s HMV or hear my voice patient advocacy program, I’ve also literally gone crazy around the house. We’ve been doing all kinds of projects that seem to be taking way too long. We have had a people parade for Craig’s birthday including my two stepsons over the course of a week. I swear I just recalled it’s Saturday night and still not posted to my labor of love – my blog.

Well, there was an attempt to write a post so this is not entirely true. The new editors is giving me a stomach ache. I attempted to post a completely written and edited piece and went to quickly search the web to grab a link and the post vanished. Frustrating. But what’s the point of crying over spilled words. This transpired while I was trying to beat the 3 am or so deadline before Marie Ennis O’Connor does her weekly breast cancer blog roundup in which I like to get my posts included. First, I use it to deliver a post a week ant being included is an honor and a reward. I am slightly Pavlovian what can I say. It also bullhorns my words to people who may not have read it, which hopefully improves any impact it may on breast cancer awareness.

But this hasn’t been an easy week. I’m finding it incredibly difficult to let my heart open up at all. But doing nothing isn’t on the metastatic agenda. Though trying to heal in every way requires rest. And that basically requires doing nothing. That’s just not something that makes me comfortable. Doing nothing or not thinking about anything. Except when I meditate. There’s a witness meditation I recommend that helps to push thoughts aside and remind the meditator that they’re not their thoughts and are not defined by them. It also requires a great deal of concentration.

Drawing on the creative mind Learning a new trick I am drawing on a pretty regular basis which helps to clear my mind. Since I was very young I’ve written poetry. Those two creative endeavors seem like cheating since I’ve started the blog, but in many ways each is more work. My drawing has only recently begun to take shape and poetry requires an eloquence and a frugality of words. Not all poems need many rounds of editing although most do. Some of the poems just flow onto the page – the gifts from the synchronistic universal mind delivered right into my own and written with ease. Some poems have a wider breadth of ideas that take time, take many many edits, and some may even take years. Then there are good ideas that don’t make good poetry and never turn out quite right. But we wait for those magic moments. I think all writers do no matter what format they choose.

What’s really bothering me this week is that with all the things going on in this insane world, those people who are senseless and incredibly violent. They’re the ones who use ignorant dialectics and who take their positions in this world so seriously that they use their hands their minds as their weapons to harm others not to protect them as they were sworn to do. I’m not going to string together a long commentary on racism. Racism is ignorance. Racism is something that is taught. Racism is something that I deplore. I could go on for pages but it won’t help. Just know that it hurts and I find it hard to write on anything else. I loved this definition of dialectics from Wikipedia because it fully describes what my point is getting at:

Dialectic or dialectics (Greek: διαλεκτική, dialektikḗ; related to dialogue), also known as the dialectical method, is at base a discourse between two or more people holding different points of view about a subject but wishing to establish the truth through reasoned methods of argumentation. Dialectic resembles debate, but the concept excludes subjective elements such as emotional appeal and the modern pejorative sense of rhetoric.[1][2] Dialectic may thus be contrasted with both the eristic, which refers to argument that aims to successfully dispute another’s argument (rather than searching for truth), or the didactic method, wherein one side of the conversation teaches the other. Dialectic is alternatively known as minor logic, as opposed to major logic or critique. – Wikipedia

But it’s hard to forgive those using power as a kind of moral viagra. I try not to look at the news more than three or four times a week or I get really angry and my anger tends to make my language snarky. These are seriously strange times beyond my vocabulary and my gut just says “fuck.”

Not very eloquent but it’s the only word that’s a noun, verb, exclamation, adjective, and proper noun all in one four letter word. The rest aren’t strong enough. Fuck it. I say fuck you to the murderers in Minnesota who take life and amid all this tragedy add racially fueled killing to more of the ugly side of our species ability to create situations and think about consequences.

The consequences are as far reaching as the illness that caused the curfews that caused the tensions, caused the Anonymous videos to vanish, that caused a 10 minute hide out by an unglued insane global ruler, that caused us to watch a man murdered for his race by those sworn to protect and serve not hate and kill because they’re drunk on power, that caused more fear in a world verging on economic collapse while everyone closed their eyes as the crooked at the top begin taking the pie away and sending us all to either riot or demonstrate, causing us to lay face down so we cannot see what’s crushing our necks so we cannot breathe.

There’s a very ugly parallel between the murder of a man and the the killing of thousands by a virus most likely unleashed by a lack of social control. The man was already sick with a congenital heart condition so he was already in a situation that put his life in danger. That’s true for Covid and those with weak immune systems. There’s no cure for the men who killed him. No riot, no peaceful demonstrations can change his death. No time and no medicine can bring back the dead. No one was really watching the people meant to protect us who killed a man who did not resist arrest. There’s objective video proof. There’s proof that the powers who pose as protectors knew about the virus well before it became news and before elderly people died alone without anyone to help them to the light of the spirit world. And if there is one I pray they’re given special treatment as the man who was killed in cold blood by those who were supposed to protect him. We won’t know the true severity of the outcomes of either event for years to come, and we won’t really ever know the truth.

Racism is real and it’s shocking and it’s plain stupid. But remember the average IQ is 100 – there’s 49% of the population on the short bus. And then there’s are those who are smart enough to know better. And then there are victims dying on a planet covered with clouds of sadness crying polluted tears. We can trust no one in power to help. We can believe nothing broadcast to us because it’s all like wartime propaganda – and nothing seems quite right. There’s 5G towers going up and fuck if I know if it’ll help deliver messages of hatred and open our immunity to Covid? Do you hand out hope amid a global economic depression of proportions we’ve not seen in history -ever?

Seriously I know you are thinking, “she’s finally lost it, get out the straight jacket.” I feel like going to sleep on the sofa. While editing my post the commentary of my beloved can’t have been much worse. It’s 5:30 am. Having been writing since after dinner and not moved since, he says, “I’m upset with you.” Why? He’s not saying. I can’t think beyond the weight of life and he just can’t fathom my intensity.

What can I control? There’s resilience that metastatic cancer has taught us to reach into our viscera, pull out our strength, and know exactly what to do next. Myself. Lead by example and don’t fall prey to the bullshit yet don’t remain silent out of fear. We’ve faced our mortality already. We’ve nothing to lose. So even if you don’t agree with me it’s perfectly okay. But doing the right thing means deploying a well tuned moral compass and exhibiting love where hate can go metastatic in a heartbeat.

Here’s a poem I have done at least 50 drafts of including a total rewrite on the premise alone. I was going to turn over the one that came out in a moment as it was intended on my part. Those are from god if there’s a god. A gift. A piece of our souls. No, I didn’t give that one away yet to time and to beckon critique. I’m giving you the hard one. The turgidity was painful getting it out. It’s still not quite right but oh so apropos.

Remember I love you all by the way. There’s not enough being shared but a dearth of it to cover and protect every single living creature. I’m sincere – you have someone who loves you as long as I breathe. And life is all you need so live it knowing you are loved.

Victim
Dark blue night wings overhead
Snuffing out the last of the day.
If memory serves,
Against curtains of magenta
Birds with flaming wings
Burned the scene into the scene –
The stripes earned by stones
Over years of echoes
Outside the river banks
Snake the eon twisted canyons
How stubbornly the water flows.
For a life as long as a blink the same Picture on every postcard.
Markers of a trip out west
We lower ourselves and continue to Take frozen photos to describe
By the end of the poem
A couplet of a sunset
Sinks below the canyons, finding us
Buried with sky writers of yesterday.

Let’s go kill this scene off
Erase the canyons from the
Bucket list. I bristle at the very idea And insisting angry I hear myself Echoing across the painted walls –
Kicking a bucket is no better revenge
Of a life well lived.
A container cannot defend itself –
It stores pictures without words.
Believing in emptiness
We never fill up our containers
And rename our dreams to fit
Infinite, empty, and black as ink.

Cat’s Cradle

Pink cheeky girls woke up
Hearing my screams in the dank alleyway.
Just a caterwauling stray, they yawn,
Slipping into their pretty dreams
In between rose covered sheets —
Lining the inside of a restful box.

Curled up like kittens having tea
Painted into black flocked drops
Still life frozen stiff.
Another innocent mother
Wasting her love
Couldn’t know what to do:
Crying deeper than an orphan
With a never ending need
Of a basic meal and the itch unscratched it’s Mottled by parasites.

With her tongue like a steak knife
She cuts the fleas
From their bare coats.
Nearing silence finally in hearing Satisfaction in their innocent mews, Rewarded by the razor sharp claws Ripping, scratching, pushing for more. Without a sound she moves away as
They watch her slowly
Slip and back away. A last sound
Like an old door shutting she closes Herself from their endless hunger.

Finding parts everywhere,
Slashed and scattered, she collects herself
From the pavement glass and stones
Hearts and bones under a red porch.
Food and water sometimes appear
Bowing into the dish and darting
Up for air and reassurance no one’s there.
In a crisis of conscience
One rarely finds relief or the space To eat for food for thought.

I press against a window, yet at night When it’s light inside you see only a Reflection of the night.
Seeing her own green eyes in the glass Afraid of her own image – is that what I am?
Running faster and passing the pink girls who turned in,
Between Egyptian cotton sheets of papyrus,
She never once let a word out again – The litter stole everything
Including her tongue.

They sleep and wait for her,
But wake to find me instead. The frightened babes, bottle fed and unnaturally fat.
It’s true that all of us may never find home
And the coats we wear
Are the coats of the pick pocketed and the poor: all of us victims
Crying for our mothers.

Therapeutic Writing: My Cancer Story, My Cancer Community

For over four 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.

Healing Words

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, just 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 oh 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.

Virtual Cancer Support

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.

And they are not only people with MBC, but those with cancers of all kinds at all different stages including those with metastatic 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.

I’m Positive it Works

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.

A Legacy of Love

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 anywhere – even in letters or journals – are there after we die and are available to revisit and feel our hearts beat again, even for a little while, to hear our breath feel our words.