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Writing as therapy during cancer treatment: Part II

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living_with_cancer_writing_as_therapy.JPGThis is a continuation of yesterday's post on writing as therapy during cancer treatment.

As my cancer treatment progressed, so did my writing journey. Writing during cancer treatment became a way to help me understand, work out issues and accept and come to terms with my fate. It also allowed me to reflect on what my having cancer meant to me, my family and close friends.

Looking back, I can see that my writing progressed on several levels.

Blog updates: About two months into my cancer treatment when I was somewhat bored during a break in chemotherapy, I turned the weekly emails into a blog. I initially made sure people couldn't find it through web searches since I was not yet ready to share my story with the world.

I let people know when my weekly update was up, but after a while, I dropped that as the people who were interested could subscribe to receive new blog posts automatically. My weekly posts went beyond medical updates to what books I was reading and what films I was watching. (A number of colleagues were jealous of my reading list.) After a while, I opened my blog to the public to reach the wider community of people living with cancer.

Deeper reflections: My updates became more frank and dramatically deeper when my lymphoma relapsed after a year. In particular, deciding whether to proceed with a riskier allogeneic stem cell transplant was both a private and public process, with a high degree of honesty and openness about my discussions with my medical team.

Post-transplant, my weekly updates grew from an average of a few hundred words to about 1,000 words. At times, this reflected the issues I was facing; at other times, I discussed a book that particularly moved or interested me. At this time, my private journal became more of a medical log, as I was working through the bigger issues on my blog.

Turning my blog into a book: Talking with friends one night, aspiring writers all, I decided to try to turn the blog into a coherent book. The easy - but mind-numbing - part was largely cut-and-paste. But I gained a more coherent and comprehensive understanding of my journey from editing and revising for the book format, and completing some additional sections and writing a conclusion, provided me with.

All aspects of my cancer journey - medical, emotional, and relationships - were characterized by learning and evolving. I often improvised as my treatment and thinking evolved.

My writing has been no different. In hindsight, it may appear consistent ,but none of this was mapped out from the beginning.

I suspect that it's natural to feel like we're improvising and figuring out the way as we string together the words, whether writing through cancer or some other serious illness or chronic disease. However, as we start writing, we are likely to start thinking about why we do so, who we are writing for, and how much we wish to share.

A journey has to start somewhere, after all. We must recognize that the destination is uncertain and changes in our route are possible.

Andrew Griffith has mantle cell lymphoma. He lives in Canada and is married with two young adult children. He blogs, has published Living with Cancer: A Journey, and can be followed on Twitter @lymphomajourney.

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Writing as therapy during cancer treatment

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1 Comment

I loved reading about how writing has helped you deal with the cancer experience. I am also a writer and can identify with everything you said. I have a site on caringbridge.com where I do essentially the same thing you do on your blog. It has been a wonderful tool for keeping my friends informed as to my progress and general status. I would like to stay in touch with you via your blog. Thank you for sharing.

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