How Writing Helps During Cancer Treatment

By Rebecca Berman

During my ongoing treatment for metastatic endometrial carcinoma, I tried many different mindful activities, such as yoga and other integrative therapies, but I came to a point where I felt that I needed to up my game. In the past, creative writing had helped me express and better process emotions, so I decided to join the Writing Towards Wellness workshop at Dana-Farber’s Eleanor and Maxwell Blum Patient and Family Resource Center. The workshop reignited an interest in creative writing that had been dormant for more than 15 years.

Writing brought many positive benefits. It helped me release and express thoughts and fears that I may not have realized were there. It gave voice to different feelings and thoughts, and a means to express them, particularly during difficult times in my life. Writing freely also allowed me to let go of many toxic emotions that previously kept me stuck. And opening up to myself about these feelings and emotions helped me start healing in ways beyond just the physical healing from procedures and treatments.

Writing in a journal or other medium may help you organize your thoughts and reduce stress during or after cancer treatment.

Participating in an expressive writing group with others also helps. It provides a sense of community and lets me explore issues and topics that had a negative impact on me. It also gives me access to great people who share where they are in their experience. The group shows us how similar we are in our coping processes, regardless of disease specifics. We don’t have to explain things to other group members, because we understand our feelings and experiences.

Whether you are a patient or a caregiver to a loved one in treatment, you may find writing beneficial. Try these tips:

 

  • Write regularly, whether you choose to start a journal, write letters to friends and family (even if never sent), or join some type of writing group. These steps have given me a greater overall sense of well-being.
  • Start small, perhaps with a gratitude journal in which you write a few things you are grateful about each day. This serves as a powerful reminder of the good things around me. Making daily entries is best, but I try to do it at least a few times a week. Writing something at the end of the day helps me unwind and helps me sleep.
  • Keep a journal about other things that may be on your mind. I write about memories and other life experiences not related to cancer and that, too, is helpful and healing. Afterwards, I feel better because I did not hold anything in. It allows me to gain some perspectives as I re-read what I wrote and see the words on the page.

 

I encourage anyone to try to start writing. If you don’t have time to join a writing group like the one at Dana-Farber, you can find online resources about creative expression and writing exercises. Even if you have never written before, you may be surprised at the results.

To learn more about the Writing Towards Wellness workshop at Dana-Farber, email blum_center@dfci.harvard.edu or call 617-632-5570. Or stop by the Eleanor and Maxwell Blum Patient and Family Resource Center, open weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Make An Appointment

For adults: 877-960-1562

Quick access: Appointments as soon as the next day for new adult patients

For children: 888-733-4662

All content in these blogs is provided by independent writers and does not represent the opinions or advice of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute or its partners.

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