Over 60 well-researched writing exercises to help cancer patients and survivors write therapeutically about their cancer experience.

The idea for this book coalesced from different experiences in my life. I am an Aries, a person of action, yet I watched helplessly as my father died of brain cancer. More recently, I witnessed a close friend with cancer go through chemotherapy and radiation.

From my experience as a teacher of personal essay writing, I realized that cancer patients everywhere could benefit from writing about their experiences. When I learned about the Pennebaker studies that showed writing deep thoughts and feelings about stressful events could help people heal emotionally as well as physically, I knew I was on the right track.

I met with many medical and mental health professionals who educated me about the psychosocial issues of cancer patients and who helped me fine tune the book. I began teaching Writing About Cancer courses and was thanked profusely by participants whose writing helped them heal deep emotional wounds, even years after they had been declared cancer-free.

I am indebted to all those who helped me make this book a reality and who encouraged me during the creation and publication process. Thank you, and may you never need this book.

How to Use this Journal

The Healing Way will help you keep a journal to record facts and feelings while you undergo treatment for cancer, and even later, when treatment is over and you are left with thoughts and feelings about the process you endured.

Because treatment plans differ for each person, you can begin writing on any topic. This journal is designed to be flexible to fit your needs: if you feel like writing every day, you may do that. If you want to use the prompting questions to help you think about what is important to you, but you don’t want to write in the journal, you may do that, too. If you feel too sick to write on some days, you may ask another person to write for you, or you may wait to write when you feel better. If you find drawing to be helpful, you may draw in this book, too.

This journal is your intimate and confidential companion to use as you wish. Feel free to return to any topic at any time to add more notes. You might want to date your entries. You are creating a keepsake of one of your most significant life experiences.

At the back of the book you will find the Personal Resource Section, which will help you organize the medical facts surrounding your treatment.

Use the Questions to Ask pages to write down the questions you want to ask your medical team, and take this journal with you to your medical appointments so you can write down the answers.

Use the Test Results pages to keep track of your medical tests and results.

Use the Contacts pages to keep names and phone numbers of your care team, e.g., medical oncologist, radiation oncologist, primary care physician, chemo nurses, radiation technicians, pharmacist, clergy, social worker, psychologist, complementary treatment practitioners, nutritionist, drivers, meal preparers, babysitters, etc.

Use the Important Dates pages to write or paste your treatment schedule. It is wise to write in pencil in case your treatment dates change.

Please note that this book does not attempt to give medical advice or make any health guarantees. It is not a substitute for professional care. Writing one’s deep thoughts and feelings about stressful events may bring up overpowering feelings. Do not hesitate to seek counseling from a trained mental health professional to manage these feelings.

Table of Contents

The Table of Contents gives you an idea of the range of writing topics included in The Healing Way. Each topic is accompanied by a series of helpful prompting questions.

Before Treatment Begins

  • The Beginning
  • Recommendations
  • Your Treatment Decision
  • Your Hopes and Fears
  • Taking Stock
  • Recurrence

Medical Topics

  • Diagnosis
  • Additional Input
  • Your Oncology Doctor
  • Before Surgery

About Chemotherapy

  • Your Oncology Nurses
  • Chemotherapy Treatments
  • Chemotherapy Side Effects

About Radiation

  • Your Radiation Technicians
  • Radiation Treatments
  • Radiation Side Effects

More About Treatments

  • After Surgery
  • Complementary Therapies Treatment Schedule Preconceived Notions Hospital Visits As Treatments Progress Final Treatments

Daily Living

  • Routines
  • Rest
  • Money
  • Sexuality and Fertility
  • Upsets

Thinking and Learning

  • Why Cancer Strikes
  • What Matters
  • Benefits of Illness
  • Writing
  • Loose Ends
  • Thoughts of Mortality
  • Learning

People in Your Life

  • Circle of Support
  • Support Groups
  • Your Family
  • Your Children
  • Reactions from Friends, Coworkers, and Strangers
  • Gifts and Cards
  • Appreciation
  • Helping Others

Spirituality

  • Spiritual Comfort
  • Higher Power
  • Clergy
  • Laughter
  • Like a Child
  • Pets
  • Happiness
  • Insights and Miracles

About Yourself

  • Nurturing Yourself
  • Loss of Dignity
  • Control
  • Your Appearance
  • Photos
  • Goals
  • Image
  • Counseling

End of Treatment

  • Prognosis
  • Fear of Recurrence
  • Leaving the Cocoon
  • Thanking Your Caregivers
  • Looking Back
  • Your Future

Personal Resource Section

  • Questions to Ask
  • Test Results
  • Contacts
  • Important Dates

Caroline Markolin (authorized Hamer teacher) speaks German and is in constant communication with Hamer.

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