Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Writing for Your Life

A Journal Writing Workshop for Cancer Survivors

I am a huge proponent of journal writing; I’ve been doing it since 1992. So when I was diagnosed with leukemia in December 2003, I knew my journal would be my constant companion. I recorded information and daily events, processed my emotions, and explored my past, in particular, how holding on to old hurts and resentments may have contributed to my illness.

After four rounds of high-dose chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, I was on the road to recovery. In January 2008, I was unemployed for two weeks and spent much of that time revising the manuscript for my book, Rebirth: A Leukemia Survivor’s Journal of Healing during Chemotherapy, Bone Marrow Transplant, and Recovery. I had also recently become a volunteer with the New York City chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). As I was working on my book, it hit me that perhaps I could implement a journal writing workshop for cancer patients. Journaling had been an effective tool in my healing arsenal, so, I thought why not share it with others?

Inspired, I began to jot down ideas and within a few hours had produced an outline of a program I thought could be quite effective. A couple months later, I presented a workshop proposal to Meg Harrison, Patient Services Manager, at the LLS’s NYC chapter. She thought it was a great idea, but nothing transpired from that encounter.

My belief never waivered that one day the workshop would become a reality. So later that year, I approached Renee Stein Goetz, a social worker whom I knew from my time being treated for leukemia at Hackensack University Medical Center (HUMC), to see if anyone there might be interested in a journal writing workshop. I met with Renee, and in 2009 conducted two workshops at HUMC, one with a breast cancer survivor group (in January) and the second with a stem cell transplant survivor group (in May).

These were actually more like discussions as opposed to workshops. In the breast cancer group, we talked about the journaling process and different ways to journal. They were an inquisitive bunch who contributed many ideas that sparked much lively conversation. The stem cell transplant group was more subdued, yet attentive. They had the opportunity to complete one writing exercise, and most particpants shared with the group what they'd written.

These two journaling programs made me realize more time would be necessary to hold an effective journal writing workshop, so I made some adjustments. Then in August 2009, I received a call from Meg asking me if I was still interested in conducting my journaling workshop. Of course, I was! So now, two years after envisioning it, my first workshop series commences on January 13, 2010.

I decided to name the workshop Writing for Your Life, because upon reflection of my own life—even before cancer—I’d literally been writing for my life: planning and strategizing goals, processing emotions, and recording events, etc.The goal of Writing for Your Life is to use writing as a means to empower the cancer patient/survivor during diagnosis, treatment, and recovery by:

1.) Coming to terms with your illness

2.) Exploring your emotional life and any difficult issues with which you may be struggling

3.) Formulating ideas for living fully in the present, while fighting cancer

4.) Devising strategies that will aid in the healing of mind, body, and spirit

5.) Clarifying and outlining your hopes for the future

Workshop details:
5 Sessions on Wednesday evenings
• January 13 and 27
• February 10 and 24
• March 10

Time: 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
475 Park Avenue South, 8th Floor
New York, NY 10016

Although this workshop is held at the LLS office, it is open to all cancer survivors. If you, or anyone you know, may be interested, please contact Maria Feeney at the LLS at 212-376-4770 or If you have specific questions, you may contact me at