In our summer issue, we would like to introduce you to www.writingthroughcancer.com, the new inspirational website founded by author and master educator, Sharon Bray. This site is a fantastic resource for those seeking thoughtful and detailed writing prompts, -- with a new one added each week! With Sharon's permission, we are sharing an introduction and sample entry with the readers of the Survivor's Review.
Writing Through Cancer is a website designed for those of you whose lives have been touched by cancer. Each week, I'll post a writing prompt designed to inspire you to write from your experience of cancer. Each prompt will be available on the site for one month.
Why write from the pain and struggle that comes with cancer? Studies have shown it can actually be good for you. When we repress emotions and silence our stories, we weaken our ability to heal. Writing allows us to unearth and express all that we think and feel. Through the creation of stories, we learn, as we have always done, how to make sense of our worlds. Writing is a form of self-expression that is readily available to you. You can do it just about anywhere: at home, on the train, in a waiting room, or at a cafe. All you need is pen, paper or your laptop and whatever is in your heart and mind. I hope that you'll find new inspiration from the prompts offered -- inspiration that encourages your stories of the journey of cancer.
Best Wishes from SHARON BRAY, Ed.D.
I have been waging a losing battle with a squirrel. One, who despite all my attempts to outwit him as I move the bird feeder from branch to branch, remains victorious. I finally gave up yesterday, having hung the feeder on a wire that rendered it inaccessible to anything larger than the small assortment of birds that frequent it. Or so I thought. I watched from my window as the squirrel returned, sat on a branch of the large succulent outside my office window, his tail twitching nervously, and looked straight at me-in disgust, I imagined. He crept cautiously out on a slender branch and stretched his body as far as it would go in an effort to reach the bird feeder. He failed but immediately scurried up another part of the plant and onto another branch, this time reaching the top of the feeder, but it swung away from him, and once again, he was foiled in his attempts to raid the birdseed. I smiled, gloating a little I'll admit, but my victory was short-lived. He refused to give up, refused to be outwitted by this devious human, and for the next hour, he made several abortive attempts to reach the stash of sunflower seeds. Finally, in some combination of contorted body moves, he snagged the feeder, caught the edge of it in a small branch, and managed to snack to his heart's content. I let him feast, amused and amazed by his ingenuity and perseverance.
Perseverance. It's defined as "steady persistence in a course of action...or purpose...especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles or discouragement" (www.dictionary.reference.com). Google "perseverance and cancer," and you'll get story after story of everyday heroes, children and adults who, in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, demonstrate courage, tenacity, and yes, perseverance-the will to endure and even succeed.
"You should never give up," Justin Whitaker of Stafford, VA told reporter Cathy Dyson. Justin was diagnosed with an aggressive T-cell lymphoma in June 2006, and yet, he fought his way back into the school's varsity baseball team after his initial treatments. He had a recurrence, and after needing regular transfusions to stay alive, a bone marrow transplant was his only hope. He was out of the hospital and back on his feet before Christmas, half the normal recovery time and intending to graduate with his high school class this June. (www.fredericksburg.com/News)
Matt Lacke, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee freshman, died in 2006 after a two and a half year battle with liver cancer, but his friends and family remember him as someone who demonstrated the virtue of perseverance. He wanted to go to UWM in the fall following his liver transplant, and he did. "Matt always had a lot of goals for himself...he was always just such a fighter," Mark Lacke said of his son. Sadly, Matt's condition took a turn for the worse in the fall, but he was determined to complete his first semester at UWM, even taking two of his final exams while he was hospitalized. He completed his semester with a 3.92 gpa. "He didn't let cancer take over his life," a friend said. "He did what he wanted to do, and he did it great." (www.uwmpost.com/article/50/16/805)
Perseverance. Tenacity. Courage. The will to survive or to attain one's goals. Maybe your own story demonstrates these qualities, or perhaps someone you know, who has been struck down by life's hardships or disease, has inspired you to persevere. Write about perseverance this week, about not giving up, about realizing your own dreams despite this disease called cancer.
Sharon Bray is a writer and educator, best known for her innovative work in leading therapeutic writing groups for men and women with cancer and for teaching and mentoring helping professionals in the use of expressive writing for those who have suffered pain, loss or trauma.
Her first book, This Way to Canada, was written for children while she was a young mother living in Nova Scotia. Her most recent books, A Healing Journey: Writing Together Through Cancer (Amherst Writers Press, 2004) and When Words Heal: Writing Through Cancer (Frog Books, 2006) document Sharon's use of expressive writing with cancer patients. She has also written and published non-fiction, poetry, and memoir as well as a number of professional articles. Her work has appeared in Moxie Magazine, Looking Back: Stories of our Mothers and Fathers in Retrospect; The Santa Clara Weekly; Women's Forum; The San Jose Business Journal; Goddard College's Semester Magazine, The Transformative Language Arts Reader, Coping with Cancer Magazine, and The Storyteller & Listener Online, among others. Most recently, she was co-editor with Patricia Fobair, LCSW, of Learning to Live Again, an anthology of writing by cancer patients, published by the Stanford University School of Medicine (2007). She is currently at work on a novel.