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Journaling through Cancer in the 21st Century

by Deborah Ludwig

Wellness image

Marni visited me in the hospital during one of my admissions for chemo in the spring of 2004. I was bemoaning the difficulty of responding to all the emails I’d received from people who’d reached out to inquire about my health. She suggested I start a blog. I could write whenever I felt like it, posting health updates and giving my family and friends one central place to go for information.

“What a great idea!” I thought. I had never blogged before, but I had been journaling since 1992. For me, journal­ing was a way to record my life, work through challenges, set goals, and heal emotionally. Blogging was just a new way to journal.

How Writing Can Help
Did you know that expressive writing has health benefits? Research has shown that ex­pressive writing can strengthen the immune system, increase lung and liver function, improve cognitive function, reduce stress, lower blood pressure, boost your mood, decrease symptoms of arthritis and asthma, and increase well-being in cancer survivors.

It doesn’t matter if the topic of your writing is positive or negative; healing benefits are achieved as long as your emotions are involved. Though not a substitute for professional help, jour­naling can help you work through the difficult emotions that accompany a cancer diagnosis. It is a wonderful therapy tool for cancer survivors.

In our digitally connected world, a blog may be the preferred medium for today’s journal writers.

Author of Article photo

Deborah Ludwig

Getting Started
All you need to start writing is a journal, a notebook, or a computer. In our digitally connected world, a blog may be the preferred medium for today’s journal writers. A quick Google search for blogging platforms will provide some options – most of them free. There are even healthcare-specific blogging commu­nities, like CaringBridge.org and CarePages.com, where users can create their own personal websites to share health updates.

Most blogging platforms allow you to control the privacy of the posts you publish. For example, you can make your blog viewable only to people who have a password. And if you don’t want to share your writing, you can even change the privacy settings so that only you have access to your blog.

Going Social
If writing long blog posts isn’t really your thing, you can still “journal” your cancer experience using social media. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are a terrific way to provide quick updates to family and friends while simultaneously creating your story through photos and posts about your treatment, your feelings, and the chal­lenges you are facing.

As you post and share content, each social media site provides a record of your journey, dating all the way back to when you first started posting on the site. When you review past posts, you will make discoveries about your values, the patterns in your life, what drives you, where you have grown and healed, and where you remain stuck. What is revealed in those social media posts can be enlightening and, ulti­mately, healing.

Cancer can make your life feel out of control. But there are at least two things you can control during cancer: when you write and what you write. Writing can help transform your cancer experience into a journey of healing and self-awareness. And in the digital age we now live in, we have access to entirely new avenues for journaling. So pick up that pen – or log on – and start writing.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Deborah Ludwig, a leukemia survivor, has completed 31 journals and is the author of Rebirth: A Leukemia Survivor’s Journal of Healing during Chemotherapy, Bone Marrow Transplant, and Recovery. To learn more about Deborah and her writing, visit DeborahLudwig.com.

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, September/October 2015.