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A cancer diagnosis can shake you to your core and affect every aspect of your life. It can also leave you feeling overwhelmed with emotion and at a loss for words. During this complex and difficult journey, many patients say that they find solace and strength in documenting their experiences. Journaling can shift your thoughts away from cancer and provide you with an outlet for expressing feelings that you might not feel comfortable stating aloud. It can also help you focus on the more positive aspects of your life.

Writing about your cancer journey may prove to be easier than you think. The process will only require a few minutes of each day, but you can opt to spend as much or as little time on it as you like. You can also choose the format that works best for you, whether it’s writing in a notebook, typing on a computer keyboard or speaking into a voice recording device. Just be sure to date each entry for future reference. Other than that, there are no hard-and-fast rules.

Here are some ideas that might help you get started:

  • Keep your "notebook" beside your bed and write as soon as you wake up each morning. Record the first few words that come to your mind, which may help you recall and write about your dreams. This can also be a good time to write about your feelings, moods and plans for the day.
  • Commit to documenting at least one good experience, or one thing that you are thankful for, every single day. It could be something as simple as a child’s smile, a song that lifts your spirits, the sun’s rays streaming through a window or a perfect cup of coffee.
  • Create a freeform "collage journal" made up of interesting items that catch your eye throughout the day. Keep an envelope with you so that you can collect sketches, notes, clippings, receipts, images, leaves, stones or anything else that grabs your attention. When you look back at your collage, your right brain will focus on the patterns, colors and "big picture," while your left brain will zero in on the words and phrases.

Because your story is highly personal, sharing it with others can be a big step. If, when, how and with whom you share your cancer journal is entirely up to you. If you feel comfortable, you might consider including others beyond your circle of family members and close friends. For instance, some patients choose to take on the role of advocate. In this way, you can provide support to others who are living with cancer and raise public awareness, as well as help to advance cancer research, improve the quality of cancer treatment and address legislative and regulatory issues regarding cancer.

At Moffitt Cancer Center, we offer several supportive care programs designed to help our patients share their experiences. If you’d like to learn more, contact us at 1-888-663-3488 or complete new patient registration form online. No referrals are necessary.