There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. Maya Angelou
We all have a story. No, let me rephrase that: We all have stories. As cancer survivors, we have diagnostic stories, treatment stories, doctor stories, family and friends stories, survivorship stories – the list goes on and on. There is no end to the stories, but what we might not have enough of is the ability to tell our stories.
And let’s be honest. The further we get down the survivorship road, the less and less time we are allotted to share our cancer stories. Once others in our lives have returned to normal, they aren’t as likely to be willing listeners. You can’t really blame them, but what do we do with our stories?
The answer is as varied as our community. If you’re like me, you can blog, tweet, share on Facebook and speak before survivors’ groups to tell your story. When I need to share more privately, I don’t attend a support group anymore, but turn to the group of survivor-friends I have gathered around me.
For others there is journaling or keeping a diary. Putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, unleashes emotional and physical catharsis. The beauty of journaling is the release of our untold story into a space of safety and total privacy. When journaling, you can write anything you want, without fear of offense or reprisal.
Art, and specifically drawing, is another compelling way to release the story within. I wrote a blog post last March about an experience I had at a survivors’ symposium. Drawing to music, my friend and I fell into a discussion about our scars. We shared their location, how we got them and, most importantly, how we felt about them. It was an amazing moment of telling our “scar stories.”
Another way I tell my stories is by working as a patient educator with the Pathways Women’s Cancer Teaching Project. It’s immensely gratifying to tell your story to a medical professional, who, in hearing it, is better trained to treat the whole person. As patient educators, we all agree that, in sharing our stories, we get back as much as we give.
To me, self-expression and validation are the heart of support. Being heard heals us – no matter what the malady. Pick up a pen, a musical instrument, a paint brush or a lump of clay. Tell your untold story in whatever way feels natural to you. I’d love to hear your story and how you chose to express it.
Survival > Existence,