Over the years I’ve facilitated Writing is Good Medicine™ programs at the cancer center in Bennington, community workshops and conferences. More recently, due to safety concerns with COVID, online programs have been offered through my blog “A Medical Humanist’s Notes.” I must admit that I miss being in the room with participants but I’ve come to learn that the online format can be effective in helping patients to identify and communicate issues and concerns in facing illness.
I often use a quote from literature, a poem or a patient’s words as a prompt for a writing exercise. This time I’m borrowing the words of Anatole Broyard from his book Intoxicated by My Illness, which recounts his experience and reflections as a cancer patient.
He notes, “Stories are antibodies against illness and pain. Language, speech, stories or narratives are the most effective ways to keep our humanity alive. A sick person can make a story, a narrative out of his illness as a way of trying to detoxify it.”
So, using Broyard’s words, write about “what keeps your humanity alive.”
Remember the rules: write the first words that come to mind, don’t erase and forget grammar and punctuation. Write for 5 minutes and stop.
You may be surprised what you discover when putting pen to paper. Please share your response in the comment section or, if you prefer, maintain for your own records. Consider letting others know your thoughts, including healthcare providers. This exercise could provide useful information in helping to find a meaningful path towards comfort in difficult times.
Stay tuned for more Writing is Good Medicine™ programs!