I sit at my sun-flooded desk with a green ceramic vase perched on the corner. The sweet, woody aroma of its contents draws my attention. It is filled with a vibrant bouquet: two dozen yellow-stemmed, black-leaded Dixon Ticonderoga # 2 pencils interspersed with a dozen cheerful Crayola brights. All points are freshly sharpened and facing upward, ready to grace a page. I believe in writing.
I have come to this new-found passion neither willingly nor easily. In my early 40s I ceremoniously burned every journal and poem I had ever written, dismissing the works as self-indulgent ramblings. I spent the next decade living in a Writing Free Zone. Then, at the age of 50 I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
After nearly a year of chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation, I became acutely aware that even if I had wanted to write (which I didn’t), I absolutely had no words to describe this overwhelming ordeal. Besides, writing seemed like a sure-fire way to relive the nightmare. When friends helpfully asked if I was journaling to cope with the terror of the cancer roller coaster, I felt like a petulant child. “No,” I would think, “and you can’t make me!”
Yet, I was drawn to the hope and honesty of a poem posted in the waiting room at the New Mexico Cancer Center. A pamphlet accompanied it with an invitation to join Writing to Thrive, a writing group for cancer survivors. Before I could consciously reject the idea, I contacted Carol Jordon, the facilitator. I am now on a journey with a dozen compassionate and articulate women and men that is sometimes painful and often joyous.
I have discovered writing as a catalyst for growth and an important agent in renewing my health. I rarely write about having cancer, but I often write about living from the fresh perspective of surviving cancer. What is more, the writing group has helped me find all of those words I had lost so very long ago.
There are several dulled pencils scattered before me as a result of my day’s reflections. It’s time to resharpen them and place them back into their vase so they will be ready and waiting for me tomorrow.
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