I have always believed in the healing power of writing. Ever since I can remember, writing has been quite therapeutic for me. So much research has been conducted over the past several decades showing how expressive writing helps us make sense out of what we are going through, add structure to our thoughts and feelings, and regulate our emotions—a very beneficial channel for our anxiety and stress. Studies have also revealed that writing about traumatic and stressful experiences positively impacts our physical and psychological well-being. However, for almost a year now, I have been preoccupied with my health and my healing and I have not been writing much nor consistently.
You see, ten months ago, I went through a traumatizing experience that shook the core of my existence and changed my life forever. I was diagnosed with Liposarcoma, which is a rare type of cancer that develops in soft tissues. It was all so sudden and utterly shocking for me. It happened during the start of the global pandemic and the first 2020 lockdown, when the entire world had hit PAUSE on normal life. I guess that was how I finally paid attention to the massive growth in my thigh that, according to my surgeon, had been growing for years. In a flash, I felt my life shattering to a million pieces. I have always been quite healthy so I couldn’t comprehend this AT ALL!
I am someone who practices a positive and healthy lifestyle in general.
Life is valuable and I cherish it as the most precious gift one could ever have. Was I going to die? How could I leave my boys behind? I was in complete and utter shock! Answers…I needed answers and a lot of patience. I had to try to make sense out of what was happening, and I needed to calm my emotions to try and think rationally. Even though I was aware of the therapeutic power of writing, I did not write like I normally did to deal with my thoughts and emotions. Instead, I resorted to reading every single medical research article about my condition—which was not the best thing to do then.
I’ll make a long story short…
The team of doctors and specialists treating me were among the best in Belgium. I was also fortunate that the tumour was detected before it spread to other organs. My surgery date was scheduled shortly after, and the nasty tumour was removed. My doctors assured me that the operation was successful and that I was cancer-free. Regular scans and doctor check-ups will be part of my life now, but I am just so thankful to be granted a new chance to live.
The entire process since the discovery of the tumour, including the diagnosis, the surgery, the recovery, the treatment, the physiotherapy, and the long healing process that I am still going through has been the most stressful and most traumatic experience of my entire life. Being someone who naturally practices a positive lifestyle, and is surrounded by an amazing support system of family and good friends, I was able to bounce back to my positive, hopeful, optimistic self fairly quickly.
Or at least that’s what I had thought until last week when…
…I received a message on one of the social media platforms from a girl I did not know. She had seen one of my posts that I had written shortly after my surgery. A family member of hers had recently been diagnosed with Liposarcoma, and their tumour was similar to mine. My heart was suddenly clenched and I felt her pain. I understood her need to find answers—anything—to help make sense out of all this. So, I decided to reply to try and help in any way I could.
I started to write:
“…. Almost a year ago, I ……”
And then I paused. My thoughts—and memories—about this terrifying experience that I had gone through were blocked. They were hidden behind a massive wall and I couldn’t recall nor find them. I couldn’t remember the agonising details! What happened? I dug into my mind. I had to dig and dig, like a deep and arduous excavation, to retrieve those painful memories. It only took a few minutes, but it was difficult and nerve-racking.
Then suddenly, I was reliving the entire nightmare again: the pain, the fear, the questions, the tears, the suffering…I was back there, in that ‘life-threatening zone’. I summed up to her everything I could remember that could help give her the answers that she was looking for—or at least some kind of moral support. But I was also drowning in my tears as I wrote to her—tears that had dried up several months ago when I had THOUGHT that I was moving on and making good progress in my physical and mental healing process.
Apparently, I was not past those frightening, stressful, anxiety-filled emotions.
For the entire day, I experienced sudden bouts of uncontrollable crying which drained me out of all my energy. I couldn’t go for my daily brisk walk, and I was unable to complete my daily workouts. I felt weak, unwell, and just wanted to lie in bed. What was happening?
Next day, I decided to do some gardening work because I felt that would keep my mind off reliving my past experience. It didn’t help. I felt even more down and drained—physically and emotionally.
I then had a sudden urge to write. So, I did. The crying spells continued as I wrote and wrote for hours. I looked at my bed and it was covered with tissues!
Finally, I had written four thousand words, and I was beginning to feel a little bit more ‘liberated’ from my feelings of anxiety, fear and sadness. I was starting to experience the healing power of writing! Since then, I have been writing every day about my experience. It’s my ninth day of writing today and I’m already feeling so much better. The sudden bouts of crying gradually became less intense and now on day nine, I’m feeling so much better.
How Writing can be Therapeutic
I am writing about what happened: I express what I’m feeling—openly and honestly—describing to myself the pain and elaborating on my fears. While counting my blessings, I express how grateful I am to be given a new chance to live. I also acknowledge and appreciate all those who stood by me in my most difficult time. Trying so hard to make sense out of all that happened, I continue to look for tools to help me cope and continue with my healing process. I face my fears and tell myself that I will overcome obstacles with hope, positivity and courage. In an effort to understand and learn from my emotions, I focus on trying to understand myself more and more so that I continue to develop and improve myself from within.
Writing is truly an incredible form of therapy, and such a remarkable healing power.
I have just made a promise to myself that I will keep writing, not just about this experience, but about any thoughts, concerns, contemplations, or emotions I am experiencing. I will continue to write, just like I used to. But I will write consistently and in any form (stories, poems, reflections, journals…anything!) As long as I can channel my thoughts and feelings to guide me and give me better control, understanding and awareness. Writing will help me heal and will keep impacting me positively.
I can do it and I will. I hope you could, too.