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The Most Helpful Thing in my Cancer Journey

by Shirley Shirley (Author of "My Journey: Reflections on Life from a Cancer Survivor")

My Journey:  Reflections on Life from a Cancer Survivor

A friend whose husband has cancer asked me, "What did you find most helpful in your cancer journey?" After giving the obvious answer that you cannot take this journey alone, I considered the next most helpful things: journaling and writing. These weremy ways of bringing my deepest concerns to the surface where I could deal with them and seek answers.

When I received the cancer diagnosis I was overwhelmed. I had not even the simple answers of how to proceed. Even harder for me than the initial diagnosis and surgery, was being told I would have to have chemotherapy, Herceptin infusions every three weeks for a year and take hormonal therapy for five years. In my book, "My Journey: Reflections on Life from a Cancer Survivor" I deal with many of my fears and how I overcame them.

In addition to my journaling I had the opportunity to attend writing classes at the Billings Clinic Cancer Center, organized by Amber Ussin-Davey, a social worker and led by, Dave Caserio, a gifted poet. I was taught free-form writing. He gave us a subject. Then I would writenonstop for ten minutes, writing what ever came into my head. Those who wanted, read to the group. A positive and reinforcing discussion followed. Topics soon expanded from cancer to all phases of my life. I enjoyed my childhood memoriesrecalled in "The Chicken House"with my brothers and"The Cribbage Board" relating to my father. I also wentwith the writing group to Angel Horses Ranch. In these experiences I learned to reach beyond my needs to others. That is what my book is all about; not just cancer, but all of life's experiences that give me meaningful direction and courage.

The cover photo of my book relates to how with the encouragement of my daughter I was able to get outside and still enjoy skiing during the chemo phase. One year after diagnosis I was still here to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary with our four children and their spouses, nine grandchildren, and many friends. The journey because of cancer had broadened my spectrum of joy and fulfillment to appreciate and enjoy each and every day with a new perspective. My life journey has only become better.

Some people question how I can find cancer a positive and empowering experience. I was not aware of this way of thinking in the early stages of treatment, but as time unfolded I became more appreciative of what I had been given. I found myself rejoicing as in the Psalms; "Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with tambourine and dancing, praise him with the strings and flute." Rejoicing brought new meaning of viewing my life in writing through the eyes of a cancer survivor.

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