• 100 Days of Good Karma: Day 62 (Writing: A Coping Mechanism)

    Pen and paper

    Thursday, September 11, 2014

    Day 62 of 100 Days of Good Karma.

    A friend asked that I write a blog post discussing how these first days of a cancer diagnosis have impacted my writing.

    But as I sat down to capture my thoughts into something coherent, I realized the topic was too big for just one post.

    The problem with talking about how a cancer diagnosis impacted my writing, is that first I have to talk about how writing impacted receiving a cancer diagnosis.

    There is a line in James Dickey’s book, Deliverance: “It was not believable. I had not dealt with anything like it even in my mind.”

    I don’t know if James Dickey ever received a life altering medical diagnosis, but in just sixteen words he perfectly captured the feeling of being told ‘you have cancer’.

    I could not wrap my head around it.  Could not cope with it.  I had no way to assimilate cancer into my daily existence.

    And then a friend of mine and I came up with the idea 100 Days of Good Karma.  We resolved to write down a silver lining every day for one hundred days, because if the good karma wasn’t going to come looking for us, we were determined to go looking for it.

    Those first days and weeks after receiving a cancer diagnosis are like a black hole in my memory.

    During those first days, I moved through the world wrapped in a deep fog.  I crept from one day to the next, one doctor appointment to the next.  I controlled panic only long enough to wait until my children left the room before crumbling into a heaving mass of tears.

    I was over-conscious of the passage of time.

    On July 8th, time was a vast river that I stood in the middle of and yet barely noticed.  It rushed around me, teeming with wildlife, a din of sound and life that was both endless and all encompassing.

    On July 9th, the vast river became a stagnant stream pooling around my ankles.  The corpses of fish and birds littered the cracked banks of the river bed, and the water dried even as I dipped my fingers into it.

    I couldn’t get the river back.  Couldn’t even fully remember what it had looked like anymore.  I could only document the death of the stream before it faded from memory.

    I needed my children to see the stream, needed them to see me, in case they had to grow up without me.

    Knowing that I’d given myself an assignment of writing one blog post per day was the only thing that pulled me out of bed on more days than I care to remember.

    It sounds overly dramatic to say ‘writing saved my life’.

    It’s true, I could have skipped documenting this experience.  I didn’t have to write over sixty blog posts in sixty days to wake up today.

    But I don’t like to think about what my mental state would be if I hadn’t.

    And a funny thing happened on the way to writing about cancer…

    I found that writing about cancer gave me distance from cancer.

    Distance that I desperately needed.

    Once I reduced each experience to words, whether funny or painful, I could work with the words. I could manipulate them, squeeze every ounce of emotion out of them.

    Silver Lining:  Some of my bravest, most honest, most gut wrenching writing has come out of these first days.

    Because I felt like I had nothing to lose.

    And it is precisely that ‘nothing to lose’ mindset that drives me to continue writing.

    So now that I’ve covered ‘how writing affected my cancer diagnosis’ I feel like I can address my friend’s question on how ‘my cancer diagnosis affected my writing’.

    Stay tuned.

    What’s your silver lining today?  I love comments!


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5 Responsesso far.

  1. Amazing how something so beautiful can come from an ugly place. I’ve felt that this summer has pulled the best writing from you. Cancer is still an awful thing–you’ve really given it a shape and an emotion by focusing on all sides of it.

    I love you, babe.


  2. […] I wrote a post about how writing helped me deal with cancer. […]

  3. Pam says:

    Such an awesome post, Meghan. Really compelling reflections…and as a writing buddy, I can definitely see how clear and crisp your prose has become. Stunning.

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