I posted several weeks ago about journaling, one of the coping tools I’ve been using to help me deal with the many challenges I’ve faced since being diagnosed with lymphoma. Quite a few of my fellow cancer bloggers have done the same.
However, given the sheer number of difficult circumstances – side effects, multiple recurrences of the cancer, physically taxing treatments, etc. – I’ve turned to more than journaling to help me work through it all.
Perhaps due to my temperament, I seem to have chosen a number of creative endeavors for my coping toolbox. And, as I’ve gotten to know other patients through networking and support groups, I see many of them gravitating toward creative outlets, too.
I’ve already mentioned journaling which, although non-fiction in nature, could arguably be considered a creative activity. Add to it the two novels I’ve tried drafting, and I skew definitely in that direction. While the journaling has allowed me to examine the events of the cancer battle and my feelings about them, the fiction work has provided a wonderful escape. The stories sit in the fantasy and Scifi genres – definitely a departure from the real world. Who wouldn’t want to escape the real world, at least temporarily, when you spend hours upon hours in a chemotherapy infusion bay? Actually, though, I’ve been a big fan of Scifi and fantasy fiction all my life. It’s what I consume, so it was a natural place for me to go.
Furthermore, to prepare for my first attempt, I spent countless hours reading books about the writing process, watching lectures online about writing and publishing, etc. Not one word about cancer in any of them. Then I moved into the actual writing which, again, resulted in many hours of my brain in a cancer-free zone. Will the stories ever be published? Well, who knows! They’ve already done me a world of good, but I keep editing with the goal of getting them into readers’ hands. You always want to have a goal! Plus, rightly or wrongly, I actually believe in the stories.
I know I’m not the only patient who has written a novel. Not by a long shot! One of my friends in a local support group has his own manuscript in the editing phase. Maybe you do too?
As the saying goes, music soothes the savage beast. I think it can soothe the fearful, frustrated, angry mind as well. I’ve always considered music an important part of my life. Not that my mind has always been fearful, frustrated and angry. Ha!
I know music is a powerful medium, reaching the brain and soul simultaneously – it’s mental and physical at the same time.
Prior to the invasion of my body by this crud, I’d gone so far as to compose some songs. They’re just indie, Americana style tunes I plunk out on a guitar. While none will ever be nominated for a Grammy (or any other award, LOL), they all mean a lot to me. So, shortly after I got the C-word, I wrote a tune about my lymphoma. And then another about living with cancer. And another about my transplant. And another … You get the idea. Basically, poems to music, they’ve each been a wonderful vessel to pour my emotions about this wild and woolly experience into. Marvelously cathartic.
But you don’t have to play an instrument, be a vocalist or compose music for it to have that effect. Listening to tunes can prove beneficial to the mind and spirit. Curating a playlist to help you overcome difficult patches or keep you in a good place is a great idea.
Now, I haven’t been blessed with one iota of talent or proclivity in this regard despite the numerous instructors on public television who make it seem so easy. That being said, I know a woman – a fellow lymphoma patient – who has taken up painting in the wake of her diagnosis. According to her, she hadn’t painted a lick before. Now, though, it’s her favorite pastime – something that takes her away from negativity or worry and into a realm of positive possibility. That’s awesome!
I’m friends with other patients online who have become avid photographers. They post beautiful, thoughtful pictures via blogs and social media that bring joy to so many. And, if I’m reading their posts right, the photography brings them much happiness as well. Some seem to be traveling when they can and documenting their journeys. Others – quite a few, in fact – are recording daily sights. Their dog playing in a forest, a glorious rose bush, a meadow filled with flowers, amazing sunsets, and the like. Here are some posts for you to check out: Retired in Costa Rica, The Journey of My Left Foot, Mary Smith’s Place.
So Much More
As far as creative endeavors go, I’ve only just scratched the surface. There are so many possibilities: crafting, quilting, knitting, crochet, needlepoint, sewing and tailoring, sculpture, pottery, woodworking and carving, graphic design, videography and production …. You name it!
Whatever your diagnosis and wherever you are in your cancer journey, you may find real solace, relief from stress, and encouragement in exercising the right side of your brain via the creative activity of your choice. Give it a try!