​Deciding Whether to Journal Your Breast Cancer Journey

In Breast Cancer, Recent Posts by Barbara Jacoby

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If you are like me, just about everything that I have read about dealing with breast cancer includes a suggestion to keep a journal. I personally couldn’t buy into this idea because I didn’t want to remember all of the details of the day-to-day thoughts and issues that I would be facing. And the more that I thought about it, all that I kept remembering was the time when I was younger and I kept a diary and my brother took it upon himself to break into it and share the information with all of his buddies – and my friends and family. As a result, I decided at that time to never write down my personal thoughts and experiences again because I didn’t want to share them with anyone else. They were my experiences. This was my life so how could that be of any benefit to anyone else other than to put myself into a position to be laughed at and exposed for the very insecure person that I was.

Your choice to journal or not to journal is just as individual as everything else about you so there is no wrong decision to be made.Barbara Jacoby

However, I know my approach doesn’t work for everyone. Many people want to keep a journal because it not only makes it easier to get one’s feelings out when forced to organize them in writing but also it serves as a reminder of information received from different sources that will be needed at various steps in their treatment. Many others keep track of all of their doctors’ appointments, treatments, surgeries and other meetings such as those with support groups. Some use a journal for jotting down thoughts that come to mind as they reflect on the day they just had and how it affected their thinking and point of view. And a journal is a perfect place to record such things as side effects from a treatment or pain problems and levels to share with their oncologist at their next appointment.

One of the other main purposes I have heard about for keeping a journal is to leave behind a history of a personal journey for family members, in particular for those that have small children. When the children become old enough, they are able to understand what their parent has experienced and perhaps have an idea of how that parent was motivated in her/his cancer fight because of the importance that the children have/had in their life. There isn’t a parent that I know who doesn’t want to be around to see their children grow up, to be there at landmark events such as graduations and weddings and to be able to have time with their own grandchildren. But, if for any reason they are not able to do so, they have left a legacy that is far beyond any other treasure that they could have imagined.

Then there are the journals that ultimately become books that people choose to publish. These books that chronicle a patient’s journey help others who have been diagnosed with breast cancer to see a bit of what they, too, might expect. They can be sources of inspiration that help others through the toughest times when a glimmer of hope for a better future is hard to find. They help others to know that they are not alone and that there are others who have traveled a similar path. And often, they help provide answers to problems that a current patient has not experienced before and will help them with their own personal decisions.

But should you choose to do as I did and not write down a single thing about your experiences, please know that such a choice is just fine. I kept a calendar of my appointments just so that I didn’t miss any of them and showed up when and where I was directed. The rest of my time was spent focusing on my job and enjoying my free time as I had in the past. I do not have children so my consideration of what I did and how I did it was in the present with regard to my husband and how we were both getting through this new “adventure” in our lives. Your choice to journal or not to journal is just as individual as everything else about you so there is no wrong decision to be made. Just do what works for you and never look back and that will always be the right thing for you to have done.