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By Kayla Giacin
Thursday, February 28, 2013

Last night, CBTF held a creative writing workshop for AYA brain tumor survivors.  The group (including myself) was led by Joy Jacobson and Jim Stubenrauch, both English professors at Hunter College.  We sat around the conference room table and discussed using writing as an outlet for the challenges that we face.

What is it about creativity and in many cases, writing that brings out the emotions we often find it hard to express? So many of my fellow survivors are talented writers, photographers, artists, cinematographers and so much more that it’s very difficult not to find a connection between art and facing adversity.

First, the group was shown a video about youth who use spoken word to talk about their personal life challenges.  One person was videoed saying that she found those who are extraordinarily expressive in their writing to be very brave for putting it all out on the line in such a public way.  My immediate thought was, “That’s funny, because I use writing BECAUSE I’m afraid to put myself out there in other ways”.

The group was given several writing prompts meant to let us explore traits about ourselves and continue to talk about them.  Justin wrote, “Cancer doesn’t make me uncool, in fact it might make me cooler than you.”

Survivors used the words “accomplished” and “proud” to express how we feel when we create something through a means such as writing.

We talked about how the act of writing might even put the author in a better mood either because they feel a sense of relieve over their struggles or because they are proud of what they have done.

We also discussed journaling not only as a way to express emotion on our bad days but to keep us in check about the good, something we often forget to acknowledge!

The following are some tips about using journaling as a source of a healing narrative according to author Louise DeSalvo who wrote “Writing as a Way of Healing”:

•    It portrays experience concretely, in rich detail
•    It connects feelings to events
•    It balances positive and negative emotion, even as it describes difficulties
•    It provides insight and reflection it relates a full and comprehensive story

We’d love to hear about ways that you have expressed yourself during your struggle with a brain tumor either as a survivor, caregiver, sibling, close family friend or any one who has a loved one with a diagnosis.  If you’d like to share a piece of writing or another creative expression (artwork, photography, etc…) you can email a file as an attachment to Kayla at and we can feature them in future publications or on our Facebook page and website.

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