Literary Reflections is pleased to present our featured writing prompt response from September. We asked, ” Have you been a member of a group that helped you connect with your true passion? How did this group sharpen your focus? At times, did you resent their guidance? What insights to your talents did the group offer?”
Cara Holman wrote:
When I first pick up the flier announcing the formation of a writing group for women cancer survivors, I am ecstatic. Finally, a silver lining to all the misery I have endured the last three months. A chance to reawaken my childhood passion. It is only after I secure myself a spot in the group that the self-doubts begin. What makes me think I can write?
We enter as strangers the first day, tentative, eying each other warily. We are here because our bodies have betrayed us, have harbored silent invaders who have fed on our cells with hedonistic abandon. We are here because in the quest to seek out and destroy cancer cells, we have been relentlessly poked, prodded, cut, bruised, and de-humanized. Writing offers us a chance to make our voices heard again.
It is the second or third meeting before we write about cancer. I hear anger, fear, despair, pain. If I listen carefully enough, I also catch faint glimmerings of hope. I feel a shock of recognition in hearing my own inner feelings reflected back to me in someone else’s words. I realize I am not alone.
Week after week we hear the same message from our group facilitator until we are almost ready to believe it. Everyone has a strong unique voice. Writing belongs to all people. Above all, a writer is someone who writes.
Slowly we learn to trust one another. Slowly, we begin to trust our own traitorous bodies again. It is not a linear process. We informally dub our group “The Healing Pen,” a safe haven where no emotions are too raw to examine.
But there are times when I wonder why I am still with the group nearly three years out from my diagnosis. I ask this when Robin succumbs to her cancer, and again when we lose Melecia. Isn’t it time I put the whole cancer chapter of my life behind me and move on?
I think the answer is this. Our group has never been a place where we write exclusively about cancer. We also write about dim sum, banana slugs, jigsaw puzzles, pets, and pet peeves. For a few hours a week, I am able to feel whole again, validated by the other women in my group. I come to believe that I am something more than the disease that had taken up residence in my body. I am a person with something worthwhile to say. In spite of the scars and my uncertain future, I am still me.
Yes, there is pain involved sometimes. Some writings hit a raw nerve. There are days when I tell myself I will never come back. But I always do. What this group gives me is a refuge in which to write, surrounded by other courageous and articulate women who respond to my words but never judge me. Our words are our greatest weapon in our joint fight against cancer. Cancer may threaten our very existence, but it can never still our voices.
Cara Holman can be reached at her blog “Prose Posies.”