Friday, February 29, 2008

February 29, 2008 - Blogging Is Good for Your Health

At times I’ve wondered what keeps me going, as a blog author. Why did I start writing on such a grim subject as cancer in the first place, and why do I keep it up – long into my journey through this gray, featureless country of watching and waiting?

An article describing a new research study suggests why.

Implementing an Expressive Writing Study in a Cancer Clinic,” from the most recent issue of The Oncologist, describes the results of an experiment. Researchers asked a group of cancer patients to practice journaling while they were sitting in their doctors’ waiting rooms. After several months of sporadic scribbling, the writers answered questions about how the practice of journaling had affected their outlook.

The effect was overwhelmingly positive. Through linguistic analysis of the patients’ journal entries, investigators found that nearly all the writers used words that evoked a transformation of some sort. From the article:

“Many of the changes expressed in the writing were positive and related to feelings about family, spirituality, work, and the future. As one patient wrote, ‘Don’t get me wrong, cancer isn’t a gift, it just showed me what the gifts in my life are.’ Words and phrases from the writing texts appeared to illustrate a continuum of emotional transformation that may occur after a cancer diagnosis, beginning with the shock of diagnosis (e.g., mortality, shocked, uncertainty), followed by indications of acceptance (e.g., resigned, relaxed, readjust), expressions of gratitude (e.g., thankful, appreciate, grateful), and words related to transformation (e.g., more loving and giving, change in persona, new interests).” [Nancy P. Morgan, Kristi D. Graves, Elizabeth A. Poggi and Bruce D. Cheson, “Implementing an Expressive Writing Study in a Cancer Clinic,” The Oncologist, vol. 13, No. 2, February 2008, pp. 196-204.]

I know cancer has changed me. It changes just about everyone who experiences it. The change process begins on the day of diagnosis and continues long after. I have a sneaking feeling it never ends.

So, what does writing about cancer accomplish? Maybe it’s a sort of scapegoat effect. Leviticus 16:9-10 tells of the ancient Hebrew practice of cutting a goat out from the herd, liturgically loading all the sins of the people upon its back, then driving the benighted beast out of the camp. Hard luck for that particular goat, but it made the people feel better.

Maybe when I tap out a blog entry on my keyboard and click “Publish,” some of the fear and anxiety and anger of the cancer experience is sucked out of me and shot into cyberspace, hitching a ride on some runaway electrons. The sheer act of forging thoughts and feelings into words gives them a sort of objective reality. What had once been an ominous, swirling cloud takes on a certain shape. The shape it takes is not nearly so fearful as the imagining.

I don’t know whether or not the pen is mightier than the stethoscope, but the two can have a common purpose, it seems.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Pleese,keep on blogging,
It's so helpful for us.