Today we're excited to talk with Diana Raab, MFA, RN, author of Healing With Words: A Writer's Cancer Journey. (Visit Diana's website at: DianaRaab.com)
FQ: You began writing about cancer in your journal as soon as you were diagnosed. It seems clear that you did this writing to help make sense of your own feelings. When did you realize that you wanted to turn your journal entries and poems into a book?
Since the age of ten when my mother gave me my first journal to help me cope with the loss of my grandmother, I have used journaling to help me make sense of my feelings. I have always turned to journaling during tumultuous times in my life and my breast cancer was no different. All of my eight books originated on the pages of my journal.
My MFA mentor felt my writing was so compelling that it was important I went ahead and turned it into a book.
FQ: How does your writing process differ when writing prose as opposed to poetry?
My mood has a huge effect on whether I write prose or poetry. Typically if I am going through something very emotional, like cancer and there is a lot of explaining, I will choose to write prose. If I have an intense emotion about an event or something I see that elicits poetic feelings in me, I will turn to poetry.
FQ: I was touched by the relationships you describe between you and your family, friends, and, especially, your husband. I imagine that this network of support was extremely helpful throughout your diagnosis, surgery, and recovery. Do you have advice on how to build these kinds of relationships both before and after a cancer diagnosis?
As an only child who felt abandoned by the loss of my grandmother at the age of ten, it has always been important for me to have a supportive network of loved ones around me. My parents were role models in a weak marriage, two people who stayed together for the sake of staying together, but love was not inherent to their relationship. They complained a lot. I decided early on that I was going to marry my soul mate and I did. We have been married 33 years and have three loving children. In terms of friends, I have a few very good friends who I can count on and who can count on me when they need to.
FQ: How do you think this book will benefit other cancer survivors?
As a journaling advocate for many years I really do believe in the healing power of all types of writing. In my book, I show readers how I chronicled my journey, in the hope that they will learn to chronicle theirs. I teach journaling at UCLA Extension and in writing conferences around the country and people always tell me how much better they feel after writing. Writing helps us not only make sense of what we are feeling, but it helps us cope with and get ideas for how to feel better. One of the most common concerns is people don’t know how to start. My answer is always the same. At the top of your page write, “I feel like….” and see where it takes you. Sometimes even writing, “I don’t know what to write,” can get the words on the page.