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Expressive writing therapeutic for cancer patients

Cancer diagnosis, treatment and recovery can be a challenging and stressful process. To give patients an outlet to express their feelings in a nonjudgmental, confidential environment, Cancer Wellness at Piedmont offers complimentary Writing for Recovery classes. “Expressive writing is a way to get pen to paper and express your emotions, ideas, thoughts and experiences in a confidential manner,” says Angela Buttimer, LPC, a facilitator at Cancer Wellness.

The benefits of therapeutic writing

“We know from Harvard Medical School research that [writing] boosts mental, physical and emotional health, improves immune system function, reduces inflammation and helps with pain reduction,” she explains. “It also helps reduce anxiety and depression symptoms, reduces stress and improves stress resiliency in patients.”

What to expect from the class

Writing experience is not required in Writing for Recovery classes.   “Grammar and technicality are not important in expressive journal writing," says Buttimer. "What is important is that the participants have the opportunity to really express themselves.” Some people come to class believing that they have nothing to write about, but soon learn how therapeutic the process can be. “They are so surprised once they get going how much they have to express,” she says.

How the class impacts cancer treatment

Buttimer says participants use the lessons they learn from class in their daily lives. “They are able to find their voice in situations that might have intimidated them,” she says. “They’re able to organize their thoughts, and explore choices and possibilities, which is really important for a cancer patient who has been diagnosed, is going through treatment, and needs to look at all of the overwhelming information.”

By writing their feelings down on paper, cancer patients often find they are able to clarify their thoughts. “When thoughts are in our head, it can be really confusing and overwhelming, but once you can see what you’re thinking – and sometimes you don’t even know what you’re thinking until you’ve written it – that is very valuable and helpful to the participants,” says Buttimer.   Cancer Wellness classes are offered free to Piedmont patients and anyone in the community affected by cancer, thanks to the generous support of donors. For more information on Writing for Recovery and other classes, visit Cancer Wellness at Piedmont.

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