By: Karla Baptiste

I’ve been writing down my thoughts and feelings for as long as I can remember. As a pre-teen and teen my diary which included a lock and key was like my best friend—keeping all of my thoughts that I couldn’t share with anyone. I was one of four girls so I’m sure my sisters would’ve loved to have gotten their hands on my diary. As I got older, I put my thoughts in a journal—no lock and key because living on my own it was less likely that it would fall into the wrong hands.

Journaling always made me feel a sense of relief so it was no wonder, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 34, that I put my thoughts onto paper with the intention of writing a memoir. I wanted young women to know that breast cancer was no longer their grandmother’s disease and that it didn’t have to be a period. It could be a comma. With all the drama I went through (being a divorcee, remarrying my ex-husband days before my mastectomy, becoming a divorcee again, and climbing the corporate ladder all while battling breast cancer and striving to make it to the five-year cancer-free mark), I knew my book would be a page turner.

I realized after publishing my book how cathartic it was to get everything off my chest. Unfortunately, around the time that I published my book my cancer returned and this time it spread to my spine. Thankfully, I received great care at the cancer center I went to and was soon cancer-free again. I loved the environment at the cancer center and became an ambassador of their cancer support group. As an ambassador, we were asked to give back when we visited. Some people played instruments in the cafeteria during lunch, some sang, but no one was doing anything around writing. I knew how much journaling helped me during my journey so I decided to start an expressive writing group called Writing Through It.

“What is expressive writing?” you might ask. According to the Encyclopedia of Behavioral Medicine, expressive writing is “a form of therapy in which individuals write about their thoughts and feelings related to a personally stressful or traumatic life experience. Unlike communicative forms of writing, expressive writing is personal, free flowing, and informal, often without concern for style, spelling, punctuation, or grammar.”. So expressive writing is simply what most of us do anyway which is write about our stressful or traumatic experiences in our journals. But did you know that expressive writing has health benefits? It can cause you to have fewer stress-related visits to the doctor, improve your immune system functioning, reduce your blood pressure, improve your mood, and give you a feeling of greater psychological well-being just to name a few. Who doesn’t need that? So grab your journal and your pen and start writing through your problems. It could provide the breakthrough that you need.

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