We are very pleased to introduce Karen Jandorf, who has led the writing group at Breast Cancer Connections in Palo Alto, CA since January 2007, when the program's creator, Sharon Bray, moved to San Diego. The group, fondly known as The Scribbling Women, meets for a series of 10 sessions, every other Wednesday night for 2 hours. Writing in a safe and supportive community of women, voices emerge as potent messengers, revealing edginess and vulnerability, ambivalence and nostalgia, gratitude and hope.
Through the experience of writing together and sharing what has been written, each woman has the opportunity to explore, express, and discover that what has been bubbling beneath the surface can be revealed, met, held, and healed.
At this point you might be thinking, "That's great but I'm not in a group" or "I'm not the one with cancer; I'm taking care of someone with cancer" or "I don't know what to write about." Not to worry. I'll give you some suggestions to get you started, but first, I'll let you in on a little secret: anything can be used to prompt memories, thoughts, and feelings. Just look around: you are in the bathroom - looking in the mirror, reaching for a hairbrush, or washing your hands, or in the bedroom - luxuriating on your soft sheets and pillows under your favorite comforter, lying in bed staring at the dust bunnies multiplying in the corner, or in line at the grocery store, Starbuck's, or the pharmacy - all of these are writing prompts.
Keep a notebook in your bag, in the car, on the kitchen counter, on the bedside table. Jot down what you're doing, what you see, what occurs to you. Just keep jotting. Each of your notes can become a prompt to explore a feeling. Here's a way of putting this into practice.
In one column, list your notes. In a second column, list everything you're feeling. Pick one of your notes and a feeling...mix and match...you'll be surprised how just about any note and any feeling can be combined to create something that will speak not only to you, but to others as well.
|Jotted down notes||Emotions|
|Looking at a woman in a low cut dress ordering a latte||Fear|
|Getting a Victoria's Secret catalog in the mail||Longing|
|Using the last Kleenex in a box||Anger|
|Turning out the lights for the night||Envy|
|Realizing how long it's been since High School||Grief|
|Hearing the song that used to be "our song"||Anxiety|
|Feeling a twinge||Hurt|
A Few Exercises
Maybe it's a slice of meatloaf, or a bowl of ice cream. Maybe it's a concoction with ingredients that probably should be strangers to each other, but it's been a family tradition for generations. Comfort food is personal, particular to each an every person.
What comforts you? Is it food? Lying in bed on a Sunday morning, sipping coffee with the paper scattered about the comforter? Watching a movie with good friends? Do you know how to comfort yourself? Or do you do a better job comforting others? How easily to you allow yourself to be comforted?
Breast cancer is a direct confrontation with feminine identity. Here are some of our culture's roles, stereotypes, and archetypes. Coming to a richer, deeper understanding of one's changing feminine identity is an avenue for healing.
|plain Jane||daddy's little girl||bridesmaid|
|bad girl||crone||mad woman|
|drama queen||tomboy||super model|
|ice princess||bag lady||mom|
Select one of the archetypes (or think of one of your own).
Here are some suggestions for writing topics:
- who you secretly fear you are
- who you used to be
- what you wish you were
- what you expect to become
- who you're afraid you'll never be
- what you reject in yourself
- what you think others see in you
- what you think nobody knows about you
Karen Jandorf has studied with Sharon Bray since 2003 and is trained in the Amherst Writers and Artists writing group method. After her breast cancer diagnosis in 2003, Karen became a member of "The Scribbling Women of CBHP". Her poetry has appeared in Sharon Bray's A Healing Journey: Writing Through Breast Cancer (2004), CURE Magazine, The Survivor's Review, and in Bray's When Words Heal: Writing Through Cancer (North Atlantic Books, 2006). In addition to her professional writing experience, Karen is a certified Professional Coach (PCC) and Master Health Practitioner in Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP). She is also a first level Yoga Instructor and a TaKeTiNa Rhythm teacher.