Q. I have been keeping a journal since I was diagnosed. I wrote in it daily in the beginning and currently write only once or twice a week. Is it better to have a separate journal for each month or just one? I eventually hope to write a book about my cancer experience and will use my journal entries to help me. Any suggestions?

A.

I think it is wonderful that you have utilized journaling and that you started writing upon learning of your diagnosis, continuing to the present time. Few experiences in life are as difficult as learning that you have a diagnosis of cancer. Powerful emotions are stirred up which can be overwhelming and frightening, with many people feeling as if their world has been turned upside down. Writing is a way to give a voice to these feelings such as fear, anger, sadness and loss which may be difficult to express aloud. Putting thoughts to paper can help people feel less overwhelmed and allow them to process these complicated emotions so they can move forward. Many studies show that in addition to helping people cope emotionally by helping them to clear their mind and achieve a sense of calmness, journaling can often provide a much needed distraction and can assist in the alleviation of some symptoms.

Writing a book, or a blog, is a great way to help others who are in a similar situation. Having written your feelings from the earliest stages of your diagnosis to the present will enable you to retrace your steps and read the emotions which were connected to that time. You are able to look back on your journey and read how you were able to cope and keep moving forward. Seeing the progress you have made through difficult and frightening times can be inspiring and sharing your story is a wonderful way to make a difference in the lives of others.

I think it is a personal decision as to how you choose to journal. Separate journals for each month are an option but I find most people use one journal, making sure to date each entry and perhaps mark each month separately in the journal. All the entries are part of your personal story so many choose to keep their writing together as parts of the whole.

If you are interested in reading stories that others have shared about their cancer experiences, an online search of the words “cancer blog” will yield many results.

You may also find this article from The New York Times helpful as you pursue publishing your own book.