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About this blog:
When I first initiated this blog,”Writing the Heart, ” it was on the experience of living with heart failure, allowing bothy for my personal exploration as someone living with heart failure and a resource for other people, similarly diagnosed, to write about their experiences as heart failure patients. I have been writing a similar blog, writingthroughcancer.ca, for those living with cancer since 2006. Twenty years ago, inspired by the research on the health benefits of writing, I first began leading expressive writing groups for cancer patients and survivors shortly after my own diagnosis and later, included the bereaved, heart failure patients, and simply those wishing to write from difficult life experiences. No matter the initial reason people come to my groups to write, what we inevitably write most about is not just the periods of hardship, loss or illness, but one’s whole life and the people, experiences and places that hold meaning for us–those memories and people we “carry in our hearts.”
On this site, I’ll be sharing some of my own life stories that I want to remember, hoping that others will also be encouraged to write and possibly share the stories of their lives–more on that aspect of this blog as I get this site updated and begun. Welcome, then, to the “new” and revised, “Writing the Heart” blog.
I’m probably best known for my innovative work using expressive writing with cancer patients; my early work was described in my two books on expressive writing during cancer (A Healing Journey: Writing Together through Breast Cancer (2004) and When Words Heal (2006) and co-editor of an anthology of Stanford Cancer Center patients’ writing (Learning to Live Again, 2007).
I developed and led writing programs for breast cancer patients and survivors shortly after diagnosis and treatment for DCIS, ductal carcinoma in situ, in 2000, including those at Stanford Hospital Cancer Center, non-profit breast cancer support organizations, as well as Scripps Green and Moores UCSD Cancer Centers in San Diego. Over the past 20 years, I’ve encouraged and listened to patient stories of cancer and their medical experience. In late 2009, after collapsing on the sidewalk while walking my dog, I was diagnosed with heart failure–most likely the result of the radiation therapy I received in 2000. In early 2020, I led my first expressive writing group for heart patients at Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research in Toronto.
Over the years, I’ve been a featured speaker at healthcare conferences in USA and Canada, including the Omega Institute in Rheinhart, NY, and as a former faculty member of the CURE Magazine Forums. For several years I taught creative nonfiction, memoir and transformational writing for UCLA extension’s “Writers’ Program” and a week-long intensive course in writing for healing at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. I was also privileged to lead a biannual series called “The Writers’ Workshop at Stanford Medical School,” for faculty, staff, medical students and alumni, which, in conjunction with my groups for cancer survivors, gave me a unique vantage point on physician and patient perspectives.
Prior to focusing on writing and teaching writing, I was a corporate consultant in Toronto, New-York, and Silicon Valley, served as interim and full-time executive director of three Silicon Valley non-profits, and a was part-time instructor at Santa Clara University, CA. I earned my doctorate in Educational Psychology from the University of Toronto in 1987 and later, deciding to pursue what I had always loved, I studied creative and transformational writing at Goddard College, University of Washington, and Humber College in Toronto.
I have always loved writing, filling diaries and spiral bound notebooks in my youth and through more than a few chapters of my life–for pleasure and to help navigate through some painful life events. My passion for encouraging and supporting the narratives and poetry of those living with serious illness has continued. Since returning to Toronto in 2017, I have led expressive writing programs for Gilda’s Club of Greater Toronto and served as an advisory board member and author of a bi-monthly column for the online publication, Cancer Knowledge Network. I’ve written and published two books on the healing power of writing with cancer survivors as well as a number of articles on writing and health, some poetry, personal essays and even a children’s book when I was a young mother living in Nova Scotia. Like you, I have experiences and stories from life I want to write, in part, because writing is what I do, but more–as a way to capture and preserve the memories and stories of my life, a legacy of sorts. As Jim Harrison wrote in the final line of his poem, “Larson’s Holstein, “Death steals everything but our stories.”
I hope that this blog will inspire you to write from your heart–the people, experiences and places that have shaped you, the ones you want to remember. Maybe you’ll even want to share one on this site…