Powerful Ideas For A Successful Breast Cancer Healing Journal

WritingKeeping a JOURNAL during the process of healing is very important. I know many of you get scared of a blank page starring back at you or some of you might be thinking, “are you off your rocker?, I don’t want to remember this.” I imagine that you are having feelings and through ts that are at times overwhelming. I also imagine that your head is spinning in many directions at once. As a person in treatment you have entered a territory that you have never explored and you have already experienced a lot of trauma as a result. A JOURNAL becomes your friend, confident, and safe place.

  • A JOURNAL invites you to tell “it” all about whatever is going on inside of you.
  • You can tell your JOURNAL anything. If you choose a composition book instead of a pretty hard-back JOURNAL you can even tear out the pages that scare you when you re-read it.
  • Your JOURNAL becomes your witness to your life. Because of the personal trauma that is involved in treatment, there are going to be some days that become a blur and many details that you will not remember later. You may find yourself thinking three years from now, “what was the big deal?”
  • Your JOURNAL witnessed this very big deal and will recount it to you for years to come.
  • A JOURNAL is a way of witnessing and validating your strength, your courage, and your scary places.

Doctor Recommended Ideas For Breast Cancer JournalingHaving a diagnosis of breast cancer, is like you have been hit on the head with the window in the Wizard of Oz and have found yourself in a strange land where flying monkeys taunt you and a wicked witch wants your dog (intuition) and your red shoes(a symbol of your inner magic).
Writing every day, even if it is a one word entry such as “hopeless,” will help you keep track of your journey and provide you with stepping stones along the way. Here are some journal exercise examples:

  1. Feel free to just record a word every day for those of you who cannot imagine writing a whole page. Another way to get that blank page to warm up is to write letters. You can write letters to yourself, your God, your friends and family members.
  2. Letter writing in a JOURNAL is safe because you are never going to send it. You will not have to edit what you say. You can tell it like it is. If you think a friend has let you down in this process, journal that feeling out in a letter.
  3. If you think someone who you never expected has stepped up to the plate in wonderful ways, gush out your thanks and gratitude. Let your tears of gratitude flow.
  4. Whatever it is that you wish you could tell your friends or family about this journey but just can’t quite find the courage to tell them, write it in your JOURNAL.

Having a safe and private place to write your most intimate feelings is so important because so much is going through your head and clouding your heart right now. You are in survivor’s mode and the brain is not able to process it all. That is why your JOURNAL becomes your written record. A year after treatment, re-read it and you will be surprised how much you actually went through on this journey. If you have not ever journaled before now is a great time to start. If you are a regular journal writer, then make sure you keep it up at this time.

Dr. Robin DilleyDr. Robin B. Dilley, author of In A Moment’s Notice: A Psychologist’s Journey with Breast Cancer is a licensed psychologist in the State of Arizona. Her eclectic practice allows her to cross diagnostic barriers and meet clients in their need assisting them to respond to life in healthy and empowering ways rather than react to life’s circumstances.

How To Use The Interview Technique As Part Of Your Healing Process

Interview Technique For Psychological Breast Cancer HealingYou have been given a diagnosis of cancer. I invite you to sit down and have an INTERVIEW with this cancer that has shown up. Don’t let cancer take control of you and your life. Sit down with it and get out your pen and paper and begin the INTERVIEW of cancer to see what hidden agenda we can find. Here is how you start. Get your journal, find a quiet place, perhaps even fix two cups of tea. One cup of tea is for you and the other for cancer. Be mindful of your preparation. Maybe even choose two different teas. Choose a green anti-oxidant tea for cancer and detox tea for you. Make the environment friendly, perhaps even buying fresh flowers, because you are preparing to have one of the most important conversations of your life. And you are learning how to love your enemies.

Now that you are all settled, close your eyes and imagine cancer. How does cancer show up for his interview? How is cancer dressed? What color, shape and size it this cancer? Go back to the guided imagery journal page and finish the details. What odor does cancer have? Texture? Once you have a full believable image, begin the INTERVIEW. You are in control of how this goes. Thank cancer for coming to the interview and tell cancer you have prepared tea. Next ask cancer, “You have come into my life. I am not in favor of your presence but since you are here, educate me. What do I need to learn about you being here?” Write down whatever weird thing that cancer might say.

Then ask cancer what it needs to leave your body. Sounds almost ludicrous, doesn’t it? Creative writing and INTERVIEW technique can bring us some wisdom about our situation that we cannot find in a book or treatment. I don’t believe you did anything to cause your cancer, but I do believe you can be part of your healing process. Even if the end result is death you do not need to be its victim.

Ask cancer what it needs from you. Even if cancer taunts you and says “be afraid.” Just gently respond, “fear won’t help me and I don’t allow it on this journey.” Notice how cancer responds to that assertive answer.

This INTERVIEW technique is a useful way to tap into the unconscious and gain access to information you need. If you find this process too difficult to begin with cancer, consider starting with loneliness. It may be an easier start for you and, once comfortable with the technique, you can move on to INTERVIEW cancer.

If you are lonely; depressed; angry; hurt; or feeling any other bothersome emotion, sit down with your pen and your journal and pretend to be an interested reporter. An investigative reporter or a great journalist is interested in more than just the facts. He/she is interested in the context, the background story, and the motive. For instance, picture your loneliness as an animal, object, or person. Spend a moment describing what loneliness wore to the INTERVIEW. Did loneliness bother to get dressed up or did loneliness show up disheveled? What jewelry is loneliness wearing? How old is loneliness? Now you are ready for the INTERVIEW. The INTERVIEW starts like this, “Loneliness, I see you are about (how many years old)? Can you tell me about the first time you experienced this lonely feeling inside?” Write down the answer and then ask any INTERVIEW questions that come out of that story. Can you describe to me what is the hardest part about being lonely? Can you describe the best time you have had being lonely? If you don’t like being lonely so much, what stops you from changing? What steps would you have to take not to be so lonely all of the time? Which step are you willing to take first? If your life stays this lonely, what will you have to look forward too? What can you do to change? Now you get the point. Use this INTERVIEW method to do your own emotional work.

Feature photo source: Healing Powers of Journaling

Dr. Robin DilleyDr. Robin B. Dilley, author of In A Moment’s Notice: A Psychologist’s Journey with Breast Cancer is a licensed psychologist in the State of Arizona. Her eclectic practice allows her to cross diagnostic barriers and meet clients in their need assisting them to respond to life in healthy and empowering ways rather than react to life’s circumstances.


Feelings -  Breast Cancer Journaling TherapyThere are four words in the vocabulary of emotion, affect, feelings, emotion, and mood. FEELINGS are an awareness of what is happening inside of us and I imagine that those two words, “breast cancer” have brought up many FEELINGS. Maybe you have experienced FEELINGS that you have never felt deeply before such as fear, terror, and anger. Then there are those FEELINGS of sadness, confusion and helplessness. All of these FEELINGS are normal when you have had to face breast cancer and the multi-dimensional issues that come with it. You have had to learn a whole new language that was once foreign to you. You have had to learn about types of breast cancer, stages of breast cancer, and the many treatment options. You have had to show your body to doctors, nurses, and other medical strangers. You have had to make tough and sad decisions about your breast and/or re-construction options. You are fighting for your life and fighting not to be just a statistic. Your very identity has been shattered and threatened. Don’t you think you are entitled to some anger about that? Are there enough tears inside your body to tell your story? Your life, as you know it, has changed permanently. You FEEL many FEELINGS about that and all are important.

FEELINGS are information for us to pay attention to. It is important to notice, identify, and name the FEELINGS you have about your breast cancer diagnosis. Those FEELINGS may change on a dime with no warning. One minute you think you are fine and then one of those breast cancer commercials pop-up on the TV and you burst into tears. Then, someone tries to comfort you and you tell them to leave you alone. They leave you alone and then you accuse them of not caring. They say you are impossible and a fight breaks out between you and the person who was just trying to help. Wow. Sound familiar? FEELINGS are just like that scenario. You may not believe me, but it is easier to fight with someone over disagreements than it is to FEEL the terror that comes with breast cancer. So, in one way, FEELINGS are a distraction to what is really going on.

Thus, here is a short diagram of what to do with all of these complex FEELINGS that are coming out of nowhere.

  1. Notice the FEELING.
  2. Describe and name the FEELING.
  3. Breathe into the FEELING using your breath as your friend.

Really that is all you need to do to honor the feeling and let it go. You may choose to journal your FEELING or use crayons to color your FEELING. But right now, Notice, Describe, and Breathe is all you need.

Dr. Robin DilleyDr. Robin B. Dilley, author of In A Moment’s Notice: A Psychologist’s Journey with Breast Cancer is a licensed psychologist in the State of Arizona. Her eclectic practice allows her to cross diagnostic barriers and meet clients in their need assisting them to respond to life in healthy and empowering ways rather than react to life’s circumstances.

ABUNDANCE – Words of Encouragement For Breast Cancer

Abundance - Words of Encouragement For Breast CancerI thought that this year adding a little alphabet soup to my blogs for Breast Cancer Yoga might be a way to keep you encouraged and looking forward to a much shorter article that is written only to give you something to ponder or journal about.

Cancer is a fatiguing disease and even if you have moved on to the “survivor” compartment, it seems there is always that nagging little voice over any symptom that might come up. Whether it is a common cold that won’t go away or a back pain that you know is from lifting to many rocks into that wonderful healing garden, that voice says, “Is this a symptom it has returned?” Thus, cancer during and after treatment is an emotionally fatiguing disease. It is my hope that by having a short alphabetical word from A-Z you are able to focus on positive energy and keep your spirit soaring.

Our first word is Abundance.

ABUNDANCE is really a belief system. Do you operate from a perspective that there will always be enough or do you come from a place of scarcity where quantity can run out and there won’t be enough for you? This is not about that worn out old saying, “Is your glass half-empty or half-full?” It is about the belief system deep down in you. Do you matter enough to be taken care of by the universe? Or for that matter to take care of yourself?

How much food do you throw away from your refrigerator each week? How many extra pair of shoes do you have in your closet? What other things fill your closet and drawer space? Are you are not living in ABUNDANCE with extras, or are you are living in greed, fear and materialism?

ABUNDANCE is having enough not more. The food system may not be able to support us in years to come and then our gluttony might have to come to an end, but there will be enough to sustain us. What do you need to sustain you? Living simply is ABUNDANT living. Living within your financial means is ABUNDANT living! Living on credit card debt is living frivolously and recklessly. Yes, you may have debt from a medical bill that was a necessity, or a set of tires you are paying off for your safety, but if your credit card is filled with department store debt, you are living irresponsibly. If you want freedom then you must live in the ABUNDANCE of enough.

As cancer survivors or people living with cancer, ABUNDANCE may elude us when we are tired, in pain, and sick from the side effects. However, the day-to-day grind can get to any of us. It is important to dig deep within and find that grateful spot that says something similar to, “I hate not being able to taste my food, but I still choose to nourish myself with the comfort and essentials of eating enough to help my body respond to healing.”

2016 has just begun and enough is exactly what we need to experience. ABUNDANCE and ABUNDANCE of gratitude will assist us in the days and weeks to come as we move toward a sense of enough regardless of the circumstances. “All is well within my heart.”

Dr. Robin DilleyDr. Robin B. Dilley, author of In A Moment’s Notice: A Psychologist’s Journey with Breast Cancer is a licensed psychologist in the State of Arizona. Her eclectic practice allows her to cross diagnostic barriers and meet clients in their need assisting them to respond to life in healthy and empowering ways rather than react to life’s circumstances.

Journaling as Story Telling

Journeling As Story TellingBy: Dr. Robin B. Dilley, author of In A Moment’s Notice: A Psychologist’s Journey with Breast Cancer and a licensed psychologist,

Story Telling is something that most of us enjoy. There is nothing more mesmerizing than getting lost in a well-told story that takes you from your life and into the life of another. Story Telling is seductive, alluring, and hypnotizing. Journaling is one way of telling a story, especially your story. Ah, I hear your insecurities now. “I don’t have a story to tell. My story would be boring. I don’t know how to write. Blank paper scares me.” Yes, all of that is true. So was learning to walk scary when you were a baby but look at you now. Amazing what can happen when we try something that makes us a bit pensive.

It is my belief that each of us has a story to tell, actually many stories to tell. Many women and some men have experienced Breast Cancer and other types of cancer, but none of them have experienced it just the way you experience it. . Breast Cancer created new stories and experiences in your life that you had never encountered. It created many first time events. The psychological research on journaling feelings, experiences, thoughts, fears and hope has been positively documented over decades. It is an easy tool for each of us to use. New research just recently showed some interesting data.

A study by Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer published in the Psychological Science Journal asked 50 students to attend a lecture. Half were to take notes on lap-tops and the other half were to take notes the old fashion way, on paper. Afterwards they were given a comprehension test. The results were not even close. The students who took paper notes scored significantly higher. This process is called analog note taking. The question became, “What causes this level of success in analog note taking?” Mueller believes it is due to a phenomenon called “desirable difficulty” which is a small roadblock that is in your path that actually improves your understanding of a topic. The actual process of writing with pen and paper forces synthesis in the brain of the material being written. Thus, if you are taking notes and writing down your cancer journey you are in fact synthesizing it and integrating the emotional piece of this journey with the physical healing. Even if you never re-read a word that you write it is helping you integrate your story into the tapestry of your life.

Cohn, Mehl, and Pennenbaker wrote in their article on Linguistic Markers of Psychological Change in Events Surrounding September 11 also published in the Psychological Science Journal reported that a study of 1,084 regular journal writers in Livejournal.com found that significant processing of language changed positively over a period of two months as the participants processed the events of 911. This study was over a period of four months. Two months prior to 911 to allow researchers to understand the depth and style of the person journaling. Then the event of 911 and two months after in order that the researcher could note any difference in language, style, and depth. The days of 911 and the few weeks following researchers could see an emotional distance in the writer. In the beginning language was difficult, simple and distant as if the writer was just reporting what he/she was hearing. But as the writer continued to process this event language became closer to his/her original style and emotional trauma became more personalized and began to trauma showed a decrease linguistically in the six weeks post 911. Again we see positive evidence supporting the fact that keeping record of your feelings, experience, thoughts, and dreams is a very important tool to self care and psychological healing. Even though this data may not seem particularly exciting to you, I invite you to begin a new chapter in your self-care process during this cancer journey of yours and begin to record on the outside with pen and paper or even on your computer what is happening on the inside. Think about the events of your day, your treatment, your feelings, your thoughts as chapters in your book. Expand a sentence, a feeling or and event into a page.

For instance, what was it like for you when you heard those words dangle like sharp pieces of heavy metal from our doctor’s mouth, “I am sorry, you have cancer?”

How loud was the earthquake in your soul when those words began to fall into your conscience, knocking over every single inch of personal safety?

Who did you tell first? Who did you tell last? Who did you not tell? Why? Were you protecting yourself or the listener of your story?

What did you fear most? How did you avoid your story? Did you put your head in the sand? Did you face it head on? Did you play psychological dodge ball with the thoughts in your head?

Begin on the blank page to tell your story. Your whole story including your secrets, your fantasies, and all of the mumbo-jumbo of thoughts and emotions. After writing at least a full page or twenty minutes worth you can put it away and distract yourself with the routine of the day. Tomorrow write again. One event and memory will lead to the next. Choose a time of day that is best for you to write. Use colorful and easy to write pens. Find a journal or a composition book that fits comfortable in your lap or on your desk
Begin to look forward to your safe place to tell your story. The pages are mum and will keep your secrets. The pages wait eagerly for you to touch them tenderly or even angrily with your pen. Trees gave up their life so that you can heal. Be grateful of the opportunity to share with the pages what it is like to be you and what is like for you to be going through this part of your journey.

If the blank page is too startling for you, maybe you could start with letter writing? Letter writing is a safe way to get your creative juices flowing. Choose someone to write to such as yourself, your God, a super-hero or even an ancestor that has already transitioned to the next chapter of his or her story. If you had a great relationship with a grand-parent, an aunt or uncle or even a teacher along you path, then pick up your pen and tell them your story. Allow yourself to become comfortable with uncomfortable words such as terminal, treatment, surgery and pain. Allow yourself to relish in stories of connection. Who did you meet along the way that made your journey a bit softer, easier, and hopeful. There are so many stories you have to share, stop reading this and get to writing.

Enjoy the moment. Dr. Dilley

Dr. Robin DilleyDr. Robin B. Dilley, author of In A Moment’s Notice: A Psychologist’s Journey with Breast Cancer is a licensed psychologist in the State of Arizona. Her eclectic practice allows her to cross diagnostic barriers and meet clients in their need assisting them to respond to life in healthy and empowering ways rather than react to life’s circumstances.

15 Simple Journal Exercises to Help Breast Cancer Survivors Focus on What They Want

journal Exercises For Breast Cancer

Dr. Robin B. Dilley, author of In A Moment’s Notice: A Psychologist’s Journey with Breast Cancer and a licensed psychologist.

Yes, is perhaps the most dynamic three- letter word in the universe. Saying YES to life is what every breast cancer survivor and those around them must do everyday. Breast Cancer can be a wake-up call, screaming to each individual, “there is more to life, get up and live it.” Breast Cancer, in all of its ugliness can be used as a gift or a curse and the only difference between the two is how you choose to view it. Breast cancer has the power to make you a victim, shaming you by telling you awful, horrible lies like, “See you did this to yourself. Or you deserve this.” It can wield you into a pile of pathetic “why-me?” Or you can tame those voices like Pi tamed Richard Parker in the movie The Life of Pi, and you can focus on co-existing with this life changing diagnosis, called breast cancer. If Breast Cancer has ended up on your life boat, how you view it will make a difference to the quality in your days to come. In order to make that quality a positive focus, here is a simple journal exercise that can help you focus on what is it that you want.

Please answer the following questions.
Then rate each question on a scale of 1-10 with 10 being completely true and 1 being completely false.

1.)  Do you know that you are the most powerful resource that you have?
2.)  Do you know that you are really capable of living your life closer to achieving more of what you want than what you don’t want?
3.)  What do you think would have to change to make those two above statements more true than not?


4.)  List three things you would like to accomplish as a result to this unexpected and uninvited journey you are taking.


Stop and take a break for a while. Come back to this list in the next hour to twenty-four hours. Circle the one on your list that is the most important to you.

5.)  Write it here: “I want to:
6.)  By doing the above, my life will be enhanced or changed positively how?
7.)  When we change something even for the positive we sometimes have to let go of something else. What will you lose as a result of making this change? What are you afraid you will lose? Sometimes the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of change. Is this true for you?
8.)  It is important to me to make the change at this time because:(list as many reasons that come to your mind:
9.)  What are three steps you need to take to get started accomplishing this important life-changing step?

1.) __________________________________
2.) __________________________________
3.) __________________________________

10.)  How are you going to start those above steps?
11.)  When are you going to start them?
12.)  When will you get there, (set a finish date) creating this important life changing behavior, goal, or accomplishment?
13.)  What will you need to stay focused on your journey?
14.)  Who will be your support team? We all need a support team regardless of how small or big.
15.)  What might get in your way, prevent you or make this accomplishment more difficult than it needs to be?

Dr. Robin DilleyDr. Robin B. Dilley, author of In A Moment’s Notice: A Psychologist’s Journey with Breast Cancer is a licensed psychologist in the State of Arizona. Her eclectic practice allows her to cross diagnostic barriers and meet clients in their need assisting them to respond to life in healthy and empowering ways rather than react to life’s circumstances.

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