WRITING MY WAY THROUGH CANCER / Edition 1

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Overview

Diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2000, poet and author Myra Schneider turned to her writing to help her come to terms with the experience. In this difficult but ultimately uplifting book, she shows how creative and autobiographical writing helped her through diagnosis, treatment and recovery - as well as the change in self-image following her mastectomy. Drawing from her own writings about her life with cancer, she develops practical ideas and exercises for using writing in personal development. This positive book provides inspiration and support to people affected by cancer, and all those interested in the interplay of creative writing and therapy.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781843101130
  • Publisher: Kingsley, Jessica Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/28/2003
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Table of Contents

Poems in the Book 6
Notes and Lists 7
Acknowledgements 8
Pt. I Journal
Ch. 1 Investigation 13
Ch. 2 Diagnosis 19
Ch. 3 Hospital 28
Ch. 4 Recovery From The Operation 1 37
Ch. 5 Recovery From The Operation 2 50
Ch. 6 First Encounter with Chemotherapy 61
Ch. 7 Interlude in Nice 74
Ch. 8 Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy 1 77
Ch. 9 Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy 2 87
Ch. 10 The After Effects of Double Treatment 100
Ch. 11 The Final Cycles of Chemotherapy 110
Ch. 12 Escape to Eastbourne and Book Launches 119
Ch. 13 Climbing Back to Strength 1 128
Ch. 14 Climbing Back to Strength 2 139
Afterword 149
Pt. II Writing Ideas
Introduction 153
Starting Off 155
Letting Go in Lists 159
Flow-Writing 163
Visualizations 166
Writing About Memories 175
Playing With Words 180
Image Explorations 185
Taking an Overview 188
Taking Your Writing Further 193
Other Books by Myra Schneider 197
Bibliography 198
Useful Addresses 201
Index 206
Poems in the book
Today There Is Time (1) 33
Today There Is Time (2) 39
I'm Not Going to Tell Her 46
Snowdrops 53
Bath 57
The Shell 64
Elsewhere 68
The Cave 83
Release 91
The Camellias 95
Amazon 103
Lavender 112
When It's All Over 120
Climbing 132
In The Chagall Museum 137
Choosing Yellow 145
Notes and Lists
The Snowdrops 22
What's On My Mind 25
The Bath 32
Dumping: Against Cancer 40
What's On My Mind 42
Mixed-up Feelings 51
Flow-Writing 51
Resources that have helped me 54
Shell: Flow-Writing 59
Shell: Additional note 60
Note/Flow-Writing: The White Iris 65
Image Exploration: 'The Cave' 70
Note for 'The Cave' 73
'The Cave': Notes 75
Cancer and jam 85
Notes for 'Angry' poem 86
Lavender: Note 107
Dumping 109
Lavender: Note 111
Poem note ('The Car') 117
Poem note ('When It's All Over') 118
Note for the colour poems 122
Notes for poem about yellow 126
Note for a poem 129
Flow-Writing about the blind girl 136
Mice in The Underground: Poem note 139
Guns of death: Flow-Writing 141
'Choosing Yellow': More notes 142
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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2004

    WRITING MY WAY THROUGH CANCER

    Myra Schneider has written a short book that will soon be regarded as a classic in the literature concerned with surviving traumatic medical experiences, here of breast cancer, tellingly evoked with all the attendant feelings with which a victim and survivor must cope. This is accomplishment enough, but there are two other strands of equal substance. One is Schneider's creative effort to transmute suffering and the fear of death into something positive. Inevitably that leads, third, to the insights she offers to non-poets and poets about the formative processes by which a work of art slips into existence. Schneider's narration of losing her breast benefits by her background as one of England¿s distinguished poets. She can evoke longer and larger facets of her experience with a telling image or charged choice of incident. I am reminded of F. Robert Rodman's 'Not Dying' that powerfully relates his struggle to cope with his wife's death from cancer, but needs a greater length to be expressed. Both are fine books, but the differing backgrounds of poet and analyst are revealing. The writing techniques Schneider relies on to help her through her experience are open to everyone, however, and require no special writing ability. They include 'Letting Go in Lists', 'Flow-Writing', 'Visualizations', or 'Writing About Memories'. An appendix gives a useful review of these techniques and others, and samples of other breast cancer sufferers use of them. All allow a person to to objectify their feelings, feel the relief of getting something off one's chest and, crucially, experience the mastery that comes through coherent self-expression even in the face of appalling experience. Schneider at one point evokes a caricature of her judgmental father only to allow herself to realize she has moved beyond the 'one/breasted, hardly a woman' figure he berates her for becoming into a '...deeper me' able to confront illness and transcend loss. She notices some snowdrops growing and begins a piece of flow-writing: 'Drop of life on this distressed afternoon. ... Very small, they bend but do not give way, they refuse winter, silently they remind me it can end.' The simple flowers enduring winter come to stand for life's ability to defy death: defiantly she turns them into a poem where they become 'fiercer than the swimming/open-mouthed fear that wants/to devour me...' On another occasion she contains her anger in a list that contains causes ranging from chemotherapy to being too hot or too cold. If just these self-help exercises were all, ¿Writing My Way Through Cancer¿ would be a useful book. But beyond Schneider's moving narration of her journey is the revelation of her seeking genuine creative release in the face of death, whether physical or metaphysical. That puts her book on a par with Marion Milner's classic 'On Not Being Able To Paint', and with Henry Miller's writing on watercolor, particularly 'The Angel Is My Watermark'. Milner famously comes from an analytic perspective and struggles to release her creativity from the captivity of controlling, overly rational strictures, to loosen the deadly hand of convention that embodies her own dread of release into a fuller life, a release her fear equates with madness, in order to paint (read: live) with freshness and integrity. Miller contrariwise celebrates a demonic, Dionysian release and trusts his intuition to lead him, structured only by paper and watercolor. He is not under the threat of immediate death that Schneider confronts and has escaped Milner¿s repressions. But he needs to find a living form, like Milner... Schneider's creative response falls between these figures. She is nothing if not as disciplined as Milner, having one technique after another

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2004

    WRITING MY WAY THROUGH CANCER

    Myra Schneider has written a triply interesting short book concerned with surviving breast cancer. It also highlights a creative effort to transmute suffering and the fear of death into something positive, and offers insights into the formative processes by which a work of art slips into existence. Her charged choice of incident is evocative. Although both are fine books, F. Robert Rodman's 'Not Dying' which powerfully relates his struggle to cope with his wife's death from cancer needs a greater length to be expressed. The writing techniques Schneider relies on to help her through her experience require no special writing ability. An appendix gives a useful review of these techniques and samples of other breast cancer sufferers use of them. All allow a person to to objectify their feelings, feel the relief of getting something off one's chest and, crucially, experience the mastery that comes through coherent self-expression even in the face of appalling experience. Schneider's seeking genuine creative release in the face of death puts her book on a par with Marion Milner's classic 'On Not Being Able To Paint', and with Henry Miller's writings on watercolor. Milner struggles to release her creativity from the captivity of overly rational strictures, a release she equates with madness, in order to paint (read: live) with freshness and integrity. Miller celebrates a Dionysian release structured only by paper and watercolor. But he needs to find a living form, like Milner... Schneider is as disciplined as Milner, and as open to her feelings as Miller. Here her techniques for sufferers become means to an evolutionary transformation of destructiveness into independent, free-standing affirmations of life. That brings us to Schneider's the poet. To celebrate the end of treatment she imagines in notes an extravagant poem of release, of climbing back to strength 'word by word.' The mundane note becomes a poem that ends: 'When it's finally over I'm going to gather these fantasies,/ fling them into my dented and long lost college trunk,/ dump it in the unused cellar/ climb back to strength/ up my rope of words./' Even as she recovers from the fog and confusion of her operation we are treated to a series of reflections, notes and drafts that culminate in: 'TODAY THERE IS TIME/ to touch the silken stillness/ of myself, map its landscape,/ the missing left breast, to lay/ my nervous palm softly/ as a bird's wing across/ the new plain, allow/ tears to fall yet rejoice/ that the surgeon scraped/ away the cancer cells./ Today there is time/ to contemplate the way life/ opens, clams, parts, savour/ its remembered rosemaries,/ spreading purples, tight/ white edges of hope, to travel/ the meanings of repair, tug/ words that open parachutes./ Schneider remarks she actually exceeded her normal yearly poetic output under these incredibly difficult conditions. The light finally thrown by 'Writing My Way Through Cancer' has at once the sober but warm brilliance of someone who has danced on the lip of the grave and lived to tell the tale.

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