By Lisa Morgan
As I drove to a meeting today, I spotted the silver and glass Kaiser Facility on Expo Blvd and was quickly transported back five years ago to the day, when I met with my first (and only) surgeon to discuss my inevitable surgery. I did not know at the time it would be a three step process for me; surgical biopsy (not a good result), lumpectomy (still not good enough), and finally the dreaded mastectomy. It was a day like no other, altogether surreal, sad, hopeful and efficient. To top it off, my beloved 17 year old dog passed away that night and I was left devastated by the emotion of it all, falling into an abyss.
I am happy to proclaim that five years later it all sounds like a really bad country song (“three chords and the truth”) and I am here to tell the tale. During this time of crisis and fear, I turned to writing my thoughts down so I could get some relief from it, and not exhaust my friends with the deep, dark craziness of my rantings. I think it started as a coping mechanism in doctors’ offices as I waited and waited throughout my treatment. First perhaps, it was a list of questions so I could stay focused, and talk to the doctor, or nurse without being hysterical. Later, it became a documentation of my personal treatment process. I am so glad to have those notes still; little index cards with lists, hopefully dated, doodles and symbols representing my state of mind at the time. They are quite amazing to review five years later. And, if something happens, family and friends will be left with a good sense of who I was and who I have become.
Five years ago I had to seek my own complimentary support as Kaiser did not offer any cancer support services beyond a bi weekly group session that I attended only once. It scared me with all the technical discussions of different cancers, stages, disasters and complaints- (it was not my “happy place”). I found a counselor on my own so I could speak with a neutral party about my issues. I was referred to a great naturopath by my best friend who, provided me with a sense of peace about my path and alternative therapies to treat the creepy, uncomfortable side effects of chemo and radiation. I asked my doctor about dietary changes and they said I could call for a consult with a dietician… who, was not prepared to deal with the likes of me. And, I continued to do yoga when I was able to, with my own supportive private teacher. Finally, in 2011 Wellness Within launched and I attended a Mind Body Medicine Group and found “my” people.
So all this is a preamble to say, thank goodness for Patti Brown and the important services that Wellness Within offers to people on the big C path. Anyone can come and receive the necessary support to help them navigate their journey for free. I love facilitating the expressive writing for healing sessions, as it is close to my heart and oh so personal. I wrote to live and to remember what happened, and now I write to have a creative outlet, to put on paper some sense of who I am and inspire others to take up the pen and do the same. Don’t be intimidated by the “writing” label. This is not your high school or college class full of rules about grammar, punctuation and red pen marks. This is about you creating a time and space to write what needs to be written. I provide prompts like poems, photographs, music, found objects, and topics to get us started on an expressive magic carpet ride and off we go.
If you don’t like the prompts and need to write something else; a grocery or to do list, a letter, or draw, that is all good. All work is treated as fiction and we all share what was memorable, striking, and strong about the work as it is read. We are creating a creative expressive community. Those of us who have participated have been absolutely amazed at the stories, poems and tales shared. Many have never considered themselves as writers. But we all have stories to tell, memories, dreams, and visions. To be able to share them in an environment of confidentiality, affirmation and acceptance with other like-minded people is really great. I hope you will come to a session and explore your own journey with us. We meet the second and fourth Thursdays of each month starting again March 14th from 6 – 8 pm.