Writing therapy for Newtownabbey cancer patients

Cancer patient Joyce Thompson who has experience of 'Writing my Cancer Journey' sessions which are now to start in March and April for cancer patients in the Co Antrim area.
Cancer patient Joyce Thompson who has experience of 'Writing my Cancer Journey' sessions which are now to start in March and April for cancer patients in the Co Antrim area.

Cancer patients in the Newtownabbey area will have the opportunity to take part in ‘Writing my Cancer Journey’ sessions in March and April.

The sessions being offered by Cancer Focus Northern Ireland are open to cancer patients going through or after treatment from throughout County Antrim.

‘Writing my Cancer Journey’ is one of the many care service complementary therapies that Cancer Focus Northern Ireland offers patients to help them cope with their illness.

The County Antrim sessions will be held at All Saints Parish Centre, Cushendall Road, Ballymena, from 10am to 1pm on Wednesdays dated - March 22 and 29 and April 5, 12 and 19.

The workshops are broken up into themes and look at life before cancer, diagnosis, treatment, after treatment, what now and what next?

Breast cancer patient Joyce Thompson travelled weekly from her home in Omagh to Coleraine to use the service and said it was a real lifeline for her.

Joyce, who was diagnosed in 2015 and has gone through chemotherapy and radiotherapy, said: “I thought this service was excellent and would recommend it to anyone.

“I love it because I found that writing things down helped process what I’d been through and helped me work through my own experience.

“One of the best things for me is that I was able to talk to other people who were in the same boat. People are always very sympathetic but sometimes you don’t want to bother family and friends,” said Joyce.

“When you speak to someone who has actually had the same experience they often know immediately what you are talking about,” she said.

“Other people say the things that you were thinking and it opens emotional doors that you might have left closed – it’s a release valve.

“If you don’t want to talk, you don’t have to. You can concentrate on writing about your journey. And of course it’s all confidential.

“And it’s fun too – it’s by no means all about cancer,” said Joyce.

Cancer Focus Northern Ireland counsellor Leo McGarry said: “The written word is one of the most powerful forms of expression, and no more than when you are coping with cancer.

“Research has shown that writing about traumatic, stressful or emotional events can help both your physical and psychological health. Writing offers you the safety to unearth and express what you think and feel. When you begin to shape those thoughts and feelings into a story, it helps you make sense of things.

“It’s a form of creative self-expression that anyone can do. All you need is a pen and paper (or laptop) and the freedom to express whatever is in your heart and mind,” he said.

“You don’t need to have any writing experience and we don’t worry about formalities like spelling and punctuation. It’s all about helping you express your emotions and feelings and enabling you to feel heard,” Leo added.

To sign up for the sessions please email care@cancerfocusni.org or call 9066 3281.

* Cancer Focus NI is a local cancer charity working since 1969 to reduce the impact of cancer on people’s lives. We provide care and support services for cancer patients and their families; offer a range of cancer prevention programmes; fund scientific research into the causes and treatment of the disease and campaign for better health policy.