From a private journal to a published book

Posted August 1st, 2014 by Be The Match and filed in News
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Editor’s note: This story is part of a three-part series on using writing to cope with the transplant journey. Links to the other stories can be found at the end of this post.

Brian_small_011Brian still vividly remembers the first time he wrote about what he and his wife, Betsy, were going through. It was a few days after Betsy’s diagnosis. He’d come home from the hospital, and didn’t know what to do. “I just started writing and it turned into a mass email to let everyone know what had happened. Writing it was therapy. It helped me process the fact that it was happening and what was really going on,” he says.

When he checked his email the next day, he had gotten countless emails of support. “I remember tears rolling down my face because I felt like we had this community of support. I also realized that I needed a way to keep them informed,” he shares.

Brian started a CaringBridge® site that he used to keep people updated throughout their journey. “It was an amazing tool for me to be able to write, offer my thoughts, and give updates. The messages we got back also lifted Betsy’s spirits,” he remembers.

While he used CaringBridge to write publicly, Brian also kept a private journal that he started when Betsy was in the hospital for her transplant.

“Instead of having all of this stuff running through my mind, I kept a journal. It became a good way to pass the time, and also a good way for me to get things out of my head and onto a piece of paper. With a journal, you can write and be really honest with yourself. Maybe even admit things in the journal you wouldn’t want to talk about with anyone else. In your journal, you can feel safe to let yourself vent a little bit, or let yourself be scared,” he says.

While it was never the original intent, several years after her transplant, Brian and Betsy decided to turn his journal entries and CaringBridge posts into a book, “Here Comes the Sun”.

“We had a friend who told us she’d printed out some of the CaringBridge posts and she would read them when she was having a rough day to put things in perspective. We thought that if she benefited from them, maybe other people would, too,” Brian says.

But, he adds, “Don’t think you have to do anything with your writing. I turned it into a book, but even if I hadn’t it still would have been really valuable for me to do it.”

Brian’s first tip for getting started writing is to keep a notebook and pen with you. “That makes it easier. When you have time and you have thoughts in your head, you can write it down. It doesn’t have to be beautiful prose. It can be bullet points. Just start dumping things from your mind onto the piece of paper. It doesn’t have to be anything good.”

And, if traditional writing isn’t your thing, “maybe draw pictures. Maybe write poetry. Or, maybe write something totally unrelated to transplant. Any of those things are valid,” Brian shares, “All that matters is that you put something on paper and it probably helped you in some way to get it out.”

Like Brian, Brianne also made some of her writing public during the transplant journey. She used a blog to share her experience and cope with her feelings. Read her story here. Sherri is like many people who choose to keep their writing private. Read how journaling helped her here.

If you’ve used writing to help you cope, do you have tips to help others get started? Share them with other transplant patients and caregivers on our Facebook Patients Connect Page.

3 Responses to “From a private journal to a published book”

  1. Stacey CAmpbell says:

    I too wrote about my husband’s cancer journey quite extensively and many have told me to put it in a book. I have no idea how to go about that though and am anxious that you were able to. I found this so very helpful as I worked through all the pain, fear and anxiety of watching him suffer so. We are on the up side of this journey now but still dealing with residual issues. I would love to get in touch with Brian to ask him how he did this if that is at all possible.
    Thanks for this story.

  2. Stacey CAmpbell says:

    I wrote “envious” not anxious that you were able to….ugh. I hate typos! 🙂

  3. Brian says:

    I used caring bridge.org as well for a way to update our friends and family as well as a personal outlet of my feelings and emotions while our newborn baby Harper Peliah was admitted at Childrens Hospital in Philadelphia in the NICU for the 1st 9 months of her life after given a ZERO percent chance of survival. My 300+ journals have now become a written document of a MIRACLE as our baby girl is now home and doing AMAZING! Any info and help regarding how to go about turning our “journals” into a book would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

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