Writing the Journey: A Q&A With Michele Anderson

Insight Articles
March 1, 2016
By: 
Liam McKenna, for LBBC

In 2009, Michele Anderson, of Rosemount, Minnesota, learned her stage III breast cancer had spread. She was familiar with LBBC, receiving our quarterly newsletter and attending webinars. In one newsletter, she learned about Writing the Journey, LBBC’s writing workshops for people with breast cancer. These workshops offer a space to explore the emotions that come along with a breast cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Though she had not written much since her college years, writing remained an interest. So in April 2015, she put her voice back to paper. Liam McKenna spoke with Michele about Writing the Journey.

Liam

What about Writing the Journey caught your interest?

Michele

You know, I’ve always wanted to journal, but I haven’t been much of a writer. I’ve never kept up with it. I thought the course would get me into journaling a little more. I also thought it would be therapeutic.

I used to journal in high school and college. I enjoyed it then, and I thought maybe I’d enjoy it again now. I did rediscover that I really enjoy writing.

Liam

Overall, who sees your writing?

Michele

With my CaringBridge page, it’s not public. Just my friends and family have the direct link. The stuff that I wrote for Writing the Journey, I was writing just for me. While I did share it with people in the writing group, I have not shared any of it with anyone else. But I am working on putting little booklets together for my three children and my husband for Christmas with some of my favorite pieces that I’ve done.

Liam

How do you think they’ll respond?

Michele

I think they’ll be shocked. I don’t know if the kids know I even did the writing course. I’m sure there’s going to be some tears out of it. Hopefully, it will give them a piece of me. I’m going to do some of it — the longer pieces are going to be typed out. Some of the other ones, I’m going to do in handwriting so they’ll always have my handwriting — which is not great [laughs].

Liam

Has your writing evolved in the months since you began the writing course?

Michele

Yeah, I think about different things we explored in the course — like prose versus poetry. I would say it has evolved. I’m more a narrative writer. But in the course, we explore the poetry side of things. I’m still more of a prose type of person.

Liam

Did writing help you connect with your emotions or was it an escape?

Michele

I would say both because there are different writing assignments. Some of them took me deeper into emotions that I felt when I was first diagnosed. Some of it just helped me remember to live in the moment — which is more of an escape because you’re not just sitting there thinking about breast cancer.

Liam

Has the course changed your view of metastatic breast cancer?

Michele

No, but my view of how I am going to face it has changed. I find myself stopping and thinking: if I was going to stop and write right now, what would I say? I feel like I’m more present in the moment.

Liam

You mentioned that in high school and college, you kept your writing mostly to yourself. Was there a feeling of shyness? Was writing something you wanted keep to yourself?

Michele

I think it was both. I didn’t feel as if it was good enough for other people to want to read it. But it was also the experience of doing the writing instead of the finished product. I just enjoyed the process. Coming up with ideas, putting them on paper and letting it flow: I think with a lot of things in life, it’s not really about the end product that we enjoy, but the journey. I think people forget that. They focus on that end product, and then they miss out on the whole journey.

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