Patients, Families Invited to Share Stories
Writing about a potentially life-threatening illness can have a positive impact on the people dealing with it, according to researchers who have studied the effects of expressive writing on cancer patients.
The personal expression of feelings through writing and/or art can also be important to relatives and friends.
In keeping with this finding, the Foundation of FirstHealth plans to publish the literature and artwork of people who have faced the challenges of illness and grief. Called "Share Your Story," the project will involve the writing, artwork and/or photography of current and former FirstHealth of the Carolinas patients and their family members, FirstHealth employees and volunteers, and local community members.
The first "Share Your Story" project resulted in a printed booklet that was published in November 2006.
"Even to this day, I get comments from patients who tell me how one particular essay or poem from the first book really inspired them and gave them hope when they were in a difficult time," says Laura Kuzma, coordinator of the CARE-Net program at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital.
CARE-Net is a program that pairs specially trained volunteers with patients dealing with severe chronic illness.
The positive effect of expressive writing on cancer patients was documented by researchers from the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. Seventy-one adults who were being treated for leukemia or lymphoma at the Washington, D.C.-based cancer center were asked to express their thoughts by responding in writing to the following question: "How has cancer changed you, and how do you feel about those changes?"
After the writing assignment, about half of the patients said the exercise had changed their thinking about their illness, while 35 percent reported that writing changed the way they felt. Three weeks after the exercise, the effect had been maintained.
According to the Lombardi researchers, the findings showed that the brief writing exercise led to improved quality of life -- even though a change in the way a patient thinks or feels about a disease may not sound like much.
"Sometimes just sharing our story and our experiences can help," she says.
Submissions for the Foundation of FirstHealth's "Share Your Story" project will be accepted until May 1. A review committee will make the final selections, and accepted materials will be published and distributed to other patients, family members and community members free of charge.
Poetry, short stories, spiritual/inspirational writings, and personal essays will be accepted. So will art and photography. Guidelines are as follows:
- Entries must be original and unpublished.
- Entries must be typed or neatly written.
- Each entry must have a cover sheet that includes the entry's title and category as well as the author's name, address and telephone number.
- If a document is more than one page, the pages should be numbered and the author's last name should be placed on the top right corner of each page.
- All entries will be published with the author's name unless the author prefers that it be published anonymously.
- All entries become the property of FirstHealth of the Carolinas.
Entries should be submitted to Kuzma, CARE-Net Coordinator, FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital, P.O. Box 3000, Pinehurst, N.C. 28374 or delivered to the CARE-Net Coordinator Office in the Oncology Department on the Lobby Level of the hospital.
Anyone needing more information can call 715-2346.
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