Healing with Words – book review

Last month we had the opportunity to hear from Diana Raab, author of Healing with Words: A Writer’s Cancer Journey, in both an interview and a reprint of her essay on How Writing Heals (see September 01 post).  Today we will review her cancer memoir, her sixth book.

Writing is very essential to the author’s life and thus became central to how she dealt with her diagnosis of ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) breast cancer.  Early in her life Raab worked as a nurse before she turned to medical writing and poetry, eventually completing a Master’s in Writing degree after her successful fight with cancer in 2003.

Those influences are what make her cancer memoir a bit unique.  Interspersed with her illness narrative are a series of poems, perhaps the most interesting of which is entitled A Woman’s Life, a series of thirty-seven verbs tracing the progression of a female life.  At the end of each chapter is a series of open-ended questions in which the reader is invited to write down their own experiences mirroring the chapter’s focus – consult, biopsy, making decisions, etc.  These sequential exercises underscore Raab’s belief in the healing power of journaling and provide the book’s strongest appeal.

The narrative itself is slim, personal, and accessible, written in a very expository style.  She catalogs the various steps in her journey – mammogram, diagnosis, needle biopsy, surgical biopsy, surgery, recovery.  Thus the book will be most useful for fellow women diagnosed with DCIS.  While the writing is always clear, it is in her poetry that Raab seeks to explore the deeper ramifications and interpretations of her cancer experience.

Appendices include sections on writing and healing , meditation, a glossary, and a list of cancer resources.



Order from Amazon: Healing With Words: A writer’s cancer journey


About Dennis Pyritz

Dennis W. Pyritz, RN, BA, BSN, has been a cancer nurse since 1987 and a cancer and bone marrow transplant survivor since 2004. In December 2001 he was diagnosed with t-cell prolymphocytic leukemia (T-PLL), a rare aggressive form of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Dennis was treated with the then new monoclonal antibody, alemtuzumab (Campath) as this disease has a median survival of 7.5 months. He achieved a 26 month remission but relapsed in February 2004. He was retreated with Campath and went into a second remission. In August 2004 he underwent an allogeneic peripheral blood stem cell transplant with his brother, Mark, as donor. Dennis has remained in remission since - a near miracle. Throughout his career as cancer nurse and patient, Dennis has had the opportunity to speal to both lay and professional groups. Dennis has spoken on cancer topics and survival issues across the country as well as in the United Kingdom, Norway, Austria, Portugal, Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, Trinidad, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Cyrpus, Israel, and India.


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