A colonoscopy column?

Waiting is painful. Forgetting is painful. But not knowing which to do is the worse kind of suffering.” — Paulo Coehlo

The very idea of a colonoscopy — any time of the year — was more sobering than finding my first AARP card in the mailbox after I turned 50. Which is partly why I kept avoiding it.

As I recently discovered, the procedure itself wasn’t all that bad. It was waiting for the results of the pathology report that scared the dickens (or Dickens) out of me — especially so close to the holidays. Please click here to read the rest of “Blessings in a Biopsy” on Royal Oak Patch. It’s unlike any other Christmas column you’ve read before! — CL

Book discussion, Royal Oak

And that’s what this whole thing is all about. Calling home. Instinctively.” — Kelly Corrigan, The Middle Place

As much as I enjoy a good novel, my first love has always been the memoir. When a talented writer spins a life-altering experience into a heartfelt work of creative nonfiction, I usually can’t put it down. Kelly Corrigan’s The Middle Place is a fine example.

Corrigan was bathing her two little girls in the tub when she discovered a lump in her breast. From that moment on, her cozy family life started spinning off its axis, sending the 36-year old newspaper columnist on a heart-wrenching trip through cancer country.

Corrigan was still undergoing her treatment when she learned that her beloved father, who had just recovered from prostate cancer, was diagnosed with bladder cancer. With humor, courage, and insight, the author shows us what it means to find ourselves in “the middle place” — the rocky territory where we’re called to be a good daughter to our parents as well as a strong mother to our own kids.

Tomorrow (Thurs., Aug. 12), as part of my commitment to community service, I’ll be leading a book discussion on The Middle Place for members of Sharing & Caring, an educational support group for breast cancer patients, survivors, and their families. The group meets at William Beaumont Hospital‘s Rose Cancer Center in Royal Oak.

If you’re a breast cancer survivor (or a b/c survivor’s family member) who has read the book, you’re welcome to join us at Rose Cancer Center tomorrow at 2:00.  Corrigan is scheduled to be the keynote speaker for Sharing & Caring’s annual Symposium this fall. Call 248-551-8585 for more information. — Cindy La Ferle

— In photo above: author Kelly Corrigan —

Doing something

One is not born into the world to do everything, but to do something.” — Henry David Thoreau

It’s that time of year. Everyone is gearing up to run marathons and raise funds for a favorite cause or organization, whether it’s breast cancer or juvenile diabetes or the local Boys & Girls Club. I used to feel guilty for not joining Detroit’s annual Race for the Cure, but my bionic hip replacements weren’t designed to meet the long-distance challenge.

Several years ago I came up with another way to honor my paternal grandmother, Ruby Gullion, who had breast cancer. At least once a year, I volunteer to lead writing workshops for William Beaumont Hospital’s Sharing & Caring, an educational support group for breast cancer patients, survivors, and their families. My workshops always focus on the healing aspects of writing and sharing our stories. Since many of the women who attend are new to journal-keeping and personal writing, my job is to talk up the benefits and give them the tools to begin.

For starters, I ask the participants to list a few of the lessons they’ve learned from breast cancer. Or to write about the strengths they didn’t know they had until they were diagnosed and treated.

Giving them 20 minutes of free-writing time, I tell them not to worry about editing their work or even completing the exercise. The goal is to get pens moving and thoughts flowing. Those who are comfortable reading aloud are invited to share what they’ve written with the group. Invariably, every lesson, every story shared, touches another woman in the group who needed to hear it.  Most of the women are amazed at what they’ve put into words — and the evenings typically end with tears and hugs and promises to keep on writing.

As many teachers will tell you, I always end up learning more from my “students” than they learn from me. Sharing their struggles, fears, triumphs, and courage, the breast cancer patients and survivors I meet at Beaumont always remind me to treasure every single moment I’m given in this life.

I may have donated my time, but I walk away richer for the experience.

I share this information for two reasons. First, I want to underscore the therapeutic, connective powers of writing — and to remind everyone that “getting published” isn’t necessarily the goal of a writing practice. Secondly, you don’t have to run a marathon or walk miles to support a cause or organization you believe in. You have gifts and talents that you can volunteer to share with others who need your expertise. So get out there and do something. — Cindy La Ferle