Journaling During Cancer

The team at Comprehensive Cancer Centers suggests those going through their cancer journey to consider using journals to capture their thoughts while going through treatment and recovery. Keeping a journal can help people figure out how they’re feeling, mentally, physically, and spiritually, which can be helpful when faced with challenging times.

Getting starting with journaling is a simple as jotting your thoughts down on paper, digitally or even through voice recordings saved as audio files. You can journal publicly if you like, through social media channels, podcasts or blogs, or privately through saved documents or even by emailing yourself. Whatever method serves your needs best is what you should choose, but also with the knowledge that you can change formats any time you like. It’s your journal.

Cancer Journal Guide

A great guide to getting started with a cancer journal, or any journal at all, can be found via The Cut website.

Step 1 is figuring out what to write about. While it may seem easy to just think ‘write about my cancer,’ what you write can be more complex than that. Take time to think about what you want to write about before you start. This could include narrowing the topic to how you’re feeling during actual treatment, which could be done during chemo. Or you may wish to write about the feelings you have while sharing your diagnosis with others.  You could also write about frustrations you’re experiencing, but you aren’t ready to share with others quite yet. You can write about anything you want, but by focusing at first more narrowly, it may be easy to get started. Once you are started, your journal journey can meander however you prefer. Write about anything you want. Just get stared.

Step 2 is knowing your purpose for keeping a journal. This is important as well, as there may be thoughts in your mind that you need to get processed and into the world (even if it’s your own private world). What about your cancer journey needs to be processed? Are you frustrated with having cancer, having to explain it, or with those helping you? Do you just want to get away from treatment and think about other things, such as music you love or books you’ve read? Think about how these discussions with yourself best serve your interests and start exploring them. To reaffirm, a journal is not a school project you have to turn in for a grade. It’s something personal and all yours. Nothing you do while journaling is subject to any critique.

Step 3 is finding out what medium is best for capturing thoughts for your journal. As noted, there are plenty of methods you can use to capture your thoughts. The key is to pick the one, or ones, that you feel will best set you up for success. If you love Facebook, you can post your thoughts there. If you love using the notes app on your phone, use that. If you enjoy the feeling of opening up a leather-bound notebook and using a high-quality pen, do that. Make sure you’re not picking one or the other, or something else, because you feel like you have to. And don’t be afraid to change up your technique after the first minute, day, week or month. The journal is yours.

Another factor to consider when journaling is when you will write in your journal. As it’s important to build up the process to a habit, it’s good to start slowly so as not to put too much pressure on yourself. Remember, journaling is supposed to be a healthy part of your life, and not another sources of stress. To get going as calmly as possible, you can start by planning on journaling for ten minutes per week, once per week. Once you determine a time that can work for you, regularly, you can set up reminders on your calendar, or use some other system to keep you on track.

An important part of when you journal can also be found in where you journal. Is there someplace that you’ll be regularly with some downtime? This could include treatment, waiting rooms or even while in line to pick up kids from school. It can be any place else you might be in your car, or in a line outdoors with minutes to spare. Just find a place where you can have a few minutes to yourself.

The idea of journaling is a good one, and actually doing it is even better. Still, you may not yet be in the right frame of mind to do this, or you may be too busy or stressed. If any of this is the case, don’t even worry about journaling. If the idea seems appealing, but is not currently possible, put it on the backburner and revisit it later.

If the idea does seem appealing, but you want to think about it or learn more, Buzzfeed (LINK 3) has even more thoughts about the process in great compilation of ideas for journaling. As with anything related to your care, the team at Comprehensive is here to help. If you want to learn more about how other patients have used journaling in their care, don’t hesitate to ask your care team for their insights.

Comprehensive Cancer Centers Can Help

Physicians at Comprehensive Cancer Centers provide a variety of treatment options for patients with cancer, blood disorders, breast health conditions and pulmonary disease or sleep troubles. To schedule an appointment with the team at Comprehensive, please call 702-952-3350.


The content is this post is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.