David Tabatsky, co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cancer Book Hosts Writing Workshop at Lombardi

May 20, 2010

Members of the Lombardi community joined David Tabatsky on May 12 to participate in “Write to Fight Cancer: A Writing Workshop for People Affected by Cancer,” an event hosted by the Lombardi Arts & Humanities Program and sponsored by Genentech. Tabatsky, book consultant and co-author of Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Cancer Book, led participants through a series of expressive writing exercises designed to improve their emotional and physical quality of life while coping with the affects of cancer. Expressive writing, or writing one’s thoughts and feelings about life experiences, may have health benefits, according to research.

Tabatksy asked participants to write about what was most important, what they feared, and what risk meant to them.

"If you don't know what to write, note what a friend finds interesting or wants to know more about when you talk and start writing there," said Michelle Berberet, workshop participant.

After writing, people were invited to share what they wrote with the group. Topics included diagnosis, recurrence, survivorship and family. They expressed common concerns and feelings, contributing to a sense of community within the group.

“For every individual diagnosed, countless people are affected, “Tabatsky told the group. “Cancer creates a loosely connected community.”

The Write to Fight workshop was presented as a part of the Arts & Humanities writing program founded at Lombardi in 2001. The program encourages patients to use writing as a tool for coping and self expression.

Director of Arts & Humanities, Nancy Morgan, MA-TLA, co-hosted the Write to Fight Cancer event. Morgan teaches a weekly expressive writing workshop for patients in the Lombardi Clinic every Tuesday and by individual appointment.

“Writing is the centerpiece of the Arts and Humanities program,” says Morgan. She believes that writing helps promote an optimum life experience for people with cancer, their family members and medical caregivers.

In 2008, Morgan published “Implementing an Expressive Writing Study in a Cancer Clinic” in the Oncologist, the first study of its kind to be published in an oncology journal.

Inspired by her late husband and mothers’ battles with cancer, Morgan decided to help improve the lives of people undergoing treatment and their family and medical caregivers through the arts. The Arts and Humanities Program provides comprehensive wellness events including musical performances, dance, writing and visual art workshops, art exhibitions and education programs.

“Cancer can be a scary place,” said Tabatsky. “Writing can help in ways you can’t imagine.

Author: Tressa Iris Kirby, GUMC Communications & Nkem T. Wellington