April Stearns was diagnosed with Stage III breast cancer when she was 35 and her daughter was 3. She started blogging when her daughter was born and shifted it to a parenting-with-cancer blog during treatment and recover.
“Writing helped me process all that cancer brought into my life and in turn heal,” she explained. Ultimately her writing led her to create Wildfire Magazine, which focuses on the struggles and concerns of those diagnosed with cancer in their 20s through 40s.
Recognizing that writing is cathartic, she is currently offering an online writing retreat worth checking out. In her own words, this is how writing has helped her heal:
Tell me about your first experience as a writer. How old were you? What did you write about? How did you fall in love with writing?
Writing has always been as an escape for me. Growing up, my mom had a personality disorder that caused her to be very angry much of the time. I spent a lot of time hiding in my room, writing my pain into journals. I wrote and wrote and wrote. Eventually, my dad gave me an old desktop PC (this would have been in the early 90s) and I remember clicking away on the keyboard late into the night and then printing my writing on the dot matrix printer. I put it all into 3-ring binders. It was all angsty teen writing. I didn’t have any ambitions for it, I just knew I felt a lot better when I got it out of my head and onto the page. I feel in love with writing in college. I worked for the school newspaper and seeing my writing published was really powerful. Then to hear from others how my writing affected them — I was hooked. When my daughter was born I started a blog and enjoyed learning and sharing with other new moms. That was my first introduction to writing as a powerful tool for joining people who might otherwise feel isolated.
What role did writing play when you were first diagnosed with cancer?
One of the first truths I knew after I was diagnosed was that writing was going to be my lifeline through it. I wrote my first blog post about it when I was still waiting for results from my biopsy. Immediately people commented with their own biopsy stories and some helped me know what to expect (and that my story sounded like it might lead to a cancer diagnosis). Writing connected me to a community of women who knew what I was going through almost immediately. That was really helpful as I was diagnosed because I had somewhere to ask questions and get reassurance.
How has your writing helped others deal with their struggle going through a cancer diagnosis?
The biggest compliment anyone can give me on my writing is, “You said exactly what I was thinking/feeling. I thought I was the only one.” I truly believe that when we tell our stories, they allow others to feel a bit braver too. Whether it inspires them to tell their own stories, or simply lets them hold their head higher for not being alone. That is my goal in helping others through their diagnosis and beyond, both in telling my own story, but in also helping them to tell theirs.