"How a Journal Saved my Life"

by Nancy Backues

The Compassion That Compels Custom Journal
I sat at the curb in a wheelchair as the hospital attendant tried to make small talk. I didn’t mean to be rude, but I simply wasn’t up for pleasantries. After all, I had just found out I had cancer.

My husband pulled our vehicle up to the curb and helped me into it. That’s when I noticed a small package from the hospital gift shop. I looked at him and asked, “What’s this?” He smiled, “It’s for you.”

Inside the bag were a brand new journal and a chocolate bar. For the first time, a small ray of light broke through the dark cloud that had settled with the word “cancer.” Writing and chocolate, I thought, he knows me so well.

I spent the following weeks and months filling those pages with the emotions and fears that accompany a cancer diagnosis. My words spilled onto the pages in rage, questions, prayers, and finally faith-filled peace. A few, short weeks later, an oncologist pronounced me “cancer-free,” but that would not be the last time I faced the ugly demon of cancer.

Three years later a “suspicious spot” showed up on a routine scan. That spot led to more scans, which revealed more spots. Finally, the diagnosis came: stage 4, non-curative liposarcoma.

My second battle took even more courage and faith than the first. There was little to no hope given in the prognosis. Our faith was solid, but not necessarily strong. We knew we needed to pray. We knew we needed to rely on others for support. We knew I would (in my husband’s words), “write my way through this.”

One snowy January day in the midst of the long battle, a package arrived on my doorstep. It was from an organization I’d never heard of, Compassion That Compels. Inside the box was a beautiful, hand-written note from the founder, Kristianne Stewart. I was overwhelmed by the gifts – a custom tote bag, a soft blanket, organic decaf tea, mints. I kept pulling one surprise after another out of the never-ending package. Then I saw it…a journal. It was as if this woman I’d never met knew me, too.

Three ways to journal for your health

Medical experts agree the physical act of writing cannot only change a patient’s mindset concerning her diagnosis; it can actually improve the healing process. Here are 3 ways to journal for your health.

1. Process emotions
In her article, “The Power of Writing: 3 Types of Therapeutic Writing,” Margarita Tartakovsky notes that, “Writing helps us track our spinning thoughts and feelings, which can lead to key insights.” The physical process of writing slows down your thoughts enough for you to process them more effectively than when they’re simply spinning around your head. Perhaps that’s what led famous American author, Flannery O’Connor to state, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.”

2. Show gratitude.
Sometimes when we’re facing difficult circumstances, it’s hard to remember the things God has already done for us. By writing things down in a gratitude journal, we remind ourselves that God has been faithful in the past, and He will be faithful again. Then we can say with the Psalmist, “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds” (Psalm 9:1).

3. Remember God’s promises.
Reading God’s promises in His Word is vital to a life of faith, but it is only the beginning. Memorizing scripture takes things a step further by making those promises available for recall even when there’s no Bible (or Bible app) handy. Writing scripture, however, takes your faith game to a whole new level as the physical act of writing activates more of your brain than simply reading or reciting.

Journaling was an invaluable part of my cancer battle as I wrestled with questions I had never been forced to ask concerning my faith. Those questions and the answers found their way onto my blog and eventually became a book. Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm chronicles my journey from despair to deep faith.

And it all started with a journal.

Are you facing a battle today? Take up your pen, my friend, for it is truly mightier than the sword!


 Nancy Backues is the Community Content Manager for Compassion That Compels. She is an author, speaker, wife, mother, and two-time cancer overcomer. She lives CANCER-FREE in Missouri where she relies on God’s grace and good coffee to live out authentic faith in the midst of a mostly messy life. Read her story on her blog, There Is Grace, or follow her on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest.


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