Last summer, the findings of a study conducted by the University of Houston were released regarding the well being of female breast cancer survivors, specifically Chinese women. This ethnic group was chosen primarily because of the stigma cancer holds within the Chinese community.
“Unlike the Caucasian population, many Chinese have less knowledge of breast cancer and they feel that the cancer is very threatening, and they associate it with immediate death,” said Qian Lu, assistant professor and director of the Culture and Health Research Center at the University of Houston.
The study, which was published in Health Psychology, a scholarly journal, was based upon writing. Each of the 19 participants in the study (based in the Los Angeles area) were given health assessment questionnaires before the study began, followed by three sets of instructions.
In week one, patients wrote about their deepest thoughts/fears/emotions in regards to their experience with breast cancer.
Week two, they wrote about coping mechanisms they used to relieve stress brought on by the disease, and in week three they were to write about their positive thoughts and feelings. The patients who put in 20 to 30 minutes each day regularly (3-4 days per week) for the three week period saw positive change in relationship to their immune system.
The report stated that the purpose of the writing exercise was “to facilitate emotional disclosure, effective coping and finding benefit, which would work together to bring stressors and personal goals into awareness and regulate thoughts and emotions relevant to the cancer experience.” It also went on to say that the “release offered by writing had a direct impact on the body’s capacity to withstand stress and fight off infection and disease.”
So – what’s this have to do with Parkinson’s disease?
I don’t think Chinese women have an edge when it comes to writing about their illness, disease, sickness, heartache, joy and/or thanks-givings. No – I believe that writing is good for anyone’s mind, soul, heart, and spirit. You can scratch down (or type out) your thoughts and feelings and say whatever you choose in regards to how you’re feeling. It’s a release of pent up frustrations, anger, fear, confused thoughts, sorrow, grief – the list could go on and on. It’s a release when no one else will listen or when no one may understand. It’s called journaling. It’s therapy in its least expensive form (besides the one on one sharing of conversation between two good friends).
Journaling (or as the study referred to – writing) will not cure cancer. It will not cure Parkinson’s. But it will allow for a place to dump the stress and walk away, perhaps leading to a feeling of life being a bit lighter. When you’re body isn’t focused on fear, grief, sorrow and the like, it has a greater capacity to “withstand stress and fight off infection and disease,” as Lu stated above. Journaling offers the opportunity to get out your fears without feeling foolish. To release the grief over feeling you’ve lost something valuable. To be thankful for what you do have.
And that last sentence is important…
If you spend your time journaling everything negative about your life with PD, your life with PD will be anything but positive. There are still good and beautiful things to behold in the midst of this journey. So, if you are thinking about journaling your life with Parkinson’s disease, either as a patient or a care giver – release the fears, the unshed tears, the grief and the sorrow onto paper but make sure you include and end with the positive. Always end with something positive.
It’s there. I promise.