By: Diana M. Raab
Publisher: Loving Healing Press
Publication Date: May, 2010
Reviewed by: Eloise Michael
Review Date: June 14, 2010
In the United States one of every eight women is diagnosed with breast cancer at some point in her life. Author Diana Raab was one of these women, and Healing with Words: A Writer's Cancer Journey is her own story. It is the story of a woman diagnosed with cancer at a young age, the medical interventions she endured, and her recovery. It is the story of a woman who loses a breast. It is also the story of a writer who does not lose her voice or her hope. The practice of journaling daily keeps both alive.
Raab is aware that she is not alone in her diagnosis. Her experience with breast cancer is frighteningly common, and she is telling the story of many women. Healing with Words is also designed to help the reader write her own story. Raab includes writing prompts throughout the book, encouraging women to write about their unique feelings and experiences in the moment as they complete each chapter. The book is laid out so that a reader can actually put her thoughts on the same page as the writing prompt, if she chooses. It would be easy for a reader to write in a separate journal, however, if she is using a library copy.
Though Raab has designed the book to help others find the comfort, and the path to healing, that writing has been for her, a reader could get a lot out of this book without ever picking up a pen herself. Raab, along with being a poet and author of non-fiction, is a certified nurse. Readers will see the cancer journey through the eyes of a medical professional. Alongside her competent presentation of the facts, Diana Raab shares her feelings about being diagnosed with cancer twice, about meeting with doctors, about surgery, and most importantly, about losing a breast. Raab validates the feelings of her readers as she bravely shares her own.
We learn about Raab's fear and sadness through her clear narrative, which combines events and details with her own impressions, breathing life into a too-familiar story. She supplements the narrative with poems, most of them written during the period the book describes, and with excerpts from her journal, written during some of the more difficult times. Healing with Words weaves past with present tense, facts with feelings, and the raw with the polished. Readers will feel like Diana Raab left nothing out.
The book is honest and complete. At the same time, it is concise. Raab tells her story, then leaves time and space for the reader to tell her own. She aims to share with her readers the solace that writing has provided her, giving them the tools they need to start their own writing practice.
Raab writes of a grandmother who helped raise her and who later took her own life. She has a beloved role model who gave up all hope. Diana Raab, despite all the challenges she faces, and even periods of despair, does not let go of her own hope. Readers will be inspired by her determination and by her encouraging words. She writes that “the diagnosis of cancer should be considered a turning point that sets you free to fulfill or examine dreams that can no longer wait. It can be a time when you feel infinite strength and are prompted to look inside yourself not only for ways to cope, but for secrets of your own happiness. It is about understanding what you really want in life.”
Quill says: Readers share the experience of writing, and its healing power, while reading about an author's battle with cancer.