Writing For Hope

29 Mar

By SULEIKA JAOUAD 

Ten months ago, when I entered the hospital for my first round of chemotherapy, I began writing what would later be the first piece on this blog, “Good Afternoon, You Have Cancer.” In the first few days of my hospitalization, in June of last year, before the side effects had kicked in, I felt scared but ready to fight. I was bursting with creativity, ideas, and ambition about how I might learn and grow from this disease.

“We are all imprisoned in our own way,” I wrote in my diary, “but right now, in this very moment, there is, all around me, the open space to become, to create, to arrange words in an order that no human being has ever arranged them before — that is magical, that to me, is meaningful.”

But when the chemo started, my writing stopped. I spent most of the summer in the hospital. Long days without feeling the fresh air of outdoors.

The fall was supposed to be better. Outpatient chemo, my doctors proposed. It was nice being home, but the treatment wasn’t much easier. After each monthly round, without fail I ended up with an infection. Back to the hospital.

The New Year came — I celebrated NYE with my boyfriend Seamus at a beautiful B&B in Vermont. We counted down to 2012 around a bonfire, a serene moment in a year of chaos. All of a sudden the urge to write came on like a wave crashing to shore. I’ve been writing ever since, sometimes just a few minutes a day — other days it’s all I do.

As I count down the last few days before I enter the hospital this Monday for my bone marrow transplant (I’ll be hospitalized for 45 days or so), I’ve struggled with how to spend my time meaningfully, mindfully. But when I’m writing, I feel at ease. If only for a few minutes at a time. I can engage with the weighty stuff of my illness while getting lost in the creative distraction of the writing process. It’s not an antidote to the pain, but it’s a tool that’s made me feel sturdier — even, braver — during these hard times.

What started as a personal blog in January caught the attention of the New York Times. Today I’m excited to announce the launch of “Life, Interrupted,” a weekly column I’ll be writing for the ‘Well’ section.

Click here, to read my first piece “Facing Cancer in Your 20s.”

As always — thank you for your readership, love and support. Stay tuned for more updates!

XOXO,

Suleika

 

Follow @suleikajaouad on Twitter and on her Facebook Page.

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31 Responses to “Writing For Hope”

  1. Saud Abdulrahman Al-Thani March 29, 2012 at 1:48 am #

    Congrats Suleika!!! I am so happy to see your life take-off in spite of this disease. Always sending prayers your way. Can’t wait to read and watch the NY times pieces you’ve been preparing!!

  2. Raschad March 29, 2012 at 4:15 am #

    Congratulations for the Blog! All the strength you need and may your writing continue for a long time!

    • Japolina March 29, 2012 at 6:51 am #

      Congratulations! Ny times is big time! Yipee!

  3. Nicolette & Maurice Asselin March 29, 2012 at 8:08 am #

    Congratulations! We are proud of how you have turned a difficult situation into a very positive outcome.
    We love you,

    Nicolette & Moe

  4. mainelyhopeful March 29, 2012 at 9:11 am #

    Congratulations!

  5. Cindy Evans March 29, 2012 at 9:34 am #

    You are impressive, as always, Suleika! Keep up the faith and the writing!

  6. Robert Baker, M.D. March 29, 2012 at 9:35 am #

    Wonderful blog and congratulations. Best wishes. You have probably gotten a lot of unsolicited advice, here’s the most important you will receive.. If you google and read about “leukemia and Vitamin D” you will find useful informationm including the low levels of vitamin D that have been associated with various types of leukemia and the strong theories regarding it as a contributing factor.. Vitamin D is NOT an anti-oxidant (many doctors advise not taking antioxidants with chemo).

  7. Amanda March 29, 2012 at 10:49 am #

    Hi, Suleika! I was excited to read a post in the NY Times about cancer in your 20s. I was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 28 (in 2007), so I’m looking forwad to your series. But I was even more excited to see that you live in Saratoga — me too! You are undoubtedly busy and trying to conserve your energy at the same time, but let me know if you would like to meet up at some point and complain about cancer!

    Best of luck in your treatment.

    Amanda

  8. Seamus March 29, 2012 at 11:56 am #

    You are lovely on the page and in my life. Write on!

  9. weimaranerwench March 29, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

    Suleika: Shouldn’t it read “I celebrated NYE with my beautiful boyfriend Seamus at a B&B…”?

  10. Kerri Sandberg March 29, 2012 at 1:26 pm #

    Just found your lovely blog via the NYTimes. I know from family experience how scary being admitted for a bone marrow transplant is, and I wish you all the best with it. Hopefully the hundreds of prayers and good thoughts we’re sending your way will help you through to the other side and a complete cure.

    Good luck!
    Kerri

  11. Ann Altman March 29, 2012 at 3:09 pm #

    Suleika, I too was 23 when I was diagnosed with cancer – Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in my case. I just read your blog in the NYT and I am excited to read more. Cancer in young adults is only now coming into the sphere of public awareness and it absolutely comes with so much of it’s own unique baggage. I have carried that baggage now for almost 8 years, and it is always heartening to know you’re not alone. Of course no one wants our club to get any bigger – but thank you for shedding light on our fears and struggles.

  12. All Things Caregiver March 29, 2012 at 3:31 pm #

    Congratulation on making it to NYT!! Best of luck with your upcoming procedure.

    Tory

  13. DON WEISSMAN MD March 29, 2012 at 5:32 pm #

    THANK YOU FOR THE COURAGE, STRENGTH AND FORTITUDE TO BRING YOUR STORY PUBLIC AND HOPEFULLY ENLIGHTEN OTHERS AS YOU SUCCEED IN WINNING THE BATTLE FOR A COMPLETE AND FULL RECOVERY. MAY YOU REMAIN AN INSPIRATION TO ALL AND MAY WE PRAY AS YOU REALIZE A FULL AND SPEEDY REVCOERY AND MORE GOOD NEWS FOR YOU, YOUR FAMILY AND THE FAMILY OF ALL.

    THANK YOU

  14. radicalcompassion March 29, 2012 at 8:49 pm #

    Hi Suleika,

    I am 29 and just completed 6 rounds of chemo for stage 4 endometrial cancer. I had a major surgery before the chemo. Its a rough road. I was very healthy before this happened and it was a total shock. I am doing all I can as far as integrative/alternative treatments along with the conventional. My boyfriend and I spend hours everyday on the internet researching. I was about to start grad school and now I too am living at mom’s house and contemplating my life and how long it will be instead of being in school, making new friends, having fun, having a job. You can read my story here if you’d like http://www.giveforward.com/healingkristina

    Good luck to you. Stay strong and if you want a book to read that is inspiring, read “Remarkable Recovery” about people who have had remarkable recoveries from the worst cancers.

    Breathe deep and let your emotions move through you. Sadness, grief, anger…they all come but they all go too.

    Sending you healing love.
    Kristina

  15. Nicole Barka-James March 30, 2012 at 1:43 am #

    Suleika, dear. I stumbled upon your blog through a friend’s Facebook post today and was really touched. I do not believe in coincidences and the fact that I’d find your blog a couple of days after I finished reading a fascinating book by Anita Moorjani titled DYING TO BE ME, was an act of incredible synchronicity. The book is truly life-changing. A story of a woman who made a miraculous recovery (with no medical intervention) from stage 4 Lymphoma cancer to complete health. On her death bed, while she was in a coma, she had a near death experience, crossed over to the other realm and when she “came back” she was healed. She wrote a book about it and shares a very powerful message with the rest of us, which I believe will help heal millions of people around the globe & help even more people to live their lives to their fullest potential. It’s not any kind of religious dogma, witch-craft or anything. It’s about a power of our spirit, the power of our thoughts, words and the energy we put out into the Universe. If you have time to read, you won’t regret it, I promise you! I just bought copies for my friends & believe that this book should be mandatory reading for all – young, old, sick, healthy, everyone, …. You can find it on Amazon.com:
    http://www.amazon.com/Dying-To-Be-Me-Journey/dp/1401937519/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1333085712&sr=1-1
    Also, vitamin D3 and it’s deficiency is often linked to various types of cancer. You can buy it at your local Wal-Mart (little gel capsules) and take as many as 6,000 iu a day. It’s good for many different organs for your body, including the heart, the breasts, the brain, etc. It’s also known as “the sunshine in the bottle”. If you Google Vitamin D3 benefits, you’ll see how wonderful it is, though I’m sure your doctors will dismiss it.
    You are BEUTIFUL, YOUNG and your spirit is more resilient than you think it is. Please, read the book and you’ll feel wiser and less uncertain/afraid, you’ll see.
    I’m your newest blog reader and will continue to check-in on you!
    Love & Peace,
    Nicole

  16. Charly March 30, 2012 at 3:47 am #

    June was my mensis horribilis, too: it was my mother that got the cancer diagnosis that month. I have to admit, I feel a bit sheepish for popping pills and taking naps to deal with cramps when my mother has a football inside her, but I think your writing shows a unique mixture of hard-as-nails-edness and compassion. You’d be (and shall be!) a hell of a writer healthy; you’re bloody inspiring, though . . . don’t underestimate what putting pen to paper and finger to keyboard mean to those of us Out Here.

  17. Ann Ogden Gaffney March 30, 2012 at 9:52 am #

    Hi Suleika,

    My own experience with multiple forms of cancer over the years drove me to start a non profit called Cook For Your Life. So many of the people I met during treatment needed help in the kitchen to eat simple healthy food.

    Yesterday I stumbled upon your maiden blog article for the NYT Well blog
    and wanted to link my facebook followers to it tomorrow (Friday). I also
    wanted to commend you on your writing approach and wish you very well.
    If you ever feel like cooking something, please take a look at our FB
    page or the site http://www.cookforyourlife.org.

    I hope we can do this. Btw I love your hair ideas. The first thing I did on chemo was to shave my head. I found it liberating!

    Warm regards,

    Ann

  18. Troy's Fight March 30, 2012 at 11:01 am #

    Suleika,

    Wonderful blog. You are incredibly insightful, particularly at your tender age (please pardon me if this seems condesending, I don’t believe I had your gift at your age). In my experience cancer patients are mostly reclusive for any number of reasons. There are a few who choose to carry the torch and are open with their disease and treatment. My hope for you is that you beat this thing and others gain strength from your experience.

    I firmly believe that ones attitude is a choice. Your choice to fight the good fight while sharing with others is remarkable. I wish you the best in your journey.

  19. Jonas March 30, 2012 at 12:05 pm #

    Trop bien!!!!! Je suis ravi de ce succès, et je suis sûr que tu vas porter ce projet avec beaucoup de talent, talent que l’on voit au bout de 3 mots sur ton blog. J’adore ton style! Voilà et puis sinon lundi je penserai encore un peu plus à toi! Thumbs up, Susu, you’re the best!

  20. Noémie March 30, 2012 at 3:00 pm #

    Super Susu!!!Après mes quelques appréhensions à comprendre ton blog “in english”, je me lance aujourd’hui et ai aussi lu l’article dans le New York times!!!! Félicitations!!
    Bon je n’en suis pas encore à écrire en anglais…mais je pense bien à toi et je te souhaite plein de courage pour les prochaines étapes!!!

    Noémie

  21. Saleh March 30, 2012 at 11:25 pm #

    Hi there suleika!

    I know you been letting the doctors handle the treatment. Please also do your own search in natural healing. My dad went through cancer and i wished i never put him through Chemo. Chemo is very tough and i think you know it way more than me. However, i found really amazing things that can protect you from cancer. Chemo may work for some people (it didnt work for my dad unfortunately because he was a stage 4) and if you are in that case, then good. After that do your search in natural things (especially for prevention). Please you need to do this! It is life changing and it would benefit you so much. Please let me know if there is anyway i can help. A helpful book that i read during my father’s illiness was “How to fight cancer and win.” Take good care of yourself.

  22. Lindsay March 31, 2012 at 8:17 pm #

    Hi Suleika,
    I came across your blog in the NY Times and just saw that the beginning of your bone marrow transplant is this week. I wish you all the best and that this is a new beginning on a road to health and recovery. It is obvious your words and story have touched and affected so many people. I wish you all the best and thoughts and prayers are with you.

    A reader from New York City

  23. Eileen Monahan April 1, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

    Hi, Suleika- I’m a friend of Seamus’ mom, and she let me know about your blog. Beautiful writing, frank thoughts and inspiration- a winning combination.

    I have tremendous hope for you and will be thinking about you tomorrow.

    Eileen

  24. Nancy Muirhead April 1, 2012 at 1:18 pm #

    Dear Suleika,
    My thoughts and prayers will be with you as you start tomorrow on the count down toward your bone marrow transplant. A friend just had his transplant last week, and is doing great. It is a tough ten days of preparation, but I know that you will cope with this challenge with grace and strength. I look forwarrd to following your recovery on your blog. You are a gifted writer!
    Nancy

  25. Françoise Giesbrecht April 1, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

    Hello Suleika,
    Merci de partager cette difficile et douloureuse expérience avec nous tous. On lit ton blog assidûment et avec beaucoup d’émotions. Toutes nous pensées vont vers toi, Adam et tes parents particulièrement ces prochaines semaines et pour la suite. Bon courage, grosses bises.
    Françoise, Andreas, Lucie, Sophie et Mathias de Lully/Morges

  26. Sandra Castiglia April 2, 2012 at 7:45 pm #

    I am thinking and praying for you, darling. May the Lord keep you in perfect peace.

    Sandra C.

  27. Eleanor April 2, 2012 at 9:08 pm #

    As always, so beautifully written! Sending love and many, many prayers from State Street.

  28. loshakova April 3, 2012 at 5:28 pm #

    Dear Suleika,
    I just watched your video on the NYT website, and went looking for your blog. I ended up reading it from beginning to end.

    Mojo and good wishes for your bone marrow transplant from a fellow cancer survivor. You are beautiful in word, in spirit, and in person.

    No need to write me back. ❤
    best regards
    Heidi Lasher-Oakes

  29. loshakova April 3, 2012 at 5:31 pm #

    Dear Suleika,
    I just saw your video on the NYT website, and went looking for your blog. You are an eloquent writer. I ended up reading it from beginning to end.

    Mojo and good wishes for your bone marrow transplant from another cancer survivor. You are beautiful in word, in spirit, and in person.

    No need to write me back. ❤
    Best regards,
    Heidi Lasher-Oakes

  30. d April 3, 2012 at 9:53 pm #

    Dear Suleika,

    I came across your NYT video and blog today, and remembered my own experience of being diagnosed with bone tumors / fibrous dysplasia five years ago when I was 20. As I watched your video, I felt like you were re-telling my story as your own, and it pained me to realize that you are feeling the same isolation and despair I felt when I went through that ordeal. It changed me and my parents in ways that I can share only with very very few people. Being a patient at that age was so confusing, and humiliating for me. Just like you, I struggled with losing my hair and just like you I gained a new confidence when I understood that I look attractive with my hair short. You look breathtakingly beautiful with your hair shaved off. It took me a few years to process what I felt after my diagnosis and surgery – I channeled my feelings into a literary exercise that I later read to a large audience when I graduated from college. Your blog echoes so many of my thoughts from that time. I am so happy your family is with you and giving you so much love and care. This is such a difficult time for all of you. But I am confident that you will walk away from this some day soon, and you will be healed, and you will be strong. My prayers are with you and your family.

    Love,
    D

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