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Journal for Healing

January 6, 2008
by Leah Carey

A group of women stand on a bare stage in northern New Hampshire, pink handprints on their t-shirts marking a story where there once was a breast. They are ordinary women, telling a story of courage and determination that would be extraordinary, if it weren’t so heartbreakingly common.These women are here because they had the courage to write about their journey through and beyond cancer and then perform their words on stage for family and friends, the medical community, and anyone else that chose to brave the snow and ice of a New Hampshire winter to join us. I am privileged to be their guide in this process.

This group is heroic for many reasons, but one stands out for me above all others - they are women who, under normal circumstances, probably would not have put pen to paper, let alone stood in front of an audience to share their pain and triumph. But they did exactly those things because they had some inkling that sharing their stories with others might prove to be healing for their own spirits. And it’s true. They speak now about unwrapping layers of pain and moving beyond a life lived on autopilot. They talk about continuing to share their stories because it is so important to bring hope to other women who are surviving cancer.

There was a time when entertainment was stories of ancestors told around a community fire with drums beating and feet pounding. There was no separation between performers and audience. We have lost touch with the knowledge that the stories of our own lives are important. Our entertainment is bought in a dark room, surrounded by strangers, with a bowl of popcorn at the ready. Now we laugh and cry along with the beautiful people on the screen, who are speaking words that other people have written.

Watching our group, I am aware that they are “ordinary” women - northern New Hampshire is not a fashion mecca and most of these women don’t even wear makeup. They are not people you would see walking a red carpet or attending a private screening. And yet they brought a standing-room-only audience to tears and then to its feet. And they did it using nothing save the power of their own words. The stories of our lives are important.

Most of these women do not consider themselves to be writers. Most of them came in terrified of the prospect of putting pen to paper. But they had the courage to place themselves in a room where they would be asked to do just that. And this group of non-writers produced the most amazing poetry because they dug into their souls and let the sun peek in for just a moment to reveal what was inside.

The goal of this Writing and Performance Workshop was to give women who had experienced a devastating trauma an opportunity to take back control. The result is heartfelt, funny, and moving, an uplifting memoir that emphasizes hope and healing. It has changed the lives of the women who created it.

(Performances of Bosom Buddies: an exploration of breast cancer in the words of survivors were held throughout NH, VT, and MA in 2004 and 2005. Examples of their writing, video clips from their show, and press interviews with the women are available under the "Previous Workshops" tab at Please email Leah at if you would like to set up a workshop in your area.)

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