The healing power of writing


IMG_0244What could be worse than being told you have cancer? Learning it’s incurable. Nina Joy was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer and given three months to live back in 2012. Refusing to accept her time and options were as limited as doctors said, she embarked on a journey to discover what cancer survivors do to stay alive and do just that.


How the inspirational journey began

Nina’s journey to inspire others was born out of the need to keep friends and family informed of how she was getting on. She didn’t want to spend her life telling people about cancer every time she met them so, instead, she created a blog so they could keep up to date that way. Her posts, therefore, always sound like a chat with a friend over a pot of tea. However, friends soon started asking if they could share her articles with others. Nina agreed. She felt more people could benefit from what she was discovering. It became a mission.

Several years on, Nina is still living with cancer and continues to inspire others.

Finding healing in writing

For Nina, writing about her journey has been healing. It’s brought her comfort even through her bad experiences. It was only when she looked back through her posts, after blogging a while, that she realised just how much had happened, how much she’d learned and how far she’d come. Knowing this perspective could also help others, Nina decided to take some of her posts, notes from her journal and other snippets of information to create her first book, ‘The Adventures of a Cancer Maverick’, written in the same, warm yet frank style that’s made her blog so popular.

“When I started out on this adventure, I genuinely believed that I could be cured – that I could cure myself. I’ve changed my views on that in light of my experiences…I used to think that you had to get rid of the cancer and be cured, or succumb to it and die. I’ve learned that that’s not necessarily the case. It seems that my cancer and I can happily co-exist. Who knew?”

Responding to calls for more…

Nina was flooded with positive reviews in response to her book and inspired readers began asking how they too could become Cancer Mavericks and find a way to live with the condition. So, she penned a second book. In How to be a Cancer Maverick, Nina shares her views on the most common questions she’s asked. The books is full of practical ideas for keeping a healthy mind and body for people to consider. It’s very empowering.

Cancer, though, is an emotive subject. Among the wonderful messages Nina receives from her growing audience, are confrontational ones. Who do you think you are? What qualifies you to talk about all this? Yet Nina has never claimed to be an expert, to be giving advice, or to be shunning conventional medicine. In fact, she has adopted both the traditional and alternative treatments that are right for her.

Nina’s mission is simply to give an honest account of her experiences and to encourage people to be more informed. Don’t just accept the first answer. Ask lots of questions. Be more curious. Nina is delighted when people find what she has to share useful, but understands if people read it and decide it’s not for them. People are different and what’s right for one can be very different for the next. Still, in my opinion, regardless of what an author has written, there are always kind ways to express an alternative view, ask questions or give feedback, particularly when it’s written with such positive intent.

Even if you do not suffer from cancer, Nina’s books are a great inspiration to live a healthy lifestyle and, if you have any health conditions, to be more curious, to explore all the options, to be well informed. And, even if you’re in great health, the best time to learn about cancer is before you get it. You have a chance then to prevent it.

A little inspiration for you

So, what’s Nina’s advice for you if you’re considering sharing your life experiences?

  • Start with a blog. It’s an easy way to begin getting your words out with little money and commitment. You can decide how much you feel comfortable sharing with the world and work it around everything that’s going on. And, if you decide blogging’s not for you, you can always back out.
  • Nina’s discovered that when you feel nervous before hitting send, it can be because you’re sharing something that means a lot to you. She says it’s often a sign that this post is going to be a good one. An honest one that’s likely to resonate.
  • Over time, readers will begin to comment, respond and even give ideas for future posts. This is a great opportunity to grow a conversation and engaging with people can be such a comfort during a challenging experience.
  • Blogging should help build up your material and grow your confidence in your message bit by bit. Over time, this may give you the foundation for a book too.

I really admire Nina for doing all she is to give comfort and uplift others by having the courage to be so open about her journey. Readers really are with her through everything from the elations to the devastations. Amazingly, Nina was quick to update her readers through her blog just days after her recent brain surgery. Ever the Cancer Maverick, she came out fighting, and I’m wishing her all the best for her recovery!

Nina is such an inspiration that I’d encourage you to take a look at her personal blog here as well as the Cancer Mavericks’ website hereThe Cancer Maverick books are available on Amazon in the UK and US as well as other bookstores.


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    By: Loretta Milan

    Loretta Milan is the founder of Literary Lightbox. She works as a professional writer and also has a novel in construction. She is a graduate of the Faber Academy and Curtis Brown Creative’s three-month novel writing programme. Her writing is fuelled by too much tea.

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