I can't do justice to the program and I am so sorry that I am not going to be at the reception this year. The dates conflict with the AACR meeting.
The promotional video for the program which is available to all patients at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center is on my page titled "Here I Am" (look up ..... and click). The video gives a bit of sense of how exceptional this program is to both the participants and the mentors. The annual celebration is a Broadway worthy production. It's worth watching just one of the videos found here as that is truly the only way to understand the amount of work that goes into staging the stories. All written by patients. My life is so different, and it IS because of Visible Ink.... and yes, I spoke those words, or ones very similar, in that promo video.
Judith Kelman is an exceptional woman. She had a vision and she made it happen. As a result, lives have been transformed. Pieces have been picked up, dusted off, glued back together thanks to the therapeutic effect that writing can have.
I owe everything here to Judith's vision. I don't know if I would have had the courage to hit the publish button if not for the program. Blog? I believe it was called "Graffiti with punctuation" in the movie Contagion. That line makes me laugh but writing, keeping it real, being consistent? Without the program, the encouragement of Anna, I'm quite certain, none of this would exist. None of the relationships that have developed because of this would exist. The well of gratitude runs deep.
Judith was presented with an award last month and it's something I want to acknowledge and share. The Writers for Writers award was established by Poets and Writers, Inc. to recognize authors who have given generously to other authors. Judith was one of three recipients this year for founding Visible Ink. Note: I'm not so sure I qualify in the "other authors" category, I'm more on the graffiti end of the continuum......
NY1 featured her as a NYer of the week last month. Link is here and the piece is below. I had a hard time with the link.....
Judith..... from the bottom of my heart.... a very public thank you for your vision, for your tireless efforts to make the program spectacular, for pairing me with Anna, for helping me find my way out of the fog.... no words are sufficient to express the depth of my gratitude.
NYer Of The Week: Judith Kelman Gives Cancer Patients An Outlet To Tell Their Stories
Judith Kelman understands the power of telling stories.
"They connect us," she says. "They're how we learn about the world. They're how we learn about our history, contemplate our future, deal with difficulty."
Thirty years ago, an idea for a book transformed her life as a mother of two into a career novelist.
"I became completely captivated by the process," she says. "I was struck by the writing bug. And when I see people who similarly are struck by that, I feel a powerful desire to encourage them."
Today, she is encouraging aspiring writers who are telling their stories of cancer as part of Visible Ink, a writing program she founded, and runs, at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
"What happens with a cancer diagnosis is, you're going along in life and you have one sense of what your story is and what it is going to be," she says. "And then, 'Whack.' People have described it to a train wreck. Your story is derailed. It's changed. It's rewritten."
"You have these feelings and these thoughts, and there's this need to get them out, there's this need to make sense of it," said Kathleen Emmets, a patient at Memorial Sloan Kettering. "And the easiest way for me was to write it down."
The program connects patients to professional writers, helping them to develop narratives, poems, plays and memoirs.
The writing can be personal or performed, a momentary outlet for feelings or a lasting record.
"I was afraid I was going to forget the details of what was happening to me. 'I'm sick today. I'm going to die today. I'm never going to make it. I'm going to fight this.' Whatever that story is that you tell yourself is the narrative that drives what your life is," said Michael Solomon, a patient at Memorial Sloan Kettering. "It's important you have that measure of control over what your story is."
So, for empowering cancer patients to tell their stories, Judith Kelman is our New Yorker of the Week.
For More Information
For more information, go to visibleinkmskcc.org.