My Tree Called Life

Tree Called Life: Writing And Living Through Serious Illness
Edited by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

Turning Point, in partnership with Mammoth Publications, 2009

Paperback: 148 pages, 978-0-9800102-5-1

A reading of the Turning Point writers at the Writers Place in 2012
A reading of the Turning Point writers at the Writers Place in 2012

This book is an anthology of poetry and prose contributed by participants in the Turning Point's writing programs.  It is an honest, heartfelt description of the process of living with illness and facing its struggles.  It contains writings of pain, joy, anger and strength and is a testament to the courageous journey that turning Point's participants embark upon when faced with illness.  It is a testament to hope and to the resiliency of the human spirit.

Available through Turning Point: The Center for Healing and Hope for $20 ($15 of which is tax-deductible) as a fundraiser to support this remarkable center's work in helping individuals and families living with serious illness.

Contributors: Lou Eisenbrandt, Elaine Riley, Star Kenney, Teri Mahoney, Terry Dove-Swall, Kathy Stillson Reck, Linda Garrett, Alex Thompson, Madley T. Valecourt, Paul Hakan, Jean Taylor, JoAnn Lesh, Julie Cowdin, Judi Carlson, Cindy Molini, Vashti Cherun, Susan Tucker, Anna Krekow, Dee Finsley, Diana Nielsen, Janet Henry, Suzette Mack, Anjie Keyes, Keri Hakan, Debby Rieck,Sherri L. Eberhart, John Mark Eberhart, Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

Excerpt from the Introduction: It Begins With A Story: Writing Our Lives At Turning Point

It always begins with a story, especially tonight as a dozen women and one man sit around four tables pushed together at Turning Point one early spring night. First, I tell my story of how, to paraphrase Robert Frost, two roads converged, but I didn’t have to take the less or more traveled one, just the new road that formed and led me here.

I tell them how I’ve been writing like a maniac for over 30 years. How what I discovered through story and metaphor led me to facilitate writing workshops focused on healing and self-discovery for many populations. How the workshops, and my teaching experience, led me to found a master’s program, Transformative Language Arts at Goddard College, that educates people on using storytelling, writing, drama and more for social and personal transformation. I also tell them of the other road I found when, to my great surprise, I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002. How I wrote through my three major surgeries and six months of intensive chemo. How my oncologist took the pages I handed him each time I showed up for a chemo treatment and put them in my medical folder. I explain how cancer didn’t just land me here by landing in me, but also by landing in my family: my mother has had breast cancer twice and more recently, colon cancer; my father died of pancreatic cancer in the middle of my own cancer treatment.

I also tell them how, on the last day of my chemo treatment, when my oncologist asked, “anything else?” to my usual laundry list of questions, I said, “yes, can I do writing workshops for people with cancer and other serious illnesses here?” One workshop led to another, and especially to the sessions I've been offering for the last six years at Turning Point, a resource center for people with serious illness. Continually, I've witnessed the important writing that needs to happen for people just diagnosed, in the middle of seemingly endless treatment, on the cusp again of the shaky new normal of post-treatment life, caregivers balancing exhaustion and a passion for being present, and people years past that initial diagnosis that began a story that keeps unfolding their lives in previously unimagined directions.