Let­ter col­lec­tion of­fers sup­port

Te Puke Times - - NEWS - By STU­ART WHI­TAKER news@tepuke­times.co.nz

To some, let­ter writ­ing is a dy­ing art — but 100 women from New Zealand have scripted mis­sives they hope will help oth­ers di­ag­nosed with breast cancer.

Tau­ranga woman Emily Searle had the idea for a col­lec­tion of let­ters writ­ten by breast cancer pa­tients and the re­sult­ing book, called Dear Boobs, was launched this month to co­in­cide with breast cancer aware­ness month.

The idea was to share wis­dom and to as­sist women fac­ing the prospect of mas­tec­tomy.

Tanya Rohloff from Paen­garoa is among the let­ter writ­ers.

Tanya was di­ag­nosed with breast cancer two years ago and first met Emily at the Look Good, Feel Bet­ter pro­gramme. They then made con­tact through a Face­book group called shock­ing Pink which is a sup­port group for women di­ag­nosed with breast cancer un­der 45.

“I chat­ted to her through that and also a cou­ple of other girls from Tau­ranga and we just kept in touch,” she says.

When Emily told Tanya about her idea for the book Tanya had no he­si­ta­tion about want­ing to be in­volved.

“I didn’t re­ally think about what I was go­ing to write, I just sat down and started writ­ing.”

She says even if her let­ter helps one per­son, then it was worth the ef­fort.

“It’s a mas­sive jour­ney — I don’t think a lot of peo­ple re­alise what you ac­tu­ally go through. I was 41 with two young kids when I was di­ag­nosed and as a mum I tended to hold ev­ery­thing in to stay strong for my fam­ily so writ­ing my let­ter was a way of re­leas­ing all those emo­tions.”

She says each one of the 100 let­ters tells a dif­fer­ent story.

“But if [newly di­ag­nosed] women can sit down and read it and think ‘oh, that’s how I’m feel­ing’ it will help them know they aren’t alone.”

In the end Tanya’s con­tri­bu­tion was an amal­ga­ma­tion of two let­ters.

“When Emily wrote her let­ter, she was just about to have her surgery, whereas I’d al­ready had mine, so I was pretty much writ­ing to the one that had gone. And then I wrote an­other one while I was wait­ing to have my re­con­struc­tion which I had this year — my other [let­ter] was to my new boob to be.”

Tanya read out her let­ter at the launch.

“It was re­ally hard ac­tu­ally go­ing back and read­ing my let­ter be­cause, at the time, I was in a com­pletely dif­fer­ent place. It was re­ally hard to take my­self back to that place.”

For Emily, the idea came from her strug­gle to un­der­stand her emo­tions. Writ­ing turned out to be both cathar­tic and the start of a two-year-long project

She put the call out for Dear Boobs let­ters. Within 100 days she had re­ceived 100 in­ti­mate replies.

“The women didn’t just ad­dress one stage of their treat­ment, or ex­press just one emo­tion about cancer, so the let­ters didn’t fit easy cat­e­gories,” says edi­tor Chad Dick.

“There is no def­i­nite be­gin­ning and no end to the book: you can dip in any­where and im­me­di­ately dis­cover a range of emo­tions and is­sues. Some let­ters might make you cry, some laugh out loud, and oth­ers might make you do both.

“We used ev­ery let­ter we re­ceived — no­body’s ex­pe­ri­ence is any more or less valid than any other. And we didn’t pull any punches.”

Emily is dis­tribut­ing the books to clin­ics, health cen­tres, hospi­tals and cancer char­i­ties.

Copies of the book can also be pur­chased via the web­site at www.thedear­boob­spro­ject.com, or from Pa­per Plus with part of the pro­ceeds from each sale go­ing to fund fur­ther distri­bu­tion. The project is on­go­ing and has its own Face­book page with more in­for­ma­tion.

I was 41 with two young kids when I was di­ag­nosed and as a mum I tended to hold ev­ery­thing in to stay strong for my fam­ily, so writ­ing my let­ter was a way of re­leas­ing all emo­tions.’ those

Tanya Rohloff from Paen­garoa is one of 100 women who have con­trib­uted to100 let­ters writ­ten by women to their breasts.

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