Trace of my life

Small  story books

An exercise I did with the group of women who had had a mastectomy was making small story books. Firstly you cut an A4 piece of paper into thirds and give each person one of these long narrow pieces of paper. They are invited to create a concertina folded book by folding their paper in half, then half again and so on until there is a concertina with 8 folded squares. They are then invited to paint their paper on both sides with a water colour wash using an abstract pattern; this will form the background to their story. Once this is completed each person writes for 10-15 minutes completing the following statements by writing in free association:

I am …………..

I want …………….

I need ……………

After 15 minutes each person sits with their writing and chooses one phrase, which they write on the front and back folds of their story book. Then they just complete the story writing a word/phrase/sentence in each folded section. When they get to the end of one side they turn the page over and there will be the starting phrase again and complete this side. Once the story books are completed each person takes it in turns to read their story out.

The one I completed is shown below:

I was scared
I thought I was going to die
but facing death
wasn’t so scary
just a slipping
into the light
leaving a faint trace
of my life behind.

I was scared
Then I found
real peace
knowing I had
lived my life to the full
with no regrets.
Can I hold this wisdom?
I
was scared. 

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When I read it out the other women gave me their responses

Slipping into the light banana

No need to remember how just making traces

Scared but accepting

Uncertain of your hold on life

This again brought out the theme of the silver lining i.e. that through facing death I had found a sense of calm that has eluded me all my life. I just need to remember this and hold onto it. One woman asked me why I thought I was going to die. Had I read all the literature that would have told me I had low probability of dying. I said no I hadn’t felt drawn to read lots of stuff but I was scared of dying as I was having my fourth general anesthetic in as many months. I want to be present at my death. I find the idea of dying on the operating theatre under general anesthetic really scary.

This activity got me thinking about leaving a trace of my life behind. This was a powerful idea for me. I had always wanted to leave a something big behind, some sort of legacy; to know that I had made some sort of difference to the world in some way; maybe a novel that would live on after me etc. It was a relief to know that I could feel at peace knowing I had left just a light trace of my life behind.

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