Journaling for People With Ovarian Cancer

Many emotions arise when you are facing a cancer diagnosis. Finding ways to process those feelings is important. One technique that many find helpful is journaling. Journaling allows you to identify and express your feelings. It provides clarity and focus around the changes occurring in your life.1,2

There are many ways to journal! No single way is best. You can experiment until you find what is most helpful for you.1,2

Benefits of journaling

Studies have shown that journaling has a positive effect on people's overall well-being. Journaling may also help you:1,2

  • Work toward acceptance of your cancer diagnosis
  • Focus on yourself and your needs
  • Clarify which choices are best for you
  • Gain a sense of control
  • Lower your stress level
  • Get in touch with your strengths and values
  • Improve your memory

How to journal

When beginning the journaling process, start by deciding how you want to write. You might enjoy purchasing a nice notebook or journal with special paper and pens. Lined, unlined, leather, spiral bound – there are so many choices!

A fancy journal might be off-putting to you. There may be too much pressure for everything to be perfect. You may prefer loose, lined notebook paper or blank computer paper. Some people like to keep their journal on a computer, where they can type or dictate. Choose what will give you the most freedom and comfort to put your thoughts down.1,2

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Where to journal

Find a place that feels comfortable for you. It may be at a desk, in your favorite chair, in front of a window, or out in the garden. Your location may change based on how you feel.1,2

You may want to create a peaceful space to write. Surrounding yourself with your favorite pictures, candles, or music might help you settle down for writing. You may also find that the space does not matter, and that dedicating time is the most important thing.1,2

When to journal

Any time can be a good time to journal! It is helpful to dedicate a specific time every day so that you can create a habit. It does not need to be long. Investing as few as 5 to 10 minutes per day can still have benefits. The important thing is to start.1,2

What to journal

But how do you start? What should you write? It can be hard to know how to begin. There are a few different approaches you can use.

Experiment with different methods to see what appeals to you. Try not to censor yourself or worry about spelling and grammar. Write what is in your heart without demanding perfection for how it appears on the page.1,2


One method of journaling is to write lists. Give yourself a number (3, 5, 10) – whatever feels doable for you. Then give yourself a topic. Some ideas to start include:1

  • Five ways cancer has made you strong
  • Five ways cancer has changed you
  • Five ways cancer has NOT changed you
  • Five ways of offering yourself self-care
  • Five moments of gratitude

Stream of consciousness

Write whatever you are feeling at the moment. Let the words spill out. There does not need to be a theme or focus. Be present with whatever you have to communicate to yourself.1,2

Whether they are negative or positive, do not judge your words and feelings. Just write them.1,2


Writing letters is another way to journal. You do not have to send the letters! It is a way of having a conversation with someone. Perhaps the person is still alive, or perhaps not.1

You can write to a friend, a parent, a grandparent, or a child. You can write to your cancer or body part to express exactly how you feel about it. You can write to yourself at another time in your life, either younger or older.1


Some people enjoy using a prompt to journal. Prompts can be questions, quotes, lyrics, or images. Write out the prompt, or paste the picture in your journal and reflect on it. Write whatever comes to you as you focus on the prompt.1,2

Some examples of prompts are:1-4

  • In the next (day, week, month, year), I hope for...
  • Sitting in the kitchen of my childhood, I am surrounded by echoes. What do I smell, taste, see, hear, and touch?
  • “Blackbird singing in the dead of night, Take these broken wings and learn to fly. All your life, You were only waiting for the moment to arise.” –The Beatles
  • “You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” – Maya Angelou

Privacy concerns

One thing that may keep people from journaling is the fear of others reading their writing. Journaling is intensely personal and private. You need to feel safe writing without worrying about what someone may think.1,2

If you live with others, tell them about your journal and ask them to respect your privacy. If you still worry, keep it in a locked drawer. You can also choose to write and then rip up, throw out, or burn your pages. If you are writing on a computer, try password-protecting the file.1,2

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