Why this RN published her daughter’s diary


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I never intended to write a book for the general public. As a nurse educator, all of my writing has always been for professional publications. Then I found my 19-year-old daughter’s prayer journal in her bedside drawer on the day she died of sarcoma.

Melissa had always kept diaries, but this one contained her private letters to God.

Melissa’s colorful handwriting recounted the peace, joy and happiness she experienced in the last year of her life. In recounting to God her everyday concerns and joys, Melissa demonstrated the most powerful positive coping strategies possible. How inspiring the power of her faith was in the midst of difficult circumstances! She displayed ageless wisdom through the eyes of a teenager.

I knew Melissa would want me to share her words so that her insight and experience could help others.

I didn’t know where to start, but Harvard Medical School’s “Publishing Books, Memoirs and Other Creative Nonfiction” ( came to my rescue. The three-day course designed for health practitioners equipped me with essential information on how to navigate this competitive field.

Melissa’s Prayer Journal: The Power of Prayer in the Face of Cancer is now a hardcover publication ( and it touches people’s lives daily! I continually hear from readers how the book has strengthened them and encouraged their faith.

Publishing for the lay population allows me to help people in a whole new dimension, and has been a huge gift of healing for me. Customers return to the publisher’s Website to order multiple copies as gifts for friends or acquaintances, wanting to share Melissa’s helpful words. Writing has given me the privilege to serve more people and impact more lives than I would have otherwise been able to do.

I’m now working on another book, and I hope to prepare a third manuscript.

I don’t know where my writing journey will lead, but I’m hoping it will open new possibilities for more ways I can help others and reach greater numbers of people to whom I may provide care and comfort.

Janice Meisenhelder
Janice Bell Meisenhelder, DNSc, RN, is an associate professor at MGH Institute of Health Professions. In addition to Melissa’s Prayer Journal (, she has published numerous chapters and articles in medical books and healthcare journals. Dr. Meisenhelder is a graduate of “Publishing Books, Memoirs and Other Creative Nonfiction” (, an annual Harvard CME course taught by publishing professionals. The 2010 course will take place March 25-27 in Boston.

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