Charlotte Matthews: Invisible Truths

Charlotte Matthews is a poet, UVa professor and breast cancer survivor. She co-founded Whistle Words, a multimedia project offering free writing workshops to women impacted by cancer. She will run a six week workshop series at the Bridge, beginning on Friday, September 7. Learn more at


Invisible Truths

What do you honor that is invisible? Take just a second right now to think on it. Or more than a second.

Perhaps your answer surprises you. Just maybe the invisible matters more than you know. I know it does for me. Because what we cannot see has a staying power, an indelibility, as much of an oxymoron as that sounds.

This truth became crystal clear when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It poured from my pen into a well-worn journal as I sat in waiting rooms and infusion centers. My scribbled words were not always profound, or even inspired. Sometimes they were not even legible. Yet they captured, for me, the essence of what matters most.

That was twelve years ago. I began to dream about sharing the power of that process with other women on similar paths. And now, through a project called Whistle Words, that’s exactly what I’m doing: in churches, with community non-profits, at the Emily Couric Cancer Center and Martha Jefferson Hospital, and beginning September 7th, at the Bridge.

Writing is our tool, and not our goal. We write without judgment, we share when so moved, we belly laugh and bond, and occasionally shed a tear. Some of us are in treatment, some of us are years out, some of us are caregivers. We never have to explain how we feel or sugar-coat our truths, or search for the exact words. It’s raw, honest, cathartic.

So back to the question I first asked: what do you honor that is invisible? A connection with another human being? Ability to say what is on your mind, truthfully and honestly?  If cancer has shifted your world, join us. See what pours out of your pen.

And we hope you will help us spread the word. And that can be invisible too.