Nurse’s Book about the Pandemic is a Pathway for Healing

Duke Cancer Center’s Markita Wright turned her pandemic journaling hobby into a book of inspiring and personal revelations

Markita Wright and her book

This time three years ago, in March 2020, the World Health Organization had declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and the United States announced a nationwide emergency. Ultimately, the virus would claim at least 1.1 million American lives, upend daily rhythms and, for many people, readjust the way we see the world. It was during this time that Wright found herself diving into her habit of journaling.

Markita Wright signs copies of her book at 2022 event. Photo courtesy of Markita Wright.

She’d always taken time to write down reflections in spiral-bound notebooks. But during the early days of the pandemic, when her life consisted of caring for breast cancer surgery patients at Duke and spending time at home with her husband Russell, her son and her teenage daughter, those sessions became longer and more focused.

“I decided I was going to use this time to heal,” said Wright, who has worked at Duke for 18 years.

In January 2021, Wright’s mother, Sonia Ellerbe, died at 68 from COVID-19. Wright’s mother had always been there for deep and revelatory conversations about life. Wright said she always gave sage advice and helped her see things from different perspectives. With her gone, Wright felt it was time to turn her journaling into something more formal, something which may help others.

Over much of the next year, Wright wrote about challenging periods in her life, such as the loss of her younger sister in 1998 and her father in 2019. She wrote about past relationships and the transition of becoming a mother. Built on a foundation of her Christian faith, she wrote honest appraisals of these periods and how her choices and experiences continue to shape her life.

Wright enlisted the help of a writing coach in early 2022 to turn her reflections into a book. Devoting much of her free time to editing and sharpening her work, the book was self-published in April 2022.

Over 14 chapters and 105 pages, Wright shares stories of overcoming challenges, making sense of past missteps, appreciating supportive people in her life and offering herself grace.

“I needed to spring clean, therefore I looked beyond my physical situation,” Wright wrote in the book’s introduction. “I needed to go deeper as in physically, emotionally, socially, spiritually and mentally. Who are you? That is the question I was asked. This led me to seeking to know my purpose. As you read this book, consider it to be my invitation to you into my cleaning process. Which in turn, will help you navigate yours.”

Wright hopes readers will learn from her stories of love, loss and forgiveness and take time to examine their own journey and see what valuable lessons their lives have taught them along the way.

“I think taking care of yourself needs to be at the top of your list,” Wright said. “Self-love is the best love because you can’t effectively love anyone or do anything without loving yourself first. I’m still growing and learning who Markita is. Writing this helped me learn to forgive and learn to love me more.”

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