The power of patient blogs
I have been writing this blog for close to 4 years, and as I look back on how Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer has evolved over those years, I see a similar evolution in many of your blogs too. I have witnessed a growing sense of community among us, a feeling of being connected to a wider global community, a willingness to reach out for support and information, and a sense of empowerment from having our voices heard and our experiences validated by others.
As more academic research is conducted on the psychosocial benefits of blogging, researchers are finding that blogging improves patient quality of life scores, and enhances feelings of social well-being and empowerment. 1
In other words…
When you combine reflections about cancer with today’s technology and especially internet connectivity, things start to get really complex and a number of surprises land on your lap. Cancer unites us in providing a common enemy. The internet enables us to garner that unity and use it constructively. For me personally, social networking and particularly blogging, have played a massive role in my cancer experience and do so increasingly. Connections with people we have never met develop into firm friendships ~ Philippa Ramsden
While many will argue that online interactions can never replace the nuances of real life social interactions, for many of us who would otherwise struggle to find an outlet to express our feelings, our hopes, and our fears, it has been a lifeline.
And it’s not just the patients who can benefit from reading blogs; I would also argue that more healthcare providers should read them to gain a deeper understanding of the experience of illness.
Here’s what researcher Julie Hillan has to say on the subject:
The personal perspective written in online journals and blogs offers physicians a unique channel for learning about the mental, emotional and physical state of people living with medical conditions and how these change over time. Comments by visitors who provide support, find a shared experience, or describe their triumphs and setbacks can be equally revealing. These ongoing forums are rich, anecdotal sources of individual experiences with disease progression, reaction to alternative and standard treatments, and opinions on healthcare and its effect on family members and lifestyle. 2
Take the cancer survivorship experience, which many of us struggle with post treatment and write about on our blogs. While we deal with many common themes – chemo-brain, fatigue, loss, grief, body image, to name a few – the uniqueness of each of our blogs demonstrates that challenges of cancer survivorship can vary at different life stages and times in our lives. These blog narratives have the potential to inform interventions for psycho-social support to aid survivors in their adjustment to life after cancer. Would you agree?