A tribute to cancernet friendship

Philippa, aka Feisty Blue Gecko, entitled her guest post for me “Blown Away” and that certainly describes my reaction when I read her wonderful tribute to online friendships. 

Blown Away

One thing about cancer. It makes you think and reflect on things you take for granted. Like our health, mobility, relationships and particularly mortality. I am fascinated by the subject of “cancernet” friendship, which Lauren introduced in the Circle of Friends post.

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.

I can’t remember exactly when I connected with Marie first, but I feel as if I have known her for years. Last Christmastime I received a message from her. With an audio link, and an inspirational message for the season. Being in Yangon meant that downloading even a small audio file took a silly amount of time, but I was determined to wait it out. I am so glad I did. Being facebook friends, I at least had an image of her in my mind, but hearing her voice for the first time,
and her gentle Irish lilt was incredibly powerful and demonstrated the strangeness of this new “virtual” type of friendship.

I do believe that it was Marie’s touch which connected me with Lauren and her beautifully insightful blog. And another warm “cancernet” friendship has evolved. I can hear Lauren’s gorgeous southern drawl in her writing and even in her facebook status updates. But I realise that I actually have no idea what her voice sounds like. And in fact, I would probably not recognise her if I passed her in the street. Though if she was in Yangon without telling me first I would be mightily upset!

The distance melts into insignificance when something happens to one of us. I love to lie on my back after a long swim in the evening,  floating and looking up to the night sky. The waxing moon which I focus on is the same waxing moon that Marie and Lauren can see. We may be in different corners of the globe but that there are many experiences which touch us, and many others, very similarly.

Breast cancer did not care about boundaries, nationalities or distance when it burst into our lives. Illness and grief with their relentlessly equitable approach have no regard for differences as they sweep into our lives. And while we each respond in our own way, it is incredible how much these experiences can bind us together over immeasurable swathes of distance and time.

Our hearts ache as cancer continues to steal so much from Marie. But it can never steal the strong love between mother and daughter. Nor can it steal the rich library of memories and shared experience. We can’t take the pain away, but we can listen and support. We continue to be blown away by the strength of our online friendships.

In this big wide world, we are not alone.


Visit Feisty Blue Gecko – A Tail of the Unexpected to read more of Philippa’s writings and poetry.