Blogging My Way Through Breast Cancer… And Beyond
I’m excited to be taking part in Rebecca Hogue’s initiative to teach an online course on blogging the cancer journey. The course begins in March and currently Rebecca is putting together the course material. As part of the process she has asked blog mentors to reflect on why they started blogging and why they continue to do so. This is my response.
I was 34 years of age when I hit was hit with a juggernaut – the metaphorical juggernaut of the words “you’ve got cancer”. I went through nine months of treatment for my disease and I coped quite well with this period, but it was when my cancer treatment finally ended that the full impact of what had happened hit me. There is an expectation that when you walk out of hospital on your final day of treatment, your cancer story has ended; but the reality is that in many ways your story is only just beginning. The apparent randomness of a cancer diagnosis shakes your sense of identity to its very core and afterwards nothing will ever feel certain again. Friends and family may find it hard to comprehend why you are sad or depressed. Understandably your loved ones want you to put your cancer behind you, to get on with your life and move forward, but it isn’t so easy. Fellow cancer survivors do understand though and in my search to make sense of the experience of cancer and integrate it into my life, it was to these survivors that I needed to turn.
But where to find them? I searched online and while I found many blogs, chat forums and websites with great advice for those newly diagnosed, or going through treatment, I found it harder to access information on how to deal with the post-treatment limbo I found myself in. So I decided to start my own online resource – Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer. I wanted to provide a safe space for myself and other cancer survivors to share our experiences of navigating our way through the ongoing journey with cancer.
Writing for Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer and linking into a community of liked-minded bloggers has been the single most empowering thing that I have done in my journey with cancer. It has enriched my experience, brought new friendships into my life and expanded my horizons like nothing else. Cancer can be a frightening and lonely experience. Being able to write about it honestly and unsparingly and connect with others is a powerful release mechanism. Sometimes the very act of writing our story and having it heard and acknowledged can go a long way towards healing our wounded selves; to quote Riva Greenberg: “we heal a bit every time we are heard, seen and cared for”. Blogging in a community we bear witness to our own life and to others; we find strength and solace for the journey.
When I started out on this blogging journey I started off by telling my own story, but as I realized that my story is the story of so many of us, I wanted to share your stories too so we could lessen the feelings of isolation. A diagnosis of cancer leaves a common legacy which in many ways we share, but equally our experience differs from each other in many ways too. While our experiences may differ at times, we share a common bond through learning to live with the myriad challenges of our lives. I continue to blog because I am still healing the wounds that cancer left behind. This is my soft place to fall whenever life’s challenges threaten to overwhelm me. This is my community of support and compassion. It is also a space to celebrate our joys and triumphs together.
Pat Schneider in her book Writing Alone and with Others observed:
When we write, we create, and when we offer our creation to one another, we close the wound of loneliness, and may participate in healing the broken world. Our words, our truth, our imagining, our dreaming, may be the best gifts we have to give.
Blogging continues to be a gift in my life and as I enter my sixth year of writing, the feeling of connection grows ever deeper.
Fantastic post, Marie! Your post really resonated with me because while I made it through treatment soundly by jumping through all the hoops I had to, it was after treatment that I found my world crumbling. I, too, am so happy to have found the safe space of your and others’ blogs (and my own) to express how I feel and to feel that sense of community I was lacking after my journey began, too. Thank you for writing this.
Thanks Beth. I always enjoy reading your blog and I find many of your posts resonate deeply with me.
Beautiful. I completely relate to the sense empowered feeling that blogging provides – but also the sense of not being the only one out there going through this experience.
Beautiful! I always so appreciate reading you. xoxo
What a great post, Marie. I enjoyed reading more about why you started the blog and why you continue to blog. Thank you for continuing to make your blog the resource for support and inspiration that it is!
I have said it before–and I am sure I will say it again :-)–that JBBC and your Weekly Roundup were lifelines to me during the first 6-9 months after my treatment ended. They guided me during that time and helped give me the courage to start my own blog. I will always be grateful that you followed your passion! I will always be grateful that you supported me as I started blogging, as well. Love that you have been tapped to teach this course! Congratulations!!!! 🙂
Let’s just say I’m very happy you blog and that however it happened, our paths crossed, or rather our blogs did! Thank you for being such a pillar in this breast cancer online community. It’s wonderful to have others out there whom we can lean on through the ups and downs of the maze that is cancer.
Congratulations, Marie! You are certainly perfect for this role. And what a wonderful post. I couldn’t have said it better myself. Everything you said resonated with me — in fact, that’s an understatement! And I’m sure it with with many (or everyone!) who read(s) it. I’m sure you will continue to help many as you teach this course & teach others who have faced or are facing this terrible disease that they are not alone.
Thanks & congratulations, Marie!
dear Marie, what a blessing to us all when five years ago you began the quest to not only express your own legacy that cancer imposed, but also began so seek out others and encourage them to tell their stories. I marvel thinking of just how many post cancer treatment people have been able to share their experiences, discover their own truths, then been inspired to see their lives, their aftermaths, felt solace, and safety, and found their own ways to move from the darkness and into the light knowing they were no longer alone, that there were reasons for the confusion and depression and the responses from family and friends who simply could not enter the places they occupied. then came the words so often repeated with such palpable relief – “this post really resonated with me”, “I no longer feel alone”, ” I am so grateful to be able to tell my story”, “thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your story”, “I am so glad I found your blog – it’s the only place that reassures me I am not going out of my mind!”. again, IMAGINE the sheer numbers! think of the miracle of the meant-to-be-ness of finding not only allies, but of forming REAL, enduring, and loving connections on a truly global community scale.
I am thrilled for you to be able to teach the course along with Rebecca. what a privilege to be able to mentor others so they can have the same feelings of empowerment. Congratulations!
I am so happy to read all your comments here. This blog would be nothing without your continuing support.
What a fantastic post. It reminds me why I need to continue to blog and not just sit myself down in front of an entertainment center, vegging out and feeling sorry for myself and all the doctor appointments and scans that cloud my future. Thanks for this post upon which I must reflect and which I will attempt to absorb! xxx
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Im so glad l came across this post I’m a 2yr cancer survivor and try so hard to move forward of everything that has happened but like most l have my melt down days it can be a lonely path to tread at times but l won’t be held back buy this disease l intend to live everyday to the fullest and do all the things I’ve always wanted to do but to know there are others like myself trying to live past it all is comforting to know lm not alone and will certainly support in anyway l can l always get strength from helping others long may our good health continue.
I am so happy you found us Gina. I hope we can help ease some of the loneliness for you. Call by anytime x
Well written Marie. I know that I felt the same when I walked, sorry skipped out if the hospital after I finished my RT. That I would get back to my old life of being me. Well that didn’t happen! I remembered I was asked had cancer changed me after 3 years. It was a question I couldn’t answer other than I am a lot more gratefull that I am living. But I still think of that question and try to answer it. Only when something happens do I realise how I have changed. Does the end of our treatment offer us a chance to explore our thoughts and maybe our identity? Help make changes slowly to who we are.
Marie thank you for starting your blog and helping me realise that although there is life after cancer it will always have a huge impact on our thoughts and daily lives. It is also helpful knowing that no matter where in the world we are form cancer effects us in many ways but in the same ways.