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.