Nancy’s Summer Blog Hop

Nancy’s now annual Summer Blog Hop is here and I’ve missed taking part in previous years, so I promised myself not to miss it this year. I love this way for us to learn more about each other and why we do what we do.

So let’s get hopping right away.

1. Who are you? Tell us your genre, how long you’ve been at it, who or what inspires you or whatever you want us to know.

I’ve been blogging since February 2009 – I can hardly believe it’s been 12 years! While most cancer bloggers start blogging around the time of their treatment, I had actually completed treatment four years previously. And yet there I was still dealing with the fall out. As I wrote at the time I felt cut adrift after my treatment ended. I needed a safe space to work through my feelings and find a new way of being in the world. Blogging was that space for me.

In his book, The Wounded Storyteller, Arthur Frank, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Calgary, writes that when we are ill we are wounded not just in body, but in voice. He describes how illness can radically alter how a person relates to the world and how we need to find a way to restore our fractured identity. Writing here on this blog was a way for me to reconnect to a new sense of self, and find my voice again.

The most unexpected and delightful thing I found through this process was a sense of community, kindness and friendship I didn’t have in my “real life”. We share a very special bond and I have never taken this for granted. Our bonds of friendship are no less real because they have been forged online.  And many of us have taken that online friendship into the real world and met in person – and how joyous that has been. I hope to get the chance to meet many more of my online friends over the coming years.

With Susan Zager and her amazing Mom, Muriel
With the late Jan Baird

2. What’s been your biggest blogging roadblock this year and did you come up with a way to get around it? 

Actually my biggest roadblock this year is no different from any other year in the recent past. If I’m honest I have said most of what I needed to say on the blog and if it wasn’t for how much the weekly blog round up means to me I would have most likely archived the blog a few years ago.

I think the number one challenge for most bloggers is they run out of time or ideas. The best way to deal with this is to make the time – yes, that sounds easy I know, but schedule some time as a priority to write. It doesn’t have to be anything too long or in depth – share a quote or a poem (that’s a great way for me to stay consistent here). Just show up and write something to stay connected with your blog and your community.

4. What are a couple of your best blogging tips?

In my professional life, I am a social media consultant and trainer, so giving blogging advice is part of the work that I do. So if it’s professional blogging advice you are after I have a list of 21 blogging tips here. Putting that aside, I really want to highlight something that I wish I had known when I first started sharing my inner most thoughts online.

Illness makes us vulnerable and learning to navigate the digital landscape while also managing our vulnerability is a skill that we need to master if we are to protect ourselves online. Think carefully about what the process of online disclosure entails. Weigh up what you expect to gain from it and what implications sharing this information might have on your career or family life.  I’ve written more on this topic here.

I’ve come to regret writing so openly about the raw pain of chemo-induced infertility – primarily because a quick google of my name brings up my infertility story before anything else. Over a decade later I don’t want that to be the first thing people find out about me and I wish I had been more selective about how I chose to share that story.

I’m curious to know your thoughts on this topic.

5. How do you handle negative feedback or comments?

I’ve been remarkably lucky to have received very few negative comments – with one exception. I am sensitive to the language used to describe the cancer experience, and I try to reflect this in the way I speak and write about cancer. There is one word I use though that causes some push-back in the community – journey.

Many people write and say to me (often quite vehemently) that this is not a word they want to hear used to describe cancer. And of course, I totally get that each person’s experience is unique to them and how we think, feel and describe this experience is too.

The words we choose to describe illness are powerful. However, the word “journey” really does resonate with me as a metaphor for the, well.. journey, I’ve been on since I first heard the words you’ve got breast cancer.

Being diagnosed with breast cancer was a major diversion on my life path. My expectations of the direction my life was “meant to” go in were profoundly disrupted.

On the sidebar of this blog, I share a quote from Wendell Berry which is liberally sprinkled with journey metaphors.

. .and the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long, but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch, very arduous and humbling and JOYFUL, by which we arrive at the ground at our own feet, and learn to be at home.

I wrote in more detail about my use of the term journey here and I really appreciate those readers who left comments about how they feel about the term. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this too.

6. Share a link to a favorite post you’ve written THIS YEAR (or anytime if you’ve been a bit quiet) that you want more people to read.

I’ve nothing to share from this year so to jog my memory I went back into my blog analytics and I found that the post Ten Things I Wish I Had Known When I Was Diagnosed With Breast Cancer now has over 75,000 views. So I like that post a lot as I know it’s one that resonated with many readers.

For me one of the hardest and most personal posts I’ve written over the years was while my mother was dying of a brain tumor. I still cry every time I read The Hand That First Held Mine.

Finally anytime I get an opportunity to write about story makes me happy. I’ve just realized that I did write about story back in March this year for World Storytelling Day.

Last thoughts

Thank you Nancy for keeping up this tradition. Tradition really is at the heart of what bonds a community together so I’ve really appreciated this chance to reflect on my own reasons for continuing to blog and to connect with our wonderful blogging community again.