When I was diagnosed almost 3 years ago, I feared a lot of things, including facing the question: Who could relate to me?
I had two close friends that had their own cancer diagnoses
right before mine, but we each dealt with cancer, our care and recovery in our own ways. They were my sounding boards, but I needed more.
Let’s face it, when you are diagnosed, or going through chemo, you find yourself with a lot of "free" time on your hands at 2am…
I started to research online for other people who had a similar diagnosis as me, but was coming up short. Like many, my exact cancer diagnosis is rare, so searching to find someone just like me was not going to happen, and it won’t for most of us.
I started to search for those with ovarian cancer on social media. I found private groups on Facebook, even one for my type of cancer! I joined groups with ovarian diagnosis and started to follow those on Instagram with ovarian cancer. I came across a few blogs along the way that spoke to cancer in general, and I began to realize that my experience wasn't specific to the type of cancer I had- it was the fact that I had cancer that I experienced those same things as others.
I began reading their blogs and searching for others on Facebook and Instagram that had cancer. I began to make friends with others
that were fighting, survivors and even families of those that had lost someone to cancer. I began to share my own stories on social media and on blogs such as ihadcancer.com, and others began to reach out to me. I have made a few good friends along the way and reach out to them when I know no one else will understand what I am going through. We vent, we share stories and we become friends. They are friends that can I talk to about everything, and not only about cancer with.
I recently also became a breast cancer previvor
, opting to have a double mastectomy to reduce my chances of breast cancer to less than 1%. That has begun a whole new search online and in social media, and has allowed me to find others
that have made the same decision that I did.
It is difficult to tell your family and friends that you are going to have a surgery to remove your breasts
, even though you do not have cancer. Even with having up to a 60% chance that you could at some point in your life develop breast cancer, they aren’t always as understanding as you would like them to be. I found others on social media that were understanding and that I could relate to. I not only found advice on how to talk to family members, but also on what to expect during and after surgery. I found compassion and I continue to find friends along the way.
Social media has become a means for me to not only seek out new friendships, but also a place where I can share my experiences in hopes of providing a means of comfort to someone else. There are many that choose to share their experiences, and just as many that do not. Whatever you choose to do, know that there is no wrong or right way to navigate cancer, but there is always support out there for you.
What has been the role of social media in your cancer experience?
Photo courtesy of Ben White.