I love technology. I love the Internet. I love having the ability to share important information on all the new mediums of conversation today. I love the immediacy and efficiency of it. But, with this new age of technology has come a new age of rudeness, harassment, bullying, and down right meanness. The fact that computers and mobile devices don’t require us to face another person, make eye contact or take immediate responsibility for our words has empowered fingers on a keyboard to become instruments of pain, hurt and humiliation.
Nor is this phenomenon limited to the realms of politics or religion. I’ve noticed this in the cancer world as well. Websites, blogs and social media platforms that were designed to bring people together to share their cancer experiences and offer mutual support are being used now as sounding boards for personal aggression, criticism and blame.
Personally, I’ve been attacked on numerous occasions for cancer-related posts. I was accused of spreading dangerous information when I shared an image for National Mammography Day. "It’s a poisonous, cancer-causing procedure that no one should ever undergo,"
voiced several individuals.
I’ve been eviscerated for using the Pink Ribbon campaign during Breast Cancer Awareness Month and for repeating the phrases, "Fight Like a Girl," "Girl Power" and "Wear Your Pink Proudly."
"Breast cancer has nothing to do with Pink!"
I was furiously told. "Breast cancer is all about women having their breasts ripped off and being disfigured and scarred for life!"
And, of course, I was sent graphic photos to drive the point home. I've had people accuse my fellow cancer survivors and me for "bragging" about our survival. For "showing off." For "feeling superior."
I’ve been told to "get over it"
when expressing concerns about cancer recurrence. I’ve had people remind me vehemently that since I’ve had breast cancer once, I’ll probably get it again, and when I do it will probably kill me so don’t "gloat" too much now. Wow. And, even within our wonderful IHC community, I’ve seen the occasional comment that’s been a bit harsh or judgmental.
Now, I’m very familiar with the fear, confusion and anger that surround cancer. And, I know there will always be those who lash out because they hurt so much themselves. This is understandable. But, it’s not necessary.
No one who’s been through cancer needs to be reminded of their tenuous and fragile situation. And, no one needs to be criticized for the choices they make while trying to survive.
Because frankly, once we receive a cancer diagnosis, there simply are no good choices. It’s all crappy. Many procedures, surgeries and treatments are seriously flawed and the poison some use to kill cancer spills over creating lasting painful side effects, permanent disfigurement and even future cancers.
While far from perfect, however, these choices nevertheless save more lives than not. And, that’s what we’re all trying to do. We’re just trying to stay alive by making decisions based on the best information we have at the time.
And throughout, we need a safe place where we can share our thoughts, express our concerns and discuss our experiences without fear of being criticized, embarrassed or belittled.
Let’s make sure our IHC community is that place. That place where we don’t have to agree with each other, but where we do have to respect, support, listen to and learn from each other.
Yes, as the critics are so eager to point out, another cancer may come along and get me one day. But, that day is not today. As long as I can draw breath, as long as I’m lucky enough to wake up each morning to a new day, I’ll continue to write and speak about my cancer experience – warts and all – in the hope it may help someone else get through theirs.
I’ll continue to promote screening procedures of every kind for early detection.
I’ll continue to post pink ribbons, blue ribbons and ribbons in every color of the rainbow as symbols of resilience, courage and awareness.
I’ll continue to remain optimistic and positive in a world dominated by loss, fear and negativity.
And, my hope dear Friends, is that you will too.
Have you experienced something similar online? Share your story in the comments below.
Image courtesy of Matthew Smith.