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Can Sharing Intimate Details of Our Cancer Struggles Actually Make A Difference?

August 1st, 2012 |

by mailet | Survivor: Breast Cancer    Connect

For some people, sharing their cancer story with others comes easily; for others, the experience is highly personal. But can sharing the intimate details of your struggles really make a difference?

We often ask friends and family for recommendations on restaurants, movies, maybe even a vacation spot because we hope their knowledge and experience will prove fruitful. We even turn to the Internet for similar recommendations because there's value in others' opinions- it could save us time, money, and even introduce us to something we might not have thought about.

Looking for health information isn't that much different especially when it comes to cancer. In fact, some would argue it's probably more important since cancer isn't one disease but hundreds and we can't expect that our doctors will be able to provide everything we need. It's the information we share that can help facilitate important discussions between patients, doctors and family that are crucial to our survival-- whether we're just starting our battle or are dealing with the after-effects.

As a breast cancer survivor, I've met people on both sides of the spectrum: ones who are willing to share as much as possible and those who are afraid of even uttering the word. After I was diagnosed, I met someone who selflessly shared their experiences with me. This had a profound impact on my own treatments and inspired me to share my own experiences in order to try and help others.

Despite steadfast support from family and friends, I knew firsthand how awful the feeling of isolation could be. So I set out to compile all the information I could about my battle. I outlined everything that happened in my journal and even shared my medical records*, something I had previously kept to the confidence of my doctors. I found that the most helpful and trustworthy information came straight from other patients and I wanted to be one of them.

So why share my medical records?

Because I believe there's value in giving someone who's just been diagnosed an opportunity to see what it’s like to read someone's outpatient progress report and hopefully prepare them for their own. It gives us a chance to formulate questions for our doctor (which can be difficult to do on the spot). It provides the courage to ask questions which can make the doctor/patient relationship more productive as well as making the best use of your time together. Lastly, it can be helpful for friends and family of those diagnosed so they can put themselves in our shoes to try to understand what we're going through.

There's power in numbers.

Having the ability to seek immediate information online has become part of human behavior. Access to an unlimited supply of information has its merits and its detriments but it is something that is omnipresent and available. In an age where information is abundant and just about everything is shared, (thanks to Facebook and Twitter) health information has real meaning and purpose and should be shared. The more we do so, the more empowered and less anxious we become about making decisions and getting the support we need with and without our doctors. I believe that there is power in numbers and the more we share with one another, the closer we'll get to finding solutions that have a real impact on our lives.

You can find my full story along with other medical records on my I Had Cancer profile. It's available 24/7 and accessible from every part of the world. Go ahead, connect with me. If you have any questions, I'm here.

* To clarify, I am not suggesting everyone share their medical records. I did so because I had the ability to cover sensitive information. However, I do encourage you to participate and share when and as much as you're comfortable with.

We find ourselves looking for curated information but too often take without providing something back-- something that may be useful to someone else. What keeps you from sharing? How do you contribute?

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mailet's picture
Mailet Lopez is a breast cancer survivor and the founder of! Read her full story and learn more about the treatments she underwent by connecting with her.