I didn’t know that starting a blog and turning to social media at the age of 30 after a cancer diagnosis would be so beneficial. But, I’m glad it turned out that way.
One of the first things I did after being diagnosed with cancer was run to my laptop and start a blog. I just felt a need to type, it was purely instinct — I’ve always enjoyed writing, and since, at 30 years old, I didn’t know anyone else around my age with cancer, I figured that I could use the platform as an opportunity to inspire others who may one day find themselves in a similar situation.
Also, I told myself that one much healthier day later, I could look back and the stories would serve as a powerful reminder to be grateful.
Now, more than five years later (“one much healthier day later”), as I look back, I’m able to recognize just how valuable blogging and using social media have been throughout my fight against cancer. First off, I’ve found that writing about my cancer experience has served as a healthy outlet and proven extremely cathartic; your health being under attack is a very traumatic concept, and writing has helped displace negative thoughts and anxieties from my system, giving me a chance to purge the venom.
I’ve also found that over time, writing about the different challenges and situations I’ve taken on has helped me work through problems by exporting all the info from my brain onto the page where I can see it more clearly — more organized, less emotional. It also kept things in perspective and allowed me to track different approaches and note progress along the way.
But then there’s the social element, and this is crucial. I didn’t think of it this way at the time — I was just speaking my truth and taking things one day at a time — but my blog and social media have basically been my PR team. In the earlier days, as I shared updates and worked through problems, I was shocked by how many people followed my journey. This provided a nourishing sense of connection, encouragement and support. Acquaintances would pop up out of nowhere and reach out with tips and helpful stories, or just heartfelt messages checking in and wishing me well, which gave me a little boost each time.
I think it helped that I kept my updates real, yet upbeat. Being honest about hardships is OK, but constant whining grows tiresome for readers. I’ve always looked at it like I was an explorer visiting another planet (the world of fighting cancer) and reporting back to the homeland.
Whereas some people prefer to keep their battle private, I’ve been an open book. One of the coolest parts has been that others seem to feed off that vulnerability and then open up about their lives, revealing stories and truths they’d rarely expose otherwise.
Another huge benefit to sharing your journey is that people grow more invested in you. When your story is consistently in your community’s face, it stays at the top of people’s minds. This helped me big time when my family organized a GoFundMe.
I believe more friends, family (and then friends of friends and family) donated since they not only sympathized with my condition but also felt more connected to what I was going through as I took them through the process. My network was incredibly generous, and everyone’s support really exemplified the best side of humanity. The funds I received from loved ones provided a financial cushion that my wife and I leaned on heavily in the face of never-ending medical expenses.
While there are so many different aspects to focus on during one’s fight against cancer — nutrition, stress management, attitude and positive thinking, being around loved ones ... the list goes on and on, and I’m a firm believer that writing and sharing my experiences has played a massive role in helping me cope and persevere along the way. At the time, I didn’t set out knowing all these benefits would follow, but I’m sure glad it worked out that way.
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