It's easy to feel alone dealing with cancer. Being a part of a social media community that "gets it" can be invaluable to healing.
As I sat in the waiting room, my nerves got the best of me.
Before breast cancer, I approached yearly mammograms with a stoic sense of duty. Sure, having a body part flattened into a pancake was uncomfortable, but I believed it was a small price to pay for breast health and peace of mind.
Things were entirely different after my mastectomy and rehabilitative surgeries. Peace of mind was nonexistent as I walked back into the breast center for a mammogram of my remaining breast. In its place were painful, haunting memories.
I had a past and was no longer naïve.
As my therapist pointed out to me more than once: "You have the emotional memory of an elephant and what you remember, you relive."
In addition to reliving past fears, new ones piled on. Time after time, my mammograms had to be repeated, which led to the familiar agony of waiting for news and validated my sense of body betrayal.
So here I was, sitting in the waiting room, on pins and needles once again. In the weeks before, I had tried to ignore my test anxiety completely, not mentioning it to anyone. Now I was alone in my head and freaking out.
Surrounded by other patients in the waiting room, I did the only thing I could to silently reach out for support. I posted on my Facebook page, WhereWeGoNow as Cancer Survivors:
Mammogram this morning. I've been trying not to think about it but it's time. No problems (that I know of) but I'm still nervous. This part never gets easier for me.
That’s all I had time to say, but it helped me to say it. Later, I opened the post and found a flurry of beautiful replies sending hugs, love, prayers, peace, good results, and best wishes. Empathetic souls who completely understood reassured me they were "behind me all the way" and "sisters understand the nerves."
It was an awesome display of solidarity and I’ve never forgotten how it made me feel.
Before my diagnosis, I thought Facebook was for teenagers. I didn’t know a thing about blogging, tweeting or posting. If you had told me I would be sharing my story on my own website and here at CURE, I would have said you were crazy.
My comfort with blogging and social media didn’t happen overnight. After my diagnosis, I attended support groups, but rarely shared, preferring to talk one-on-one with a therapist. Eventually, it was time to move on from the support programs offered by the cancer center. That’s when I realized that the internet offered an entire community, available day or night that, like me, still needed to talk.
I’m still the same introverted, private person I was before cancer, but cancer definitely cracked something open in me. The level of caring, sharing and intimacy I’ve experienced within my internet cancer community has helped me heal and gives me hope. It’s also brought me to tears when I read the many comments left at WhereWeGoNow that start with, "I thought I was the only one who felt this way, and then I found your blog."
Whether we ever meet in person or not, we’re lucky to have each other. I want to know how social media sharing has impacted you. Please join me at the discussion group to keep talking.