By Amanda Greene
Receiving a breast cancer diagnosis can elicit many emotions: fear, sadness and disbelief, just to name a few. And while no two women will have the exact same experience, the five women below have two things in common: They've had or have breast cancer and they blog about it. Whether they started their blog to keep family and friends informed about their progress or just as a way to sort out their emotions, each will attest it's been a life-changing experience. Read on to learn how blogging has impacted each woman's journey.
Ann Silberman of But Doctor...I Hate Pink!
Ann Silberman was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer in August 2009. She has undergone treatment and will be receiving Herceptin infusions until December 2010 and tamoxifen for five years, and is looking forward to reconstructive surgery this November.
Almost the first thing I did when I heard the words "You have breast cancer" was pick a blog name. I realized that being breastless and bald would not go unnoticed, even among my more distracted family members, and the thought of repeating the same information by phone to various relatives exhausted me. So it seemed logical to put it all down in one place and let people choose what they wanted to know and when. I chose the name But Doctor…I Hate Pink because it perfectly described how I felt about being drafted into this pink-ribbon world.
Blogging has changed my breast cancer experience. When in the midst of a difficult or upsetting medical procedure, I'd think: "How can I describe this on the blog? What part of this is funny?" Not only did that help take me outside of the moment but it enabled me to reframe what was happening and put it into perspective. Always in the back of my mind was that scared reader who might stumble across my words, and I wanted her to know somebody else had gotten through it, and she could as well. Blogging for others made me brave for myself. I'll never say I'm happy I got cancer, but I'm very happy I blogged about it. Photo: courtesy of Ann Silberman
Cathy Bueti of In My Life
Cathy Bueti was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer in 2001 at age 31. She has now been in remission for nine years.
I was widowed at a very young age. I was 25 when my husband was killed, and it was years before I felt like putting myself back on the market. One morning, two years into online dating, I was in the shower doing what I like to call the "poke around," when I found a lump in my left breast. I remember thinking there was no way it could be cancer-I was a widow after all. I had convinced myself that being widowed gave me immunity from anything bad happening to me for the rest of my life.
I was only 31 years old when I was diagnosed with Stage II breast cancer. I had a mastectomy, reconstruction--during which I got a free tummy tuck (hey, you have to look at the positives!)--and six months of aggressive chemotherapy. I couldn't help but wonder if this would put a wrench in my well-laid-out plan to find love again. Dating was tough enough before cancer, and I wasn't sure how to handle it bald and boobless. Putting myself out there became quite a challenge since I certainly didn't feel sexy anymore. Somehow, though, I did find love again. I have been married for seven years to a man I met online during my chemo treatments.
I felt like there was a reason I survived, and wanted to give back to others in some way. After writing my memoir Breastless in the City, I started a blog to share what life was like after cancer. Blogging opened up a whole new world for me to help inspire others as well as encourage survivors to be their own advocate. The question I get asked most by other young survivors is about dating. I want to let other singles with cancer know that finding love is still possible. You can still have a life, even with cancer. Photo: courtesy of Cathy Bueti
Daria Maluta of Living With Cancer
Daria Maluta was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 39. In 2004 she had a recurrence in her chest area and four years later at 47 she was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer and has been on chemotherapy ever since.
Being told you have cancer shakes you to the core. It's the wakeup call no one wants--you are going to die and probably sooner than you'd hoped. At the age of 39, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. At 47, I was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer--that's when the cancer has moved from its primary location to other organs in your body, in my case to my liver, lungs and bones.
I remember getting the news at work. I was prepared to hear that my cancer was back, but nothing prepared me for the words "the cancer is in your lungs, liver and bones." I was shocked, devastated and beside myself. I've always felt the need to be productive, and sitting at home waiting for each chemotherapy cycle to come and go was not exactly my idea of being productive. I started a cancer blog to journal my thoughts. I remember how difficult it was to say the words "metastatic, advanced, Stage IV, terminal," but I found it was much easier to write them.
The online community has been so supportive, encouraging and inspiring. The comments people have left on my blog have brought me to tears; I finally knew I was not alone. My online friends give me hope. I don't know where I'd be without them. But not only did I get hope from my cancer blogging community, I soon found that blogging is a great distraction. Every day I get up and think, "I have something to do and that is to blog my thoughts." I found my daily sense of purpose. It took a few months, but the darkness started to lift and I remember thinking things may not be OK, but I can be OK with things.
I started blogging to share information with my family and friends, but had no idea I would find an extended family on the Internet. It's been the most therapeutic activity for me. I ended up spending a lot of time looking back through the years, and feeling proud of my accomplishments. But I also grieve for the future that won't be. Photo: courtesy of Daria Maluta
Teresa Rhyne of The Dog Lived (and so will I)
Teresa Rhyne was diagnosed with triple-negative Stage I breast cancer in 2009 at age 45. After treatment she is now "NED" (no evidence of disease).
The day after I was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, my boyfriend Chris drove me 60 miles to the hospital for my MRI. I spent the time on my cell scrambling to notify folks and rearrange my schedule for surgery. Arriving at the hospital, Chris suggested I start a blog as a way of keeping everyone updated. His reasons were sound: I wouldn't have to keep repeating the story to every person I talked to, folks could check in when and if they wanted to, and a blog would be a good way for me to process what was happening. I planned the blog during the 45 minutes I spent in the MRI tube. I named it The Dog Lived (and so will I) because my beagle, Seamus, had been diagnosed with terminal cancer and given a year to live. That was four years ago. He beat the odds and is in full remission.
On the blog I shared my surgery, chemo, chemo side effects and radiation. Readers followed my journey, and the blog became my primary means of keeping in touch with friends and family. But other breast cancer survivors and women in treatment found it as well. I "met" other women who had been where I was or would soon be. Their information and camaraderie were invaluable.
And there were other benefits. When I needed to choose a wig, I posted photos of me modeling different options and let the readers vote. When I blogged about my trouble getting timely blood work at a lab, someone from their office emailed me an apology and a solution. When I mentioned I'd give anything to find Biotene gum (to soothe the mouth sores from chemo), three different friends found it and shipped it to me. My surgeon followed the blog and emailed answers to my questions--yes, I could have wine; no, I could not go in the hot tub. My treatments were completed in July 2009, but I'm still blogging and following my fellow breast cancer bloggers. Photo: courtesy of Teresa Rhyne
Jayne England Byrne of Jayne's Breast Cancer Blog
Jayne England Byrne was diagnosed with Stage I invasive lobular cancer in March 2006 when she was 41 years old, and is now cancer-free.
I started Jayne's Breast Cancer Blog about a month after my diagnosis to process and document a life-changing experience. I knew nothing about blogging; at the time I would have described myself as a private person. That sounds silly to me now-after all, private people don't write about their breasts on the Internet!
Sometimes I've had to back away from my blog. When two of my close breast cancer-blogging buddies died from the disease, I didn't want to blog about it for a while. I just had to go through that quiet time. It also gave me some time to think about the blog's future: Did I really have anything valuable left to say? Was it still healthy for me to keep breast cancer so close to my surface? After all, I am closing in on five years cancer-free and I've been out of active treatment for years.
Right now, I think the answer to both of those questions is yes. I've learned a lot about the science and technology that swirls around breast cancer and have done a lot of volunteering as well as being active in survivorship activities. I still have plenty to add to the conversation and I've realized blogging isn't just writing: It's an opportunity to participate in a grand conversation. But what really warms my heart and keeps me motivated is when a newly diagnosed woman tells me my blog has helped her. When you're in that place, it can be so helpful to know there are women out there who have taken the same journey-and who are now OK. Photo: courtesy of Jayne EnglandOriginal article appeared on WomansDay.com
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