When Lisa Bonchek Adams used her blog and her social media accounts to chronicle her eight-year journey with the breast cancer that eventually metastasized and killed her, she gained admirers and followers all over the world. She was also criticized by some, including one prominent columnist who questioned the propriety of Adams’ sharing what she dubbed the “grim equivalent of deathbed selfies.”
I have also read comments from fellow cancer patients on some of the various cancer forums I frequent complain about other cancer patients (notice I am avoiding the term “cancer victims”) who post on social network sites about their condition and treatments. These posters are sometimes accused of posting simply to garner praise, sympathy or to capitalize on their condition in some way. Or as my daughter would put it to “play the cancer card.”
I don’t know how people feel about my posting, but as more people learned about my diagnosis and began to ask questions, I began posting to keep friends and family informed about what was going on, how I was doing and what treatment I was having, etc. I do sometimes get comments about how brave or strong I am, or how someone admires me, but that was not and is not my goal nor my intent.
Quite frankly, when I began this cancer adventure, I went looking for information. Not just information on the treatments, the research behind them, the techniques, etc. I was certainly interested in all those things too, but what I wanted was some reassurance that other people, ordinary people like me, had gone down this bumpy, rocky, dangerous road and had not fallen into the ditch or been set upon by demons, or worse, but had remained in control of their sanity and been able to retain their sense of humor , their joy in living and their dignity as they lived out their lives under very difficult circumstances.
I found what I was looking for in articles, in forums and on blogs, including Lisa Bonchek Adams’ blog. Many cancer patients had written about their fears, their hopes, their despair, their love for their friends and families. They helped me learn about what to expect when I went to have a port placed in my chest before beginning chemotherapy. They warned me about some of the side effects of that treatment: about the fatigue, the frustration and the mental fog that often envelops us as the chemo kills off brain cells along with cancer cells.
This is a journey that is different for everyone who makes it. Everyone reacts differently to treatment, and some suffer more or less than others. But knowing that it is a journey that others have made is reassuring, somehow. There have been happy endings as people hit the five year mark or the ten year mark of being cancer-free, and there has been sadness as family members post information on funeral information for those who reached the end of the road much sooner than any of us planned. But even in the sadness, there is the memory of a person who knew his or her journey was nearing the end and faced the inevitable, sometimes with anger, sometimes with fear, but often with grace and dignity and with humor. In doing so, they had kicked some of the rocks and obstacles out of the road making it a little smoother for those of us who travel after them. I don’t know that my posts are helping anyone who has to travel down that rocky road, but I would like to think that I have kicked a few rocks out of the way and made the road a little less forbidding and fearsome, a little less lonely.