Do you ever wonder why so many people share their illness stories online via personal blogs, various websites and social media platforms?
Do you ever ask yourself, who in their right mind would share so many personal details of their life on the internet, for crying out loud?
Yeah, me too.
And yet, like so many others, I do exactly that.
My cancer story began with my mother’s cancer diagnosis in 2004. Despite the fact she was diagnosed with an early-stage, low-grade, hormone-positive breast cancer (supposedly, the good kind), it went on to metastasize in 2007. Roughly six months later, she was dead.
Sandwiched in there, we learned she carried the BRCA2 gene mutation. That was in 2006. My family history is complicated. Whose isn’t, I suppose.
While still grieving and still contemplating genetic testing to see if I, too, carried the same BRCA2 mutation, along came my breast cancer diagnosis. I guess you could say, I contemplated a bit too long. I tested positive for the mutation too, btw.
Six months after my diagnosis, I started my blog, Nancy’s Point. Originally, I had intended to blog about grief and cancer from a daughter’s perspective.
Suddenly, I had a new cancer story to share about as well – mine.
From day one, I knew Nancy’s Point would be a blog about cancer and loss. It had to be. For a lot of reasons, the two are nearly one in the same.
I chose and still choose to tell unvarnished truths about cancer and loss, well, my truths anyway. And believe it or not, I have only scratched the surface.
So, why do so many bloggers (and others) share their illness stories online, and why do I share mine?
It’s all about connections. Humans like feeling connected to others going through similar circumstances. We seek out those connections in Cancer Land; too, and when we find them, we latch on to each other and hold on for dear life. Literally.
Following a traumatic event, there’s a desire to do something with the experience. To give back. To give the experience at least some kind of purpose.
Some feel inspired to create whether it be writing a blog or a book, designing jewelry, painting, taking up photography or whatever the case might be. Whether you are the creator, reader, listener or observer, there is nothing like the healing power of art.
Some are driven to change the status quo by turning into fierce advocates traveling the country, or even the world, working tirelessly to make things better and hopefully a little easier for others walking in, or who will someday be walking in, the ill-fitting shoes of cancer, or whatever the illness might be. Advocacy, too, most often begins with sharing stories.
Others need a place to “put” their cancer (or other illness) experience. Writing a blog, commenting on blogs or sharing on social media about your experience offers exactly that – a concrete place to put it.
Besides, everyone needs to vent now and then, right?
And for some, including me, it’s a combination of all the above.
But why am I still sharing my story and the stories of others?
That one’s a bit harder to answer, and after eight years, I sometimes wonder why myself.
I am still at it as much for myself as for my readers
There are many reasons why I keep doing what I do, I suppose. Some reasons, I can put into words and others I cannot.
Most simply put and for now anyway, I can’t imagine not continuing.
Sharing your illness story online makes you more vulnerable, and yes, there is potential risk involved. It’s the internet, after all; so, you need to set boundaries and think things through before sharing such personal matters.
But the rewards you will likely discover along the way outweigh the risk, at least, this has been the case for me.
It’s empowering to share our stories, possibly more than any of us might realize when we do.
The empowerment comes from each person’s process of sharing her/his unique story. But it also comes from the validation so generously offered by those who listen and bear witness to those stories.
Through sharing, we are all stronger.
What better reason to share could there be than that?
About the Author
Nancy Stordahl is the blogger behind Nancy’s Point and author of three books: Getting Past the Fear: A Guide to Help You Mentally Prepare for Chemotherapy, Cancer Was Not a Gift: A memoir about cancer as I know it and Facing Your Mastectomy & Making Reconstruction Decisions. Learn more about them here.
Today, 1st February is St Brigid’s Day in Ireland. If St Patrick is our national saint, then Brigid is Ireland’s patroness. Girls were traditionally named Mary or Brigid in days gone by in Ireland and as my own mother was called Brigid, I always felt an affinity to her story.
As a child, I always loved the ancient story of St. Brigid, who I viewed as a beautiful Celtic goddess. Her father, Dubhthach, was a pagan chieftain of Leinster and her mother, Broicsech, was a Christian. It was thought that Brigid’s mother was born in Portugal but was kidnapped by Irish pirates and brought to Ireland to work as a slave, just like St. Patrick was. Brigid’s father named her after one of the most powerful goddesses of the pagan religion – the goddess of fire, whose manifestations were song, craftsmanship, and poetry, which the Irish considered the flame of knowledge.
Back in my school days we made the traditional St Brigid’s crosses in class and I would take mine home from school to present to my own Brigid, my Mum. The story behind St Brigid’s cross is that during one of her travels, St Brigid went to visit a dying pagan chief. As she sat near his bed, she picked up some rushes on the floor and began weaving a cross. When he asked her what she was doing, she told him about the meaning of the cross and this led to his conversion to Christianity.
Making a St. Brigid’s cross is one of the traditional rituals in Ireland to celebrate the beginning of early spring. The crosses are made of rushes that are pulled rather than cut. They are hung by the door and in the rafters to protect the house from fire and evil. According to tradition a new cross is made each St Brigid’s Day, and the old one is burned to keep fire from the house.