By Mary Kay Jurovcik
After you’ve heard the words “you have cancer,” there’s a point when you must tell others about your diagnosis. Some people choose to keep it private, only informing a few close family members or friends. Others, like me, find it therapeutic to communicate widely about their diagnosis.
Right after my diagnosis, I privately informed those closest to me – my parents, my brother and my closest friends. I told them exactly what the doctor told me: that I had breast cancer, that we had every reason to be hopeful, and that I needed their support. Once I finished much of the initial rush of tests and decisions about treatment, I wrote a detailed email that I shared with my extended family. For me, telling people felt right. I wanted the whole village behind me while I walked down this new path.
Tell Your Story Once
Throughout my treatment, I blogged via a website called CaringBridge, which is set up specifically for those going through a difficult time. I chose to blog because it made it easier for me to communicate with many people at the same time. It can be frustrating to have to tell your story over and over again, and blogging allows you to control the message. CaringBridge is free, though they take donations, and the set up is very easy. You can also control who can see your messages, with settings for public, private or by invitation.
While I continued to inform those closest to me personally about my progress, my blog was a way to express myself more publically. It even allowed me to ask for help, something many of us struggle with. I could tell readers what I needed, like help with meals, or when my surgeries were coming up. I could ask for thoughts and prayers. It felt good to educate others about what it’s like to live with cancer in a real and honest way. My blog wasn’t the romanticized Lifetime Movie version of cancer. Sure, I told people about what I learned and how I grew during cancer treatment, but I also wrote posts about the physical and emotional distress, the financial burdens, and dealing with insurance.
Others Can Choose to Read – or Not
I also felt that blogging meant I could have a personal life that wasn’t only about cancer. Having cancer can overwhelm the rest of your life, and the truth is that I didn’t always want to talk about cancer on my Facebook wall or via my Twitter feed. And not everyone who is my Facebook friend wants to hear about radiation burns or my new breast prosthesis. Having a blog meant that others could choose to read what was going on with me, but it wasn’t required. For some people, my cancer life was separate from my regular life. And I was fine with that.
Of course, writing long-winded essays chronicling the cancer journey isn’t for everyone, but I know other survivors who write very short, pithy blog entries just to keep people informed. “Had my check up today and everything is normal,” could be a blog entry. Blogging about it means you don’t have to text the same message to your 100 closest relatives and that friend you lived with for three months in college.
Maybe You’ll Discover a New Passion
In short, blogging is a way to express yourself once and touch many people all at the same time. It’s a way to save your energy. You choose how much or how little to tell, and you even choose who can read it. And who knows? Maybe you’ll discover you have a passion for story-telling.
I know I did.
And look what I’m up to now.
If you would like to see a CaringBridge blog in action, you can visit mine.
Mary Kay Jurovcik is a wife, mother, writer and cancer survivor. At 33, she was diagnosed with stage 2B, HER2+ breast cancer. With no family history or prior experience with cancer, Mary Kay took to documenting her journey through treatment, both for catharsis and communication. She is currently working on turning her online journal, sticky notes and bar napkins into a book with the hope to help others facing similar and dissimilar adventures. Mary Kay lives in Lake Stevens, Washington, with her husband, two young daughters and an old Rat Terrier named Squints.