One of the projects that is currently using up my limited free time is a free online course that I’m building titled “Should I blog? Everything you want to know about blogging your cancer journey“. I have always wanted to be the facilitator for a free online course, and I realized that the only thing stopping me from doing it was me. And so, if you want to start blogging but don’t know how to get started, feel free to join us. The course begins March 1st and the signup and course content will all be posted to http://shouldiblog.org.
In preparing the content for the first week, I asked a bunch of volunteer cancer bloggers (cancer blog mentors) why they blogged. I realized that I had not posted why I blog. Sure, I say a little about it on the landing page for this site, but really, I wanted to take some time (and this post) to really reflect on not just why I blog, but why I blog as much as I do.
I began blogging in the first few days after diagnosis. At that time, it was too hard to say the words. As I mentioned earlier this week, the hardest thing I had to do was phone my mother and say the words “I have breast cancer”. I just couldn’t talk about it. I was not ready for telephone conversations, but my family and friends needed to know what was happening. I also had at the back of my mind, that my blog could serve as useful data for research. Maybe even a new dissertation topic for me, as my thesis research project couldn’t survive me not being in Ottawa to keep it going. I wanted my experience to be meaningful. It didn’t make sense for me to go through this journey without somehow sharing the experience so that others could learn from it.
I also had a compulsion to write. I still have that compulsion. It is my therapy. It is how I process my thoughts and ideas. But for me, writing has always needed an audience. I’ve never been able to simply write for the sake of writing. I’ve always needed to write for someone – or write to teach someone. I was a technical writer before I was a blogger. Again, my writing was always meant to be shared with people.
I remember the first couple of days after diagnosis, before I started blogging. I remember all the ideas that were popping into my head – all the great blog post titles – and the frustration that I had at not sharing them. Not getting them out of my head and onto the page. I needed to blog.
When I wasn’t feeling well, and when I was struggling, I reminded myself that my blog served as a testimonial about my experience. It was important to me that I wrote something, even when I didn’t want to. If I am to use the information in research, it is important that I have an accurate account of my experience. So, I used that as motivation to keep writing even when I didn’t feel like it. Throughout treatment, blogging and exercise became my full time job. This is turning out to be useful for a clinical trial I’m participating in, as my blog provides a more accurate reflection of when I started to feel symptoms of neuropathy. So, even if it isn’t useful in my personal research, it is useful in research that I’m participating in.
As a blogger, I am flattered when someone leaves a comment on my blog about how my blog has helped them, or if they share a Facebook comment about my post. This helps keep me motivated. It helps me know that there is value in my writing beyond my personal therapy. I’ve had many people also comment to me that my blog has helped them better understand what it means to experience breast cancer. I’ve had many people who have breast cancer tell me that my blog has helped them to process their journey. So I keep writing, not only because I have to, but also because people encourage me to keep doing it.