Do I Dare Connect With Others Living With Metastatic Breast Cancer?
Deeply Rooted Connections
The theme of this year’s conference was Deeply Rooted Connections. I know that social media has allowed me to develop deeply rooted connections with fellow bloggers, advocates, and activists, as well as other breast cancer warriors. The fact that the conference is aimed at helping us build those connections is exceptional.
I made new connections this year and renewed old ones. I got to put faces to the blogs that I have tuned into and was especially happy to finally meet face to face with Rose, the wonderful editor who started me blogging in the first place.
I was inspired by many of the attendees who are suffering from other chronic diseases and conditions and who want to share their stories to encourage and inform others. I learned something from each one of them and was in awe of their strength and commitment.
Ups and Downs of Social Media
For me, social media has its ups and downs. There is a whole online community of others like me living with metastatic breast cancer. Some days it’s truly empowering to connect with these people and celebrate their good test results or hear about the fun things they are doing with family. Other days I am just sorry that I even got on Facebook or Twitter.
On those other days I learn of people we have lost from our community. Often, they are beautiful young women who had profile photos of smiles and hope. They are mothers and sisters who won’t be here to post news of birthday and holiday celebrations for the rest of the year or years to come. I am truly affected by their loss.
Sometimes I have to ask myself: Do I really want to connect and make friends with others who might die? Every time I ask it, though, the answer is the same: Hell, yes! These are sensational people who have fabulous lives worth sharing, and I gain something from each of them.
Hope, Love, and Joy Versus Fear and Loss
The “something” I gain — their hope and their love and joy for life — far overshadows the doom I feel in knowing I could die from breast cancer, too. Each one of them has something so powerful in her voice, I can only be grateful that I heard it, even if only for a short while.
I continue to build connections with fellow bloggers I met at the HealtheVoices conferences. In addition, I have hundreds of friends now on Facebook and Twitter who are living with stage 4 breast cancer, just like me.
In the past year we have lost so many smart, loving, gifted people, who will forever leave their mark on my life and my Facebook page. Most of them I have never met face to face and may never meet in this life.
That is what the eternal life is for. On the bad days I remind myself of that and thank God for these deeply rooted connections while I am here.
Survive and Shine,
Author’s note: The HealtheVoices conference was the brainchild of Janssen, a pharmaceutical company that partnered with Everyday Health to make it happen. Janssen paid for all my travel expenses, but the opinions expressed here are my own.
Illustration: Neil Webb/Getty Images
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