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Breast Cancer Patients Blog Their Blues Away

By August 13, 2013

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When Ann Silberman was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer, she said "But Doctor -I Hate Pink!" and promptly started to blog about it. That was three years ago, and her reach has grown to include social media. Her cancer metastasized and became Stage 4, which isn't usually though of as a laughing matter. In fact, such a situation would bring on instant depression in many of us. But Ann dove in to the complete experience and came up with funny blogs about life in treatment. She wrote up some helpful tips on getting through chemo - which is famous for causing side effects - and I like how she expressed the importance of taking the anti-nausea meds. "Be a wimp and slam the drugs. You get no points for bringing yourself to the point of a three hour puke." Clearly, she didn't spend time feeling sick, when the right pills were nearby!

When I was diagnosed 11 years ago, blogs were just becoming the "thing to do" and even though I was working as a webmaster at the time, I barely knew what a blog was! And I was so sick during chemo that I couldn't write up much about it, so my husband kept a journal for me. But his perspective was very different than mine, and it wasn't a very emotional write-up, either. I needed a support group and I needed some emotional outlets, but didn't know how to get started. That was in the days before CaringBridge, Twitter, and free blogging sites all over webiverse!

Well, now some people at UCLA have done a study on breast cancer patients and their personal websites. They created Project Connect Online (PCO) and recruited 88 breast cancer survivors to participate. The patients took three-hour workshops that introduced them to blogging and creating online journals with social media that chronicled their treatment experience as well as how it affected their lives. They had created a starter website by the end of the workshops. These newbie bloggers took a battery of standard tests to measure psychological status before, and six months after their class on online journaling. You might think that only 20-somethings would be interested in a class like this, but women between the ages of 28 to 76 signed up, and all were producing blogs by the end of class.

The Project Connect Online group found that women who participated were able to benefit in several ways from blogging about their experiences and emotions. Breast cancer blogging gave patients an outlet in which to express fears, thanks, and need for support. Instead of having to email or phone up all of their relatives and friends, they could put all that information in one place and feel less burdened about keeping the news going out. PCO bloggers reported less depression, better mood, and more appreciation for life.

"We are encouraged by these positive findings," Annette Stanton said, "especially for cancer survivors with the most need, those in active medical treatment or with more advanced disease. Our next step is to gain support for a larger test of Project Connect Online." Dr. Stanton is a member of the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center and professor of psychology and psychiatry/biobehavioral sciences at UCLA.

Related story: Personal Website Chronicling Improves Depressive Symptoms in Women with Breast Cancer

Do you blog or journal about breast cancer? How has it affected your experience? Post a comment and include a link to your blog below.

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August 14, 2013 at 9:42 am
(1) Erin Ambrose says:

I had never written a blog before but it was suggested to me as a way to process my breast cancer experience. I’m so thankful for the encouragement and support I received and felt I was able to encourage others as well. It was wonderful to connect with women all around the world facing the same challenges.

August 14, 2013 at 10:09 am
(2) Susan Guberman-Garcia says:

New support group for people with MBC.
Name of Group: Metastatic Breast Cancer Information Sharing and Support Group

Groupís facebook page: : https://www.facebook.com/groups/198373103658047/

The purpose of this group is to provide a friendly, safe environment for information sharing and support for people who have metastatic breast cancer (aka “MBC”). Feel free to share your diagnosis and treatment and how you feel. You can post information or links to websites about conventional or alternative cancer treatments, nutritional remedies, information about clinical trials, side effects of medications, and other issues that relate in any way to MBC and its effects on your life. This is a safe place to vent your feelings about cancer and how it is affecting your family and relationships, work, etc. Information about how to get health care, pain medication, insurance, medical benefits, etc. are always welcome. This is a secular group and we welcome atheists, agnostics, Christians, Jews, Bahai, Buddhists, Pagans, Muslims, gay and lesbian, straight, and everyone else. If you want to talk about how your spiritual beliefs help you cope with cancer, that’s fine, but please do not proseletyze.

This is a CLOSED group. That means that posts are visible only to members. If a post shows up in your news feed, its because you are a member, and only people who are also members of this group will see it, your other facebook friends will not. And because this is a closed group that is intended to provide “safe space,” please do not under any circumstances copy or forward other people’s posts (its OK to repost public links).

Thank you!

August 14, 2013 at 12:02 pm
(3) Pat Kokke says:

I did not write about my breast cancer (stage 1), but I had a neighbor who was going through colon cancer at the same time. We had our surgery a day a part and tried unsuccessfully to have our chemo scheduled together. We were unsuccessful with the schedule as he delivered every two weeks and I did chemo every three. He and his wife and I became best friends throughout the process. We tried every trick to use and abuse the “I have cancer” excuse, to the point one of our friends exclaimed, “but you don’t even have the decency to be sick.” Even our Dr.s who are in the same practice were surprised at that.

I never got very sick during chemo and only missed a couple of days of work. I was very lucky. However, I believe that I got through it because I wasn’t alone. The support of another was a giant help. We never let each other cry long. Plus I never had to wear my wig with my co-cancer patient.
If you don’t have a cheerful person to pull you up and make you laugh, please find one. They are worth their weight in gold.

August 14, 2013 at 3:45 pm
(4) Nancy says:

Interesting article! Lets face it, breast cancer is tough! Tough to go through, tough to talk about, yet friends and family want to keep up to date with all the journey. What better way to communicate?! Blogging!
Yes I blogged! It allowed me to document my experience and it allowed people to follow without constantly having me rehash all the details. It was my little outlet. Still blogging since April 2012. Lots of stuff in my head! Still have people reading daily. When I stop, the phone calls and emails start up asking if I fell off the face of the earth!


August 14, 2013 at 6:54 pm
(5) Erika Keller Rogoff says:

First, thank you, Pam Stephan, for your good work. I didn’t blog. It was ten plus years ago that I was diagnosed with Stage 2b breast cancer. It is a tough disease and it continues as a worry for most of us, although I worked during my treatment, and that was a gift. I came to the very powerful awareness of my gratitude for every minute of life. That has continued although life has its ups and downs, but it is good to be around to ride them. I did, because I felt like it was the one place I had some choice, make an herbal, organic cream for myself and have continued to make that, although it has never been properly or adequately marketed. It never has been a source of income, was not my “work”, but it is good for skin that is being radiated and feels like one gift to our sisterhood. Thank you all for your comments.

August 15, 2013 at 5:32 pm
(6) Dr. Chris Charlton says:

It’s always a good idea to learn how to create something new or create meaning out of something that is depressing. I like this approach because it allows us to grow. New friends,new perspectives and a new skill such as blogging can help escape the feeling of depression.

August 16, 2013 at 4:02 pm
(7) sony_b says:

I’ve been a blogger for years, just as part of a community of friends and it has gotten me through some very tough things in the last decade. When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in June, I decided to start a separate blog (my mom does not ever need to see the original) to document my treatment.

I find it to be really helpful in two ways – first it is therapeutic to write it out. But it also short circuits a lot of the repetitive questions I get about treatment and how I’m feeling. There are times when I want to talk about it, but when I don’t, or if someone is just being too nosy or disruptive I can point them at the blog and walk away. My mom has found it to be useful as well – my sister went through this five years ago and she spent hours on the phone every week keeping family up to date – now everybody just reads the blog and it saves time and I suspect prevents a lot of misinformation from floating around as well.

August 23, 2013 at 9:03 am
(8) Claudia Schmidt says:

I started mine on Caringbridge.org to keep family and friends updated on treatments and what was going on, at the recommendation of my breast care coordinator at my hospital. It was a great way to keep everybody updated and was a great way for me to track the journey and all the processes I was going through. I then migrated to a more “public” blog when I started the reconstruction process. I recommend it to all of my friends who are going through this, it’s a wonderful support system and may help others who are going through a similar experience.

October 21, 2013 at 12:37 pm
(9) veronica gunnery says:

Hi there,

I’ve been a blogger for almost 3 years. And i’m still enjoy blogging until this time. And know what? This site is my big refference when im blogging.Yeap, this site have a huge good informations about many things, include breast cancer.

But just for another info for all cancer survivor, i just started build
Yours-Guide.Com that will give you many refference about our health guide, include breast cancer also. We will discuss all information as i can just for you!

November 16, 2013 at 9:19 pm
(10) Naija says:

Cancer therapy is important to make sure proper cell improvement in eye region and eliminate abnormal cells in time. Abnormal cells that lead to cancerous development divide and grow at a really high rate and also compel adjacent wholesome cells to behave unnaturally and function inefficiently. Abnormal cell development also impacts functioning of tissues and causes shortage of generation and provide of essential sources to regular cells in the area. Thus, presence of cancer cells impacts general health of eyes.

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