Guest Post: "How social media helps me stand up to cancer"
Emma Campbell on the advantages of having an online support system
Life after cancer. Life with triplets. Life.
Posted on: Mon 16-Oct-17 10:49:39
(6 comments )
I’m a little bit late to the online party but I have to say that I’m extremely glad I joined. When I tentatively and rather clumsily started using Instagram last year I had no idea that I’d make such positive connections with so many strong, authentic and ‘real’ women. I also wasn't expecting my first real ‘go’ at social media to dramatically lessen the feelings of isolation and anxiety that have, until recently, defined my experience of cancer.
I think it’s fair to say that living with cancer isn’t the easiest path to tread, however positively we might try to frame it. Until recently my way of coping was to lie low and do my best to pretend it wasn’t happening, all the while internalising dangerously high levels of anxiety and obsession.
I was a single mum of baby triplets and a six year old when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer back in 2010. It was tough in all the ways you can imagine but we stumbled through and life was finally turning around when, at the end of 2014, I was told that the cancer had come back and that I needed treatment once more.
It was even more devastating second time round, even more of a shock and my worst nightmare come true. What did it mean? Did this new diagnosis mark the beginning of the end? Could I dare to be optimistic about recovery or was I simply facing a slow, painful decline and early death, leaving my four beautiful kids without a mum. I withdrew even further. Doing my best to not think ‘why me’ but certainly viewing the world from a very lonely standpoint.
It's shown me that I don't have to sit in a circle in a medical centre to know I'm not alone, and that the more I reach out the stronger I feel and the more that I then have to give.
Despite gentle and no doubt very sensible suggestions that I might want to pop along to a support group or drop into a nearby cancer centre, this approach was not for me. I didn’t want to sit drinking tea surrounded by leaflets on how to talk to my kids about illness or read, yet again, about how to manage the side effects of chemo. I had my own approach thank you very much - one that mainly involved hiding at home, dressed in pyjamas and not moving from the sofa until the children came back from school. I didn’t want to see people, I didn’t want to talk, and I certainly didn’t want to admit to being absolutely terrified.
As my health improved and I was fortunate enough to find myself back in remission, I wanted my identity to have as little to do with cancer as possible. Not an unreasonable desire but a tricky one as I segued into what is known in the cancer trade as ‘maintenance’ treatment. That means hospital visits every three weeks. Blood tests, injections, daily medication with no end date in sight - this was my new normal.
I can’t imagine life without the family and ‘real life’ friends I rely on so heavily. But how has a social media platform originally known for it’s endless pictures of bountiful breakfasts and smiling selfies also improved my emotional wellbeing as a cancer patient? How has Instagram, with its perennial negative press for supposedly being saturated with super cool cliques, actually enhanced my self esteem rather than crushed it?
Because it’s shown me that I don’t have to sit in a circle in a medical centre to know that I’m not alone. And it’s shown me that the more I reach out the stronger I feel and the more that I then have to give.
If I click on an Insta-story and see the wonder woman that is Deborah James (aka @bowelbabe) dancing with her kids in the kitchen or kick-boxing in the gym whilst still attached to a chemo pump it gives me the jolt I need to get up, get busy, put a smile on my face, and get on with my day. If she can do it then so can I. It’s simple - her courage is infectious and that’s just one example of the magic I’ve found online.
All of the women I choose to follow are the ones who show up as their true selves. Authentic. Vulnerable. Cancer or not. Big brands or small fry. Followers, freebies, who cares? I happen to think we’re all pretty fabulous and never more so than when we’re filter free. Definitely nothing wrong with a flower crown filter once in a while though.
By Emma Campbell
Thank you for this and being brave enough to share your story. I have just one DC so just the triplets would overwhelm me!
I wouldn't wish cancer on anyone but I'm very confused by this post.
Not sure why you’re confused ? It’s someone expressing their feelings
in having cancer and how they have found comfort online via social media rather than actually going physically to support groups which just aren’t her thing
Thank you OP for your moving words
When I had ovarian cancer, there weren't any local groups, and even if there were, after 2 surgeries and 6 rounds of chemo I wasn't for or well enough to attend..social media was a godsend as I could chat with others who were in similar boat to me. Thank you for sharing xx