Exploring Blogging as a Newly Diagnosed Patient
Have you been recently diagnosed with advanced breast cancer? Writing can be a means to help you cope with this diagnosis. April shares her knowledge and expertise as a successful editor of Wildfire Magazine but also as someone who was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer. Hear what she has to say about using writing as a way to help you process.
Writing with a purpose
Writing can take many different forms, many of which can be helpful for navigating a devastating diagnosis. One such form is blogging. A blog is an online journal designed to be easily shared, for example, to provide updates on one's medical happenings to those who care about them. During the initial period after diagnosis, this type of writing in the form of blog entries is often factual in nature, communicating the diagnosis and other relevant information, such as the stage of the disease, type of breast cancer, initial treatment plan, etc. It can be used as a way to help communicate and keep people informed as a group. It was my experience after my breast cancer diagnosis that things typically move very quickly during this time and it can be overwhelmingly difficult to both keep people informed and to process what is happening yourself. Your loved ones want to know what is happening with your diagnosis. Blogging this information will save you time and energy, which is important. It also allows you to control the narrative and what information people receive. Blogging gives you space and the freedom to do that.
During this time, keeping a blog, in addition to being informative to your circle of friends and family, can be helpful for processing the information yourself. Writing helps us organize our thoughts and feelings - knowing you're writing it for a loved one to read can help center the writing in a way that is difficult when you're merely keeping a journal for yourself.
Blogs are often formatted so that the information is displayed in reverse chronological order, with the latest or most current posts appearing first, at the top. In this way, your writing becomes a real-time timeline capturing personal commentary and events.
After the initial post-diagnosis period and the diagnosis has begun to sink in, your writing and commentary may evolve. This often aligns with developing a routine of treatment and you can begin to think about the impact of active treatment and what living with advanced breast cancer looks like. To this end, the type of information you are sharing on your blog or the information itself can change. I can attest from my experience that this is when writing can evolve from factual information and a timeline of events (tests, surgery, etc) to more in-depth feelings and even some lessons learned along the way.
This change gives you the natural ability to start looking and thinking about how will you live with advanced breast cancer with writing being your access point to those deep thoughts and questions. Such as, how will my diagnosis and treatment impact my family? Through the writing process, you’re taking the first steps down a path, which may be the beginning of a personal grieving process. Through writing, you are giving yourself the freedom to explore at your own pace what has happened, what you have lost, and how you will move forward. It gives you an outlet to explore how you’re feeling. Many people report they didn't know how they felt until they began writing. This is because writing - even more so than speaking - helps you access parts of your brain seemingly unavailable to you, much like dreaming unlocks doors to subconscious thought.
Writing for the newly diagnosed
Blogging can be as simple or as elaborate as you like it to be. You can include pictures and videos, or you can keep it just writing. One type of blog many facing a health diagnosis use is the CaringBridge platform. Other free blogging platforms include Wix, Weebly, and WordPress. Choosing an online platform rather than a notebook you keep on your desk is the first step in deciding that you want to share your writing. However, once you write a blog post, you'll need to decide how you want to share it. This will depend on how widely you want the information to go. Many share the link to their blog on their social media. Others send it out via email to people who sign up for updates on the blog itself. Only you can decide how public or private you'll want your blog to be. I recommend starting off with it more private as a way of dipping your toe in if you're new to blogging and/or newly diagnosed. Take it slow and share more widely as you get comfortable.
The sharing aspect is what makes blogging about your experience different than keeping a personal journal. When you share your writing, even more than updating your loved ones, you are also starting to use your voice as a patient advocate to let others know they are not alone. And that can be a powerful turning point in using writing as a healing tool!
If you are interested in learning more about writing and journaling check out my other articles, “The Power of the Unsent Letter: Writing Through Trauma” – where I share how I used writing to navigate trauma in my childhood and then again when I was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer and “Journaling Series – Getting Started” on how to get started writing for yourself.
How old were you when you were diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer?