An Unexpected Self-Discovery

This past week I learned something about my new identity as a breast cancer survivor/blogger that I was not entirely prepared for. I found out how much I genuinely care about the new friendships I have formulated over the past few months with other survivors/bloggers.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, A Thank You, one of the very first breast cancer blogs I visited was Brenda’s blog. After considerable contemplation and finally beginning Nancy’s Point a few  months ago, I invited Brenda to “visit.” She stopped by and commented and pretty quickly we discovered some similarities between us. One of those was, of course, breast cancer and also the BRCA2 gene mutation. Another was our mutual love of writing, another was our love of dogs and yet another was the fact both of us had loving, supportive husbands to walk side by side with us through our journeys. Brenda always mentioned her beloved James whenever possible. When I heard Brenda’s husband had unexpectedly passed away the day after Christmas, I was struck by the intensity of my feelings of sadness and empathy for her, a friend I have never even met.

My intense reaction to my new friend’s loss somewhat surprised me at first, but the more I thought about it, I realized the  connections that have been forged in such a short time between myself and other bloggers, are indeed quite strong already. Friendships such as this are one of the greatest gifts of blogging, (I’m pretty sure some readers feel a similar connection, it’s not just the writers), but are also a potential source for unexpected sadness. We share such personal pieces of our lives, how could we not grow to care about each other? How could we not feel the impact when one of us experiences joy as well as heartache? After all, that’s what friendship is all about.

I also realized proximity is irrelevant when you are someone’s friend, as is meeting them face to face.

I hesitated to write this post. Then I hesitated to post it. Maybe it’s not appropriate, maybe I’m being presumptuous. But then again, maybe I’m not. Maybe it is appropriate. My blog, after all, is a blog about breast cancer and loss. Also, maybe others are having feelings similar to mine after hearing this news. Like me, maybe others feel tremendously saddened.

I thought about how whenever I don’t know what to do, I turn to writing. Writing heals. That’s why I decided to go ahead with this post today. I decided to go ahead because I know Brenda is first and foremost a writer. She left a comment one time on my blog stating, “Writing is my solace, my compass, the constant during every phase of my life.” She will need this compass now more than ever. That’s why I believe she will turn to writing again when the time is right, in order to help herself heal from this devastating loss. She will also turn to writing again in order to help others, because that’s what she always does. At least I hope she will. (If you click on Brenda’s Blog at the above link and read her seeringly honest account of James’ passing, you will find she has already returned to her “compass.”)

Cancer is really hard. Losing people we care about is even harder. Simplistically stated, moving forward can be really hard as well. Knowing others care about what you are going through, be it cancer, loss or something else life has thrown at you, might just help a little. That’s my hope anyway.

Speaking for so many of us “out here” in this community you are such a huge part of, I want to say, we are sorry for your loss, Brenda. Your friends are here for you. Even though undoubtedly at times you feel like it, you are not alone.

How do you help a grieving friend?


32 thoughts to “An Unexpected Self-Discovery”

  1. Nancy, I can understand why you’d hesitate to post this. I feel, as you do, strongly connected to women I’ve “met” through blogging, but struggle with the line between caring comments and pushing my opinion when it may not be appropriate. I stop and think, well, I don’t really know this person, maybe it’s not my place.

    However, I’m rethinking that. Your post is truly genuine and concern shines through. I’m glad you put it up. Just yesterday, I was reminded again how special our community is. Positive comments hold so much power! Maybe it’s just easier to share when typing to a computer alone, but the results matter so much, especially coming from women who understand the journey. I’ll take it. Beautiful post. It’s nice knowing we’re not alone.

    1. Stacey, Thanks for your supportive comments, I really wasn’t sure about posting this, but decided to just go ahead and do it because it expresses my true feelings. Immediately after reading your comment, I read your most recent post, and once again discovered you understand!

  2. I do know what you mean. The community I have connected with through my blog is so important to me. And when a member is affected by loss or tragedy, I feel it. Virtual friendships can be just as real and sincere as any IRL (ìn real life).

    1. Laurie, Thanks for your comments. I just read the recent posts on your blog and noticed we have some similar interests. I agree with you about the virtual friendships.

  3. Nancy,
    Thank you for this beautiful post. My friends in bloggerville are very important in my life and I feel so blessed to be able to share life with them. When I heard about Brenda’s husband,I was surprised at the depth of saddness I felt of her loss. Thank you again for your words.

    1. Kim, Yes, my reaction surprised me at first as well. That’s what prompted this post. Thanks for your comments and for sharing your reaction to the news. Sometimes I think the depth of the connections we have made, sneaks up on us.

  4. Nancy, once again you have been able to express thoughts on a subject that is close to each of us. I like the sensitivity and love with which it has been written.
    I used to feel the term ‘friend’ was used loosely. I now believe it to have many and varied meanings.
    My blog is ‘my’ story. It begun as a way of expressiong myself; telling my story for future generations that do not know me. It was never my intention to ‘seek’ out followers and yet they have become an added bonus as I find myself writing and receiving a response.
    You are so right about the depth of feeling that develops. How can we not feel the ‘pain’ and the ‘joy’ of our ‘friends.
    Our friend Brenda has a way of reaching out, making us feel like she is ‘touching’ us personally with her love. We mourn her loss, feel her pain as we pray for her in this struggle.
    Nancy, I have not yet had the experience of losing a friend met through blogging although I know that one day it will happen. Until then, I choose not to think about it. Only to enjoy the moment.
    Thank you for the special part you play in my life my ‘friend.’ xo

    1. Chez, Thanks for your lovely comments from half way around the world! You have developed quite a following even though, as you say, that was not your intention when you started out. I have found blogging to be an evolving thing bringing unexpected joy as well as sadness. Part of the joy is developing friendships like yours and, of course, Brenda’s loss is part of the sadness we feel as well.

  5. Nancy, what an insightful, beautifully poignant posting!

    As a fellow writer, I also feel connected to the blogging community, particularly the breast cancer community, and feel that I have new virtual friends all over the world. It makes the world seem much more intimate, and blogging seems to bridge the physical distance between bloggers.

    It’s so hard to deal with loss, as you and so many others can attest to. In 2005, I lost a great friend to breast cancer. I grieved so much, and I have to admit that I tend to get survivor’s guilt and had that during the time.

    Now I have another friend who seems to have successfully battled Leukemia, but her body is still fighting off infections from treatment. And as if this weren’t enough, her mom died the same year. And today her precious dog needs to be put to sleep because of illness.

    It’s almost so much that it’s too much for her to bear. And I am heartbroken for her and so desperately don’t want to lose her.

    It’s difficult to cope with loss, and I appreciate your addressing it in such great postings.

    1. Beth, I’m sorry for the loss of your friend in 2005 and understand about the survivor’s guilt. Your friend with leukemia has endured much it sounds like. What did her mother pass away from? I also know how difficult it is to put a beloved pet to sleep having done that a couple of times. She will need your continuing friendship. Thanks for your comments, I do sometimes wonder about posts such as this, but the issue of loss needs to be addressed more in my opinion, plus this is how I felt when I heard this news.

  6. Like you, Nancy, I was shocked upon reading Brenda’s news. A devastating blow. When I developed lymphedema I joined an online support group for that condition, because there are so few in-person lymphedema support groups around. When two of our members died, I mourned for them as if they were long-time friends. Never having met them in person, I still felt an emotional link much stronger than I ever expected. So know that you are not alone in feeling this way about your fellow breast cancer survivor/bloggers, a tight-knit support group. We are all in this together. Writing is truly healing. Blessings to you,

    1. Jan, Thanks for your comments, Jan. Do you still belong to one of those support groups? Do you know Brenda? I agree this community we have is pretty tight-knit, which is exactly why it is so valuable. That’s also the reason we share the highs as well as the lows.

  7. Sweet Nancy,
    I came here this morning to see what my friend, Nancy, had to say, to see what was going on in her life. My darling friend, I’m so touched by your compassion. You are not presumptuous at all–far from it.

    I’m crying as I write this because I know this community understands loss and grief. It’s a safe place for me to unbridle my emotions and openly feel. I’m in the company of friends. I feel like I’m stuck in limbo in some parallel universe from Hell. On one hand, the numbness is beginning to wear off a bit, but then again, I know I’m still in shock and haven’t begun to feel the hurt that awaits me. It’s all so surreal, yet James’ absence is deafening.

    So many blogging and Internet friends have reached out to me, and for that, I am profoundly grateful. I don’t have the energy to post a thank you to each and every one, but I send up prayers of thanksgiving and gratitude for all of you.


    1. Brenda, It is really good to hear from you. As you stated, your shock is only beginning to wear off, and there will be many days ahead filled with sadness, loneliness, uncertainty, anger and countless other emotions. As you make your way through this ordeal, I’m glad you feel as if your community of online friends is a safe place for you to freely express your emotions, whatever they might be, because that is exactly what it is. Knowing we play a small role helping you through your grieving means a lot. With continuing love, thoughts and prayers.

  8. Well this is the most moving thing I have seen in a long time. Nancy, thank you so much for your compassion. And my heart too goes out to you, Brenda. I hope the community you have here helps shoulder some of your burden. You are in my thoughts.

    I don’t know if this is true for everyone here, but breast cancer opened up in me an intense need to use what I was learning to ease others’ journeys with disease. I couldn’t sit here with my own sickness and not try to find a way to find something, anything, positive in it. Blogging is an amazing way to do this, through the sharing of experiences, humour, and information. But I am endlessly struck by this feeling of inclusion we give and receive by opening our hearts to the other people we meet here online. That feeling of, hey! welcome, you’re one of us! And in the offering of help to others, we are helping ourselves immeasurably.

    So, thank you, Nancy, for opening up your heart in this way. It helps us all.

    1. Cyn, Thank you so much for your kind comments. As mentioned, I hesitated with this post, but went ahead because it expressed my feelings. I think you are right about so many of us wanting to do something positive after a diagnosis. You are so right, too, about the feeling of inclusion. Thanks for such honest feedback, Cyn.

  9. This is a lovely, thoughtful post. I think that blogging friendships are like pen pals of old. Distance is not really an impediment to forming close friendships.
    As someone who worries about her husband’s health constantly, I can imagine what Brenda must have gone through and how she must be devastated by the loss of her partner. I will try to stop by her blog to offer condolences.

    1. Jennifer, I’m so glad to see you back! That is really a good observation, blogging friendships are like the old pen pals. I hadn’t thought of that. It would be so nice of you to stop by Brenda’s blog and offer condolences. I hope your husband is doing alright.

  10. Nancy,
    I loved how you talked about how you wondered whether posting about Brenda’s husband’s death was the right thing to do. I had heard about it through a tweet from Jody Schoger. She asked people to remember Brenda in their prayers and get in touch with her. I wanted to tweet something supportive but felt like I shouldn’t because I didn’t know her and might be intruding. Now that I read your post, I’m wondering if that was such a good idea. It made me remember that erring on the side of kindness can never be a bad thing. Thank you.

    Brenda, if you happen to read this, I want you to know I’m so very sorry for your loss.

    1. Jackie, Thanks for your visit and comments. Sometimes it is hard to know exactly what to do in such a situation. I think you could certainly still get in touch with her if you’d like, since her grieving is only beginning.

  11. Nancy,

    I only began blogging in August of this past year, yet the compassion, understanding and friendships that I have been blessed with still amazes me. My goal, like yours was to help others through their journey, while trying to make it through my own. Mine is a journey through grief and the loss of someone dear, as you well know I have borne a parent’s worst nightmare, losing my daughter, and through it gained much insight. I too, often wonder if a post is appropriate, too strong, or if it will be misunderstood; especially when I speak of my religious belief, my faith and how they have helped me make it through my grief. But the reassurance has made it all worthwhile.

    Nancy, I also fully understand your feelings towards Brenda and others who have shared their hurts, losses and trials. My blog as you know deals with grieving, and since it’s birth, I have heard, read and been made aware of so many of my readers losses. Each time, even without any personal knowledge or connection to the writer, I feel their pain, I somehow understand their emptiness, confusion and uncertainty. My heart aches for them, as if they were one of my own, and actually they and you are, you are all a part of my extended family. I can honestly say, that yes, the blogging world has become a further extension of my own family, my world wide family. I felt so strongly about this connection, that I felt comfortable introducing my daughter, Rachel to the blogging world in my post ‘Nice To Meet You!’ (

    And I, like you, share my feelings freely, and in turn appreciate the honest feelings of others as well. It lets me know I am human and definitely not alone.

    I am so very, very grateful for this wonderful world of blogging. I turned to blogs shortly after my daughter’s death, seeking out others who understood. It was with the knowledge that like myself, there are so many of us out there who seek, who want to know we are not alone, who want to know that someone cares, even if that someone is half-way around the globe or right next door.

    Nancy, thank you so much for what you do. You are truly a gifted individual, who brings so much to the blogging community.

    Thank you, for being you and for being my friend as well.

    With love, Rose Mary xoxoxo

  12. Nancy,

    I found your blog through the lovely Rose Mary’s blog….

    Your post is so sincere and relevant. I believe that once we become a part of the blogging community *it* then becomes a part of us.

    As we open up to each other it’s impossible not to feel connected with each other. I think the fact that most of us will never meet is irrelevant – I’ve certainly shed tears over people I’ve never met – but they *are* friends, just distant ones.

    I liked your post very much and will link to this on my blog tomorrow.
    It’s so relevant and I honestly feel that the vast majority of bloggers wish they could have put it into words the way that you’ve done here.

    With love, Carole xxx

    1. Carole, Thanks for making your way to my blog. I’m always so happy to find someone new! Thanks for you kind comments about this post. Linking it to your blog would be wonderful and much appreciated. I’ll be sure to check your blog out. Hope to see you back soon.

  13. So true and beautifully put, Nancy. There seems to be a whole new dimension to relationships which develop through the intensity of our diagnosis/condition and the ability to connect with others through technology creating strong bonds and emotions. I was very upset when a women I had connected with through our blogs was taken, and it prompted me to write this:

    Thanks and very warm wishes

    1. Philippa, Thank you for returning and commenting. You know this post was difficult for me to post, but turns out it has now generated the most comments, so I guess it was the right thing to do after all. You are so right about the dimension of these friendships. I’m sorry you lost such a friend recently. I’ll check out your post. Thank you for sharing it.

  14. Nancy, I was pleasant surprised by the friendships I have made in such a short time blogging as well. Your name & several others are household names now in general discussion! I am going to look at Brenda’s blog now. I am so sad for her. I saw the toll that my mom’s death took on my dad since they had been together since they were merely 16, and I can’t even begin to fathom her hurt. Hopefully her and I can learn from each other too. You never know where your inspirations and friendships can stem from.

    Thank you for posting this xoxo

    1. Sami, It’s good to hear from you. I have been thinking about you and wondering how your trip is going. I’m sure your mother’s illness and death did take a tremendous toll on you dad. Do you plan to write about that sometime? How is he doing? Looking forward to hearing about Belize and the important documentary you are making about women there.

  15. Nancy, that is a great idea for a post. My dad has started dating now– the same woman for quite a while actually– and my mom’s 7 sisters put them both through the wringer… so I need to figure out just how much is worth writing about. Some days I want to really say how I feel/felt about what they did and said to him, but then other days, I feel there is no point because they are better now. But… I don’t know… maybe it’s worth letting them know the hurt they caused. Tastefully, of course. It’ll take some time for me to decide. Any input is welcome 🙂

    Also, about the guest post– as you know I haven’t quite had the time yet, but can I do it in February after my video is done?!

    1. Sami, Wow, your mom had 7 sisters! I suppose seeing him date someone else was pretty difficult, so it’s understandable they “put him through the wringer,” I guess. It’s a lot for everyone to deal with. Lots of potential writing material there when the time is right. About the guest post, just get to it when you get time, I want it to be from your heart and not written under pressure. It will be so helpful to get the perspective from someone your age. Are you back now?

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