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Is Blogging & Writing About Breast Cancer My Job Now?

Okay, this one’s a ramble, a full-disclosure sort of post. More accurately, a let’s get a few things off my chest sort of post…You’ve been forewarned!

Every year on the blog’s birthday, I reflect on this blogging gig. The other day, I asked myself, is this my job now?

Is blogging/writing about cancer from a personal perspective a job anyone would want?

Umm…no. But here I am.

I still consider myself an educator at heart. For many reasons, I no longer stand in front of a classroom. As another new school year gets underway, I still feel wistful. I miss that sense of excitement and optimism about a fresh start. It’s a feeling like none other. I miss those kids. But that chapter is closed.

As I’ve mentioned before, when people ask me what I do now, things get uncomfortable. People start squirming when I mention I blog about cancer and grief and have written three books, all about cancer. Talk about a conversation clunker. I get it. I do. It is what it is.

But talking and writing about cancer or grief is NOT a downer, not to me anyway. Not talking about hard stuff, now that IS a downer.

Cancer causes havoc on every part of your life and your work life is certainly one of those parts, and a darn important part at that.

Some people keep working during treatment and beyond. Some don’t. Some can’t. Some change careers. Some are lucky to have partners to fall back on and, of course, others do not have that financial luxury.

Sadly, divisions exist in Cancer Land regarding work too. My friend Beth wrote a terrific piece about this called, Competing in Cancerland. It’s really good. Check it out.

Like we need more walls in Cancer Land, right?

I intend to further address cancer’s impact on careers here on the blog, as it’s such an important topic.

In this post, I wanna tell you a bit about my blogging experience thus far – how it’s evolved, my goals and answer a bothersome question I was asked once that’s always lingered. I’ll also address a change or two I’ve made and why I made them. And there’s that pesky blogger/writer pet peeve that’s been on my mind.

I aim to keep it real here too, so…

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Evolution of a blog, well, this one anyway

Starting a blog is a big undertaking, but so worth it.

It’s risky business putting yourself out there. Literally, out there. Especially when you’re an introvert like me. But I have no regrets. Blogging has been a real life line for me in more ways than one. I had no idea I’d find myself part of such an amazing community, and I am grateful for that community, which includes you, my Dear Readers, every day.

So, if you wanna start a blog, just start. Every voice matters, and there’s always room for one more.

If you’re interested, read my 20 Blogging Tips!

This blog has evolved into quite a collection of my ramblings.

This post is #588. Thus far, there have been 16,293 approved comments, which btw, are often way more interesting than what I write. I read every single comment and reply to as many as I can. Interestingly, I’ve only had to delete a handful due to extreme cussing and name calling.

After eight years, I’ve got a fair number of archived posts. Many are still relevant. Probably too many, as things in Breast Cancer Land haven’t changed as much or as fast as many of us would like.

About Those Changes – Why an email list?

If you’re a blogger who wants more readers (and who doesn’t?), I highly recommend sending out a weekly (or monthly) email or newsletter. I dragged my feet on this because it’s extra work, but so worth it.

Having your own email list puts you and readers in control. In my weekly emails, besides new posts and a couple still relevant archived posts, I also share articles that have been in the news, or that I think might be of interest to subscribers. Sometimes I share something personal, and I often bounce around ideas. I love my subscribers and always value their input.

I use Mailchimp. It’s an easy setup and free up to 2,000 subscribers. Don’t worry about how many subscribers you have. It takes a while to build a list of readers that truly want to read your posts. The ones that stick around are gems. Yes, gems. (If you’re one of those gems, thank you!)

Goals for the blog

My goals remain the same. Since day one, my goal has always been to talk candidly about my personal experiences with breast cancer and grief and whatever else I feel like writing about.

Breast cancer most definitely is not just a bump in the road or one year out of your life. Neither is grief.

But this blog is not just about my experiences. That would get boring pretty fast for everybody, including me! No, it’s about you, my Dear Readers, too.

Specifically, my main goals are to:  Inform. Listen. Support others. Share and talk about hard stuff. Vent. Keep it real. Encourage. Never sugarcoat. And did I mention, never sugarcoat?

Of course, the goal nearest and dearest to my heart is to advocate for those dealing with metastatic breast cancer.

In year nine, I plan to keep the #MetsMonday Featured Posts going. The contributions so far have been great. Thank you, ladies! (If you want to be a contributor, let me know.)

There is one other goal that some people frown upon.

It’s secret reveal time!

I try to make a few bucks. After all, Dear Hubby and I have bills to pay. Hence, the addition of ads a while back.

It’s hard to admit this is a goal too. Why this is, I am not entirely sure. Okay, I do know. It’s about feeling judged by others. Kinda crazy so much judging happens even in the Cancer blogosphere.

And btw, if a blogger chooses not to have ads, that is totally fine. But that doesn’t mean she/he has higher standards, is more ethical or whatever else comes to mind.

I’m aiming to keep it real here too, so now on to that awkward question someone once asked me.

Why would anyone (meaning me) want to make money off breast cancer? 

Well, I see it like this:  I am not making money off breast cancer. That thought is repulsive to me too. (Think Pinktober.) I see it as making a living (okay, that’s a stretch, but you get my point) from writing.

Writing has value. Therefore, writers have value. And yes, bloggers are writers too.

And now do you wanna know about that blogging pet peeve I’ve been mentioning?

Here it is:

There are tons of sites out there looking for content. I don’t mean just cancer-related sites. But we all know there are plenty of those too. The annoying (to me) thing is, most of these sites want and expect free content. I get contacted about this all the time.

A couple years back, I decided enough. No more free content from this writer. (Unless it’s a special circumstance or I just want to do it.)

Again, writing has value. Therefore writers have value.

Writers and bloggers, you need to know and appreciate your value. 

If you’re a writer (or a blogger), stop selling yourself short. If sites want your content, great! But it’s not wrong to ask for fair compensation for your work, if and when you want to.

Just because you are a writer/blogger with cancer as part of your resume, it does not mean you must be a writing martyr.

(I could write a whole post on this, but I’ll spare you. For now.)

And yes, writing/blogging is work. For me, it’s a full-time job now. Sure writing is therapeutic, but it’s also work. Sometimes the words just flow and other times, not so much.

A finished piece of writing you want your name associated with takes, you guessed it, work. And time. But it’s work I love. And when a reader reads a piece I’ve managed to hash out and shares that she/he appreciates it, well, that’s like icing on the cake. (And yeah, I know writers are supposed to avoid cliches. But once in a while, they’re fine.)

Still with me?

Whew! Thank you. I was worried no one would make it to the end of this one.

So, is blogging and writing about cancer my job now? 

Maybe so. It’s a huge part of it anyway. And this is okay with me.

Am I letting cancer define me?

Hell, no.

But more on that another day.

If you like this post, why not share it? Thank you!

Get weekly updates delivered right to your inbox! Keeping it real. Support you can use.

How has cancer impacted YOUR career, or has it? (I want to address this more in future posts, so feel free to share.)

If applicable, do you ever feel judged because of career choices you’ve made due to illness?

Did/do you work while undergoing cancer treatment?

Do you feel some websites take advantage of bloggers/writers when asking for free content?

Do you ever feel like cancer is your job now? 

Is Writing About Breast Cancer My Job Now? #blogging #writing #cancer #breastcancer

Claudia Schmidt

Wednesday 18th of September 2019

Great post, Nancy, and so relevant. For months at a time, I just don't feel like talking about, reading about or even remembering that I had breast cancer (although that's kind of hard, given all the weird side effects I have) and I've given a lot of time thinking about whether or not to just hang it up and stop writing about bc. But, then every once in a while, someone will respond to a post and tell me that I really helped them that day, and I decide to get back to it, because that's the reason I started it all in the first place anyway. So, I hear you. You're way better at me at sticking with it, and I always refer people to you because you have so much good info and are so consistent. Please keep it going, there is so much good info here for anyone who is diagnosed. You make a difference. xo

The Accidental Amazon

Thursday 27th of September 2018

Nancy, I so get it. I've been a writer for a long time, and sometimes I've gotten paid and sometimes I haven't. And I've gotten those invites, too, to "contribute," meaning "write for free," to sites that are certainly making money but don't pay most of their contributors. And I turn them down now mostly, but I did manage to get a contract out of one of them & got paid for a few articles. And then my editor changed, and no one wanted to pay me for my stuff anymore because they were getting it for free and/or they had to keep their full-time paid staff employed. So, oy. It was nice while it lasted.

I think we always write for ourselves first. We write because we need to explore and/or express something that's on our minds. And of course I know you know that the most universal subjects are the ones that are the most personal. And we're always our own toughest critics. We'll probably never run out of material either.

So, I hope we both keep writing. Glad you're still here. xoxo, Kathi


Friday 28th of September 2018

Kathi, I know you get it. Too bad your editor changed because you were writing some great pieces for that site. I wish writers and bloggers would unite and just stop offering so many pieces without getting fair compensation, at least some of the time. That probably makes me sound bad, but I truly believe writing has to be valued more - all art, as Beth said, and that starts with valuing ourselves and therefore our writing too. Of course, you're right, first and foremost, most of us write for ourselves because we need to express ourselves. And you're so right - we are our own worst critics, for sure. Thank you for getting where I'm coming from. Keep writing, my friend.

Cancer Curmudgeon

Thursday 27th of September 2018

P.S. good idea about a mail list--I've always resisted it because yeah, too much work. But yep, FB sucks--I know I'm seeing a fraction of what I should see--like I rarely see your stuff as a friend and NEVER see your Nancy's Point page in my feed--yet I see the same crap over and over (it HAS gotten a little better since I've decided to only click on kitty cat links, tho---but still, keep seeing the SAME post from one cat group, not new content). Sigh, after the Nov election, after impeachment, after the revolution....maybe I can get back to paying attention to my blog.....

Cancer Curmudgeon

Thursday 27th of September 2018

I loved this! I thought at first it was about cancer being a job--not writing about cancer as job--and yes I've felt that I've been a "professional patient", and I've had resentment about how it clashed with my job--this happened again to me recently. I did read Beth's post and it was an ouchie for me. I still hang onto resentment that I had NO choice but to work thru cancer, and I certainly went back to full time far to quickly (right after surgery, during radiation and damn Herceptin). I had to laugh about people asking for content I used to get that too (maybe still do I hardly check that email address anymore). I struggle for time to even read blogs anymore much less write. And I sorely miss it. I'll be damned if I bend to writing for some other site--I don't wanna be stifled!


Friday 28th of September 2018

CC, Yeah, the whole working through cancer thing is another one of those walls... I can't figure out why so many sites expect free content - especially from cancer people. Like having had a cancer diagnosis means we owe it somehow to society to offer pieces, our time, or whatever for free. I'm certainly not opposed to writing guest posts or for writing something when you want to for another site. It's just the entitlement attitude so many sites have. And of course, there's always the no money excuse which I get, but still. I could write a whole series on this topic, but I fear I might say too much. Thanks for taking to read and comment too.

Beth Gainer

Monday 24th of September 2018

Hi Nancy,

I definitely see where you are coming from. The problem is our culture: writers and all sorts of artists are not valued. I can't tell you how many times people have gotten free art from me (that has now stopped). People want art, but they don't want to pay for it; people want good writing, but they don't want to pay for it. Sometimes I think I should've been a business major instead of an English major in college and grad school but frankly, my major was where my heart was.

Thank you for mentioning my post. I appreciate it.

xo Beth


Tuesday 25th of September 2018

Beth, Sadly, I think you nailed it. Artists are not valued as much as they should be, and too often people expect free pieces of work. Frankly, I wish more bloggers and writers would stop offering their writing without getting fair compensation. Of course, once in a while it's fine, like for a guest post now and then. But far too many sites keep asking for and expecting pieces of writing for free. I'm weary of that, and I now ask for fair compensation when I write for sites. Know your value. That's important. I'm glad you've stopped offering your art for free. Good for you. Thank you for reading and taking time to comment, Beth.

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