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When You’re Cancer Blogging, Where Do You Draw the Line?

As you may or may not know, I am pleased and honored to be one of the blog mentors for a new, free online course led by Rebecca Hogue and dedicated to helping those interested in starting a cancer blog. My first assignment was to tackle the question, should you blog? In a word, my answer is yes! To read more than one word, click here. This week the topic is, where do you draw the line? – or in other words when cancer blogging, how much information is too much?

One of the most important considerations when you’re blogging about anything, but especially when you’re blogging about your cancer experience, is deciding how much information about yourself (and others) you want to (or should) share.

When you blog (or leave comments on blogs) about such personal matters as your health and your cancer, it can be more than a bit intimidating. You are showing  some vulnerability which means there can be some risk involved. Sometimes I can’t believe what I have put out there on the internet content-wise. And as I’ve mentioned before, I consider myself to be an introvert. In the real world, I don’t share a lot about myself. Here, I’m pretty darn open. Do I hide behind a keyboard? Maybe. But for me, this works well and it just might for you too. While sharing your cancer truths “with the world” might make you (and others) squirm a bit now and then, it’s also remarkably healing, empowering and cathartic.

Determining your comfort zone is something only you can do.

One thing I always remind myself of when blogging (and when commenting) is that yes, I am throwing my words out into the world-wide web, but not that many people will actually find their way to my blog and/or my comments. Cancer blogs are a tiny niche in the blogosphere. When you think about it, unless you work in the healthcare field, would you have been interested in reading a cancer blog before your (or your loved one’s) diagnosis? Probably not.

Having said this, it’s still imperative to remember that what you share is available for one and all to see and read and once it’s out there, you can’t reel it back in, not completely anyway. And in this image driven world, photos and YouTube videos and such require the same kind of deliberate consideration.

So yes, think about what you want to share and what your family is comfortable with you sharing as well. Only you can determine what those boundaries should be for you.

Blogging is a balancing act of sorts.

You want to be candid and share from your heart. After all, you are likely sharing in the first place in order to help others on similar paths. You want to instigate honest and helpful discussions about issues and aspects of your cancer experience that you care about. You want to provide sound information.

But at the same time, you also have to think of yourself, your family and those boundaries.

So my best advice on this topic is before you push that publish button for the first time, in fact every time, think about your boundaries. Figure out your comfort zone and then go with it. Tell your story.

Because everyone’s story matters, including yours.

If you’re a cancer blogger (or one who leaves comments regularly), where do you draw the line?

If you’re thinking about starting a blog, what are you feeling most hesitant about?

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Drawing a line in the sand.  An old metaphor.

15 thoughts to “When You’re Cancer Blogging, Where Do You Draw the Line?”

  1. Nancy, I find myself saying more about myself online than I do in person. Some of this is just my personal social activity is very restricted, but also the “audience” for my feelings and situation seems unrestricted online while face to face people are bored or uncomfortable. There’s also a sense of disconnection developed by people with chronic diseases. Maybe it’s a lack of commonalities or the senses I measure the world by now, but I feel way less anchored–different in a way that isn’t explainable.
    Thanks for this posting,
    Scott

    1. Scott, I guess I’m a lot like you then. I am way more comfortable sharing about this stuff online than I am in person. It’s strange, but true. Thanks for reading and sharing. Guess we’re on the same wave length.

  2. Hi Nancy, this is a good topic for discussion.

    I personally don’t mind opening up to the world about cancer. I have always been a private person but I feel cancer is something that needs to be spoken about for so many reasons, other than awareness. So I chose to express myself about my experience through a blog. I try to be as open as I can because I see my blog as a therapist and in order to have good therapy, you must be 100% honest with yourself. If I cannot be honest then I feel the therapy will fail.

    Another reason is that I want to be heard. It is difficult to deal with survivorship for me and not everyone understands my “new normal.” Many don’t accept the new you. In a way I decided to blog to find people I can relate to with my cancer experience, in addition to wanting to help others who are going through cancer.

    I think blogging also comes with a sense of responsibility. Yes, we are blogging about our life but we must think about the audience as well. I try to express myself as clear as I can so not to be misunderstood while at the same time understanding and accepting that not everyone needs to agree with my perspectives. That is not necessary for me to continue to share my story.

    Thank you for this post.

    Rebecca

    1. Rebecca, Your comments are so insightful. Like you, I don’t mind opening up to the world either. However, my family’s privacy is another matter. I think so many of us are blogging in order to be heard and also to connect with others on similar paths. I also agree with you completely about the sense of responsibility. As you said, we must also think about our readers too. Cancer blogging is a balancing act for sure. Thank you for adding to this discussion.

  3. I try to be careful with negativity. I don’t want it to haunt me, so I try not to be overly negative. Tough situations happen and they need to be shared. I write posts I never publish, just for me. It is therapeutic to get it written down.

    1. Mandi, I agree it’s therapeutic to get some of those thoughts about tough situations written down privately. I also agree we need to be careful with negativity, however, I don’t think being honest and sharing how one truly feels is being negative. It’s being real. No need to shy away from being genuine. Still, some things are for our own eyes only. I get that. Thank you for sharing.

  4. I didn’t finish my post before hitting a wrong key. That happens because I have peripheral neuropathy from continuing maintenance chemo. I find typing a challenge, but one that gives interestingly unexpected results sometimes. That’s the type of info I don’t mind sharing and it adds a bit of humor.

    Your post reminds me that I need to take a picture of my face mask from the brain radiation so people can see what kept my head so still as they targeted beams at me. I hope to hang it on the wall of my hobby/music room as a reminder of my ordeal, but tell everyone on the house tour that it is an African tribal mask that just happens to resemble my facial features. Thanks for the enlightening post. xxx

    1. Jan, I’m sorry you have that neuropathy to contend with. I can see why typing is a challenge for you then. Let me know if and when you do take that picture of your face mask and hang it up. That will make for interesting conversations when visitors call! Thanks for reading and commenting. I appreciate the extra effort your typing them takes. xx

  5. Good question for all bloggers to think about, not just those who write about cancer. Although, since I write about pets, I can’t imagine how hard it must be to be writing about personal medical issues. I would have a much harder time with that, and I admire anyone who puts herself out there as much as you do.

    And once something is “out there” online, it’s never really “deleted” even if you “delete” it. That’s the scary part.

    1. Lindsay, I agree it’s important for every blogger to think about these things and determine her boundaries. And yes, delete doesn’t necessarily mean delete what’s something’s out there. Thank you for chiming in on this.

  6. I once had a (different) blog that gained quite a lot of readers and comments and I was so excited that I ended up telling everyone I knew, including work colleagues. As a result I became so aware of who was reading it that I ended up feeling embarrassed and not wanting to write anything personal at all! And it all just fizzled out. Nowadays I am more careful with who I tell about my blog, but am quite happy for complete strangers to read it. And I think instinctively I know what I’m willing to share and what is best kept private.

    1. Rethink Street, I totally understand why you became uncomfortable regarding your other blog’s readership. I don’t actually share that I have a blog with that many people I come face-to-face with, unless it’s when speaking to a support group member or some situation like that. Sometimes it is easier to share more personal things with complete strangers online. But actually many of these strangers eventually become anything but. Blogging is a balancing act for sure and each of us determines how much ‘risk’ we are willing to take. Thank you for sharing your thoughts here.

  7. Hi Nancy,

    I’m playing catch-up, and I just had to read this post. It is excellent and insightful. Like you, I’m an introvert (believe it or not!). I, too, cannot believe what I’ve revealed into the public sphere. Yet, I find it so cathartic to express my opinions and to feel the community I’m a part of being such a great support.

    Where to draw the line? It’s difficult sometimes, but I try not to identify people. I also don’t divulge everything; I think it’s important to know one’s audience and purpose. There has to be a purpose behind divulging information. And I agree that pictures and videos in this day and age can be dangerous.

    Great post, Nancy!

    1. Beth, I read somewhere that many writers are introverts, so maybe it’s not so surprising that we both think of ourselves as introverts. Sometimes it is hard to know where to draw that line. I usually go with my instincts or that gut feel. So far that’s worked out pretty well for me. Thank you for reading and adding your thoughts.

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