Birth days and death days

 

Birthdays are a strange thing.  In our family we have a guarded attitude towards the special days because they are tinged with sadness and poignancy.

In 1998, my mother died on her 65th birthday. Every year I struggle to get through that day.  Then in 2007, my step-mother, with whom I was also very close, died. On her 75th birthday.   When birthdays approach in our family, we half joke (in that totally inappropriate way which Scots are rather good at) that we hope we get through the day.  Not so deep down, we are very nervous about our own and each others’ birthdays.

When I woke up yesterday, on my birthday, I was in a strange mood.  My recent unexpected health escapade meant that I cancelled my plan to celebrate my birthday somewhere new.  I would be spending my day in Yangon and it was impossible not to associate the day with the birthday I marked not long after arriving in Myanmar in 2009.  It was a Big Birthday – one ending with a zero, and due to paperwork difficulties we were not able to travel, so any wish bucket plans were not possible to realise.  Furthermore, being in the middle of rainy season it meant that travel anyway even nearby was not really a great idea.  So we marked the day in Yangon, visiting the beautiful Shwe Dagon temple in the daytime, and then with a small group of friends in the evening.

I was totally oblivious to the fact that I was nurturing two already significant tumours and was blissfully unaware of the turn life was going to take in a few short weeks.  Now, on my birthday, in addition to the association of birth days with death days, I have the added association of my 2009 birthday with Breast Cancer.  And that starts to explain my mood yesterday, when I found myself fighting back tears before I had even got out of bed.

However, I had decided to take a day’s leave and was determined to have a relaxing and indulgent day.  I opened up my constant companion (my laptop) in anticipation of birthday greetings through email and Facebook.  And it was wonderful – messages had arrived overnight, and more were streaming in from around the world.  There are some things which Facebook is very good at.

As I skimmed through my newsfeed, however, my eye caught an update which I struggled to understand initially.  Then the realisation sank in.  My blogging sister Jenny, author of Get out Gertrude, had passed away the previous evening.  We knew that time was limited for her, but as her family said in the notice it was far sooner than expected.  Those tears which had been on standby behind my eyes sprang into action.

Jenny and I had connected through our blogs and twitter interactions based on our (albeit different) breast cancer diagnoses.  Jenny had been diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) which is notoriously aggressive and although Stage 4, she was leading a very full and meaningful life.  She was studying, blogging regularly and a tireless active advocate on IBC.  She tells the full story on her blog.  As the disease has progressed and treatment options limited, we knew that her time with us was limited.  But with regular activity online and her incisive and wise insights, the severity of her physical health was hidden behind a strong vibrant voice.  I will miss her enormously, but value how much I learned from her. Her post on talking to her youngest daughter, who has special needs, is one which will always stay with me and shows her strength, humanity, openness and selflessness.  The fact that she documented and shared this when time and energy were precious, and sadly limited, shows her generosity.

As I am based in Asia, and Jenny in New Zealand we are in a small number of bloggers/tweeters in this side of the planet.  So, for example, while the weekly #bcsm discussion would be underway on Monday evenings in the US, Jenny and I would be joining from Tuesday morning/lunchtime.  I think of us as the “Tuesday bloggers”.  Her passing on a Tuesday is strangely meaningful and comforting to me personally.

It was probably a good thing that I had decided to take the day of my birthday off work.  In my poignant and pensive frame of mind, I could focus on Jenny as well as the preoccupations which had already been crowding my thoughts.  So I moved back to my Facebook feed and the greetings, so that I could attempt to respond to each message individually.  When I was young I was always brought up to send a thank you note for presents and cards, and never seemed to quite finish the task.  So I have tried to redress the balance in this Facebook era.  As messages came through from different parts of the world, the phrase “many returns of the day” and its inference echoed round and round in my mind.  And then one message hit me with an almost physical force as it resonated so much with my emotional place.

“Happy Birthday! I’m so glad you are around for another one!!! :)”

And that was it in a nutshell.  When I found the lump in September 2009, I thought I would not be around for the forthcoming Christmas, never mind birthdays one, two or even three years hence.  None of us has any idea how many more “returns of the day” we will have, but to have three is something I am incredibly thankful for. My relationship with mortality has matured and changed beyond recognition and I do not take these “returns” for granted any more.

So, today is August 2nd.  And here’s another strange coincidence.  Today is Rachel’s birthday. Her close friend Sarah has shared a post which Rachel’s mother has written.  My fears and associations connected with my own birthday, Jenny’s passing and Rachel’s birthday are all joining together in an emotional whirlpool.

But mixed with that emotion is a sense of bittersweet gratitude.  It is the day after my birthday. and I am overwhelmingly thankful.  Thankful that I did indeed wake up today!  Thankful that there have been returns of the day which I feared there would not be.  I am thankful that I am most clearly around for another one!

And most of all, I am thankful for the rich friendship of very special women like Jenny and Rachel.

 

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In trust we blog

When I first entered this strange new place known as “life after hearing the you have cancer words”, I realise that I had expectations of how life would be playing out from then on.  I vaguely expected that I would go through the treatment, share the emotional turmoil with family, friends and colleagues and then resume some kind of life as it had been “before”.  Needless to say, it hasn’t quite turned out like that.  The basics were there, but life changed beyond recognition.  And life has never been the same since, for better and for not so better.

There has been one dimension of the cancer experience which has been totally unexpected.  And that dimension is the rich, supportive environment I stumbled upon online, particularly through blogging.  I could never have imagined the number of people I have connected with, and particularly the depth of many of those friendships. Now, this is not something new to my posts.  I have previously (and often) discussed how emotionally involved I have become with friends I have connected with online. I have described how taken aback at the level of distress when one of our number is taken. The raw grief of loss, and the unexpected tears on learning that someone you have never “met” has been taken simply crashes through the boundaries we are accustomed to. I have previously, and more than once talked about how much that has surprised me.  I have been moved beyond any imaginable expectations when one of my online friends was dealing with the toughest of times.  So this is not a new topic in my mind, but I continue to be astounded at the warmth and genuine friendship which has developed with friends online and value this more than I can express in words.  Utterly heart-warming.

In the past few weeks, however, I have been nudged to revisit some of these thoughts. I was shocked when reading a post from Nancy where she shared her shock when she learned that another blogger had taken her posts and copied them almost word for word.  This made me reflect on how much we expose ourselves online and lay ourselves open emotionally.  Just because what we write is completely genuine, we take it that all other similar blogs are similarly true.  We generally accept what we read by fellow bloggers and bloggesses at face value in such areas as cancer blogging.  Yet the internet is an unpoliced medium and as far as I am aware, there are no checks to ensure that what is written is true if that is what is implied or stated.

And then, this week I was I was catching up on Chez’s blog when I was stopped in my tracks wen I read her post about “Annie”.  Chez and Anne had connected online, guest posted on each other’s blogs and after some time “Annie” abruptly broke contact.   Given her secondary diagnosis, Chez feared the worst and thanks to social media and perseverance was able to get in touch with one of her friends.  She was shocked beyond belief to discover that “Annie” had in fact fabricated her diagnosis and whole blog.

The point which I come back to again and again in this is the extent to which we trust.  Nancy trusted her readers yet one chose to lift her words, and use them as her own.  Chez trusted that “Annie” was being honest.  Yet we find that this virtual layer of our friendships has the potential to be deceptive.

Essentially, we are trusting strangers, unknown entities, and opening our hearts and minds.  We share our fears, our hopes and intricate details of what we go through in the cancer experience.  Some of this is highly personal, but the supportive environment and strength of friendship reassures us and we feel able to trust.  And then our world is rocked when something we trusted and believed turns out to be smoke and mirrors.  That reflection in the mirror is of the complicated and inter-connected online lives and relationships we develop.  And how much trust we place on the basis of the information in front of us, often because we share so much of our own personal self online.  Something like this knocks that trust.

However, this has to be put in balance with the depth and number of genuine friendships and individuals in our online community.  A good number of bloggers have posted accounts of real-life 3D meet-ups.  The variety of social media we use also means that we have a kind of triangulation which must make it more difficult, but in no way impossible, to be duplicitous.  Perhaps we have a sense of additional false security because we are after all living with our breast cancer diagnoses. But many of the signals that protect us in the “real” world are not there in the virtual world.  We are far more vulnerable and exposed than we realise, and perhaps the very depth of genuine friendship we find online further lulls us into that sense of security.

The whole issue of trust was one which was very much on my mind a few weeks ago when I was making plans to met Terri in “real life”, my first chance to meet another breast cancer bloggess.  I remember thinking that on the rational side, travelling to another city half a day away in another country, was somewhat risky.  Was I being naïve in trusting that Terri was who she said she was?  We had only known each other online.  We read on and commented on each other’s blogs, had connected on Facebook, had emailed a number of times and I felt a true connection and shared values.  But we had not actually spoken.  I remember thinking quite clearly that in terms of a methodically calculated risk analysis, this would have to be considered rash and high risk.

However, although these “rational” questions went through my mind as I booked time off work and tickets, I did not seriously for a moment believe that Terri would be anyone other than who I had met online.  I was sure she would be exactly who she said she was online.  And of course she was!

After reading Chez’s revelation, it did make me stop and reflect on how trusting I am about what I read and how I connect online.  I without doubt take what my blogging friends write at face value and would not think to doubt that some blogs could be invention.  And how should I apply that to my own blog?  Let’s be honest here – my own tales must seem rather far fetched and I do not readily share personal information to corroborate my experience.  I think I have only ever posted one photo of myself and my name appears only in comments.  How credible is my blog?  A Scottish woman, living and working in one of the most enigmatic countries in the world, diagnosed with breast cancer, treated in Thailand, experiencing so much in all corners of Asia……..  Is this for real? If I were reading this myself, would I believe it?  I am not sure that I would!  But here I am, on a sticky pre-monsoonal Saturday morning in Yangon tapping away my thoughts while the fan is whirring overhead, a cheeky mynah bird calling out in a tree in the garden and a street hawker calling out “brooms for sale” as he passes by our hedge, along our lane. Yep, I am real– (pinches self) though in my PJs but don’t tell 😉

I find that when it comes to online trust, it is similar to online loss.  These new dimensions to relationships and interactions do not have rules or protocols.  We do not have the signs and signals we are used to which enable us to process and evaluate online dynamics. And in many cases we find we are not equipped to deal with the depth of emotion we experience in something which may have been experienced entirely in the virtual world.  Witness the incredible #bcsm discussions as one demonstration of online support and emotional connection in its discussions and debates. It is a new and strange territory, and one in which we find a wealth of unexpected characteristics.

The online world may be a fertile environment for duplicity without consequence.  More than ever we need to be aware of that while developing friendships and connections in the blogosphere. In this complex issue of trust in this new and evolving space, on one hand I know I should be wise in developing friendships.  However, I would rather risk and trust than not.  Otherwise I could well miss out on the wonderful connections and friendships that have been brought to me purely thanks to the online world. And I can’t imagine  a world without you!

Out there

My eyes were caught by a very interesting tweet this week, from blogging friend Bringing up Goliath where she asked “Wondering when to tell a new friend my breast cancer story. Has this happened to anyone else? How did you bring it up?”

This is something I immediately identified with, and there followed a flurry of tweets and Facebook discussion which quickly revealed that this is a dilemma faced by many of us.  This was developed into her blog post which appeared later the same day.  The post beautifully describes the quandary we find ourselves in when connecting with someone new, developing a friendship and when and how to “disclose” such an important piece of personal information.

At the crux of this is the fact that although many of us are not in the midst of heavy treatment, we have been and we live with the knowledge that we may again be.  That is just the reality of the diagnosis.  It is not about being negative or positive, it is just a fact.  It might not be visible but it is there.  so this means it is an important part of who we are now, it is a Big Deal and it is Never Over.

This is a predicament I often find myself in, living overseas and amongst a community of transient people.   In my professional and personal life I meet new people regularly.  One of the first questions we tend to be asked, after name and what are we doing here, is “how long have you been here?”  And that is where it starts to become difficult for me.  I have been here, in Myanmar, for over 2 years.  But my first year was the lost year and I don’t really feel that I can truly say I have “been here” that long.    But the question is usually asked far too early on to be able to clarify.  Depending on how much I feel I connect with this person I might say nothing, or I might drop a bland “I missed most of my first year due to ill health”.  And then I try to move the conversation in another direction so that I don’t have to “come out” so soon in a possible friendship.  But that then gives the problem that if I connect with that person more regularly, if we develop a friendship, then when is the right time and how on earth do I disclose this?  I have a strong urge to share this Big Important Fact, which has become an elephant in the room.  But I am the only one who knows it is there.

This reminds me so much of a similar disclosure question which I also struggle with.  Someone very important, close to me, is gay.  Lets call that person A.   In our own home context, disclosure, while never easy, is familiar ground.  However, in different parts of the world this is not an easy subject to broach and it requires a very sensitive reading of a context and situation.  As friendships and working relationships span a wealth of diversity in terms of nationality and background, so too do the values and beliefs held.  And that is something which must be respected and understood.  I remember misjudging a situation horribly in one country I lived.  I had been there for a number of years and developed some very close friendships.  One particular friend and I were very close.  We worked together on issues of diversity and equity which were deeply rooted and challenging.  We had also supported each other through a number of personal crises and problems.   So following a visit from the aforementioned A with their partner, I had a long chat with my friend.  Now A is very open and comfortable about disclosure, and I have “carte blanche” to be open about their status.  A signal was given and I shared with my friend the fact that A is gay.  To say that my friend was visibly shocked is an understatement.  I instantly realised that I had misjudged the situation and that she was most uncomfortable.  But like a disclosure about breast cancer, it cannot be retracted.  Once revealed it is well and truly out there.  We both changed the subject, and did not return to it.  I felt dreadful for having made her so uncomfortable and for not respecting and realising just how deep rooted beliefs are, even though we had worked together on diversity and discrimination.  But the incredible thing was, that months later, she raised the subject with me herself.  She asked if the friend who had visited with A was in fact their partner.  I confirmed that they were in a relationship and we were able to move forward.  It taught me such a lot about the complexity and diversity of deep rooted beliefs.  And she is still one of my closest friends nearly a decade later. But with every new friendship, if the topic of friends and families comes up, I always have to stop and think whether it is appropriate or not to disclose that A is gay or whether a little white lie is easier for everyone.

The awkwardness of sharing the fact that I have been diagnosed with Breast Cancer might have different reasons for its discomfort, but the result is similar. This is often further complicated in this overseas context where friendships are formed with people I might not connect with in different circumstances.  I live in quite a small city and in terms of expats (I really try and avoid using that term but find no choice here) it is like a small village.  And that means that word gets round.  It is no secret in social and professional circles that I am “the woman who was treated with breast cancer” but that does not mean I know who knows it, and that makes it more complicated.  And let’s face it, over a year after the end of the visible treatment and sick leave, it is not necessarily something which is still mentioned.

Another aspect of this mobile and transient life when coupled with the internet and technological advance, is the reconnection with people I may have lost contact with.  This has happened a number of times, thanks to Facebook and Twitter particularly and I am delighted to reconnect with friends around the globe.  But the same question arises, and is really difficult.  When and how do I tell them that I am not the same person in many was, as I was before.  And I am not talking about the differences due to surgery and treatment, but the difference in my mindset and psychology.

In all of these situations, I find that when I get to a stage that I feel that it is like “keeping a secret” not to have disclosed, then I try and seek a signal or opening.  I also drop little hints, being on long term medication, having been medivacked, having a serious illness hep to lay the foundation for the Big Disclosure.

This is a situation which keeps coming up and is not likely to stop doing so any time soon.  So when I am introduced to someone new here, and I am asked “How long have you been here?” I feel myself hesitate before I hear myself reply “Around 2 years……..”

Slipping off the fence

Geckos have very sticky feet apparently.  That is why they can scuttle up and down walls, along the ceilings and in and out of corners without regularly falling onto the floor.  I must have some of that stickiness when I write because I quite like to sit snugly on the fence during many of the lively discussions which we have online.

 

I find myself losing my grip and sliding off the fence just a little this weekend, following a bit of an altercation with Facebook.

I am in the excruciating situation of having been taken in by the latest awareness raising game or activity on Facebook.  A couple of years ago women put their bra colours on their status updates and watched as comments of puzzlement came from the male membership of Facebook.  The idea behind it was to make people stop and think and with the reference being to bras, there was a link to breast cancer.  Hence raising awareness.  I guess.

Last night I saw a Facebook status update posted by a recently married friend, referring to a number of weeks, and craving a certain food.  There was a string of comments, sending warm congratulations and expressing delight at the prospect of her being x weeks pregnant.  Thinking this was a lovely piece of news, I added my own warm wishes, preparing to tell the great news to hubby J.  It was not long before my friend posted very quickly that this was not about pregnancy and had to issue a very direct update to put folks right.  I was mortified.  I might as well have put my red face right up there on Facebook too, as that is the side bonus of the misunderstanding – it is VERY public. They should add a “cringe” button, as I would certainly have clicked it beside my comment.

Usually I step back from these campaigns a bit.  I don’t want to upset those particularly who have given me enormous support during breast cancer.  But this prompted an unusual amount of nighttime thinking, which is taking the form of this seriously, “off the fence” rant about this Facebook activity.

So what is my problem?  Why am I particularly struggling with this awareness campaign?

Well, there are a number of reason…………….

  • I personally feel bad for attacking it.  There is a feeling that by taking part in this, it offers support and solidarity to women and men who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.  I feel guilty that I am rejecting the support being offered to me by people I am close to.
  • Awareness raising is about EVERYONE and should not be withheld from a very large part of the population.  Why for women alone?  Men can also get breast cancer.  And how about the men in our lives who have looked after us and loved us unconditionally throughout this.  Is it fair to exclude them? And do men have sisters, wives, daughters, mothers and friends who have been diagnosed?
  • The risqué tone of the campaign also feels a bit unnecessary.  We don’t need to have an undertone or insinuation to make a point.  Breast cancer is not cute, it is not fluffy and pink.  And it is difficult in many contexts even to say that you have breast cancer, it is too private.  There are many cancers which are forgotten or hidden and don’t have the attention that breast cancer does.
  • Updates which clearly suggest pregnancy are at risk of being insensitive to those affected by fertility issues following active and prophylactic treatment.  Chemo and radiation frequently affect fertility.  We affectionately call it the “chemopause”.  Women who carry a BRCA mutation gene often have elective surgery – oopherectomy and mastectomy.  I had never heard of an oopherectomy before my own breast cancer experience.  This is the removal of the ovaries, a procedure taken by many women who are at a higher risk of ovarian cancer.  A step taken by many young women and a dreadfully tough decision to take for many who have to choose between having children and the increased probability or breast or ovarian cancer.
  • Awareness raising is indeed still critical, in many contexts, as I have just discussed here.  However, there is a huge need, as is widely discussed by some highly informed and well researched blogs and articles, for focus on research, targeted treatment and metastatic disease.  If you want to get a feeling for the wide and complex variety of issues around breast cancer, follow the #bcsm (breast cancer social media) hash tag on Twitter.

Please, don’t think that I am ungrateful for the enormous solidarity and support in this game, especially as I know that many are reaching out to me personally offering love and support.  Please know how much I value and appreciate it.  I trust that you know how much I hesitated before deciding to post this.

There is a huge big black storm cloud outside right now, and I feel as if have played a part in its formation!  Time to slip back onto my cosy place on the fence.

Cancer, internet and unexpected emotions

It’s been a rather odd past few days.  I am settling back into routine after my Chiang Mai adventure (and yes there are still more updates on that in the pipeline).  I am at that lovely place just after a fairly big check and therefore at my least anxious about my health.  However, I have been prompted to reflect (again) on how much our lives, and in particular our lives since cancer, are affected by the internet.

It is obvious that the internet and social networking can play a considerable role in the whole cancer experience.  It has played a huge part in my own experience, being fairly isolated and far from my roots and family. There is a wealth of information (and mis-information) available on the net ranging from Dr Google’s viral approach to providing information through to the focused and detailed information and discussions on Breast Cancer and other dedicated websites.  There is lively and passionate debate on issues connected with Breast Cancer, particularly around the Pink branding and lack of progress on cause, prevention and cure. This debate is clearly enriched through wider internet reach.  Naively I used to think I was an advocate for breast cancer until I began to engage with and follow the debates and discussions and now I realise that I am a junior when it comes to advocacy and understanding of the issues.  I also believe that in a sense, Cancer unites us, in providing a common enemy.  The internet enables us to garner that unity and use it constructively.  For me personally, social networking and this blog have played a massive role in my cancer experience and do so increasingly.

There’s nothing particularly new in any of that, so what has prompted my sudden standstill?  I’ll tell you what.  Relationships and emotional connection with people I have never met.  That is what has made me stop and think.  I have made “friends” with a number of people through the internet – particularly thanks to the blog and Facebook, and to a lesser extent Twitter.  Some of these friends I have come to know pretty well, even though we have never met either in person or spoken.  When one of my cyber friends was stolen by cancer last year, I found that it affected me enormously.  I did not even know her name, yet we had connected through our respective blogs and been quite close.  Her death was a great shock and I found that I was unprepared and ill equipped to handle it.

Last week I read the very powerful post by another blogging pal, the Carcinista,  where she shared and discussed her decision to stop treatment.  What an honest, emotional and inspirational post from an amazing woman.  The blogosphere, Facebookworld and twittersphere shared her post and we seemed to share a sense of admiration along with the deep sadness at the stage of her illness.  Yesterday, I came online to the news that she had died.  Another young, remarkable woman had been stolen by cancer from her family and friends.  It took me right back to the grief I had experienced last year, and from the prolific messages of condolence it was clear that I was far from alone.  Yet, again, this was someone I had never met, and in this instance we had hardly communicated directly.

It seems that the internet brings us a whole added dimension which I feel is outside my familiarity zone and for which I am not equipped.  That is the emotional attachment to online friends.  How can such strong emotions come from connections which are in one sense actually quite impersonal?  It really strikes me as powerful that I shed tears for someone yet I do not know their name.  I must stress that this is not in the way that a film or death of a famous person can prompt tears and grief, but a deep and real sense of personal loss.   I also wonder how it feels for the family and loved ones who receive outpourings and numerous messages of condolence from way outside the traditional sphere.

While I will never be glad that I was one of those who was dealt the cancer card, I am thankful that I was diagnosed at a time when the internet has brought this added facet to the experience.  And if I do not feel prepared to deal with the added emotional dimension, then I need to do something about that.  I reckon that acknowledgement and reflection of this is a good first step.  It might be a new and strange experience bringing unexpected emotions, but I am truly glad to embrace it.

I am really not sure if it is appropriate or not to dedicate a blog post.  In case it is,  I would like to dedicate this post to the special people I have connected with “thanks” to cancer and thanks to the internet, in particular those who have been taken by cancer.

Cancer sucks – but blogging rocks!!

The past couple of weeks has been really exciting for the blog.  This Feisty Blue Gecko seems to be getting about a bit!

I remain enchanted with my map tools which take me around the world and show that FBG has been to 76 countries since I installed them, the most recent new countries being Cambodia, Bahrain, Venezuela and Romania.  Interestingly, I have been to NONE of these countries myself!

I increasingly talk about how important it has been to connect with friends in the blogging community and how much I value the insights of our shared experiences of the Cancer Beast.  This has recently led to FBG slithering into other blogs as a scaly guest.  Thanks, J for sharing my thoughts on the Cancerversary on her blog, noboobsaboutit and M for featuring some of my words on the Poetry Friday spot in her blog Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer.

These latter lines describe the horrible night time worry time, post diagnosis and I know that it is something almost all of us experience.  That’s what cancer does to the mind.  It gloriously messes with it and invades waking and sleeping thought.  It has a particular strength in the night time hours.  These dark thoughts, however, proved to be the catalyst for the birth of the blog.  So I thought I would share the details of how this Feisty Gecko diversion was hatched.

From the time I found the lump last year, I would waken in the middle of the night.  Every night.  On first waking, everything would feel normal, but then the realisation that I might (and then of course, later that I did) have cancer would hit me like a metaphorical truck.  In the middle of the night, it is difficult to shake off fears and dark thoughts and things feel far more scary than they do in the light of day. And of course, you feel helpless to do anything in the middle of the night.  I would lie awake, tossing around the fears in my mind and trying to return to sleep, but in vain.  This continued after diagnosis and surgery and I started trying various tricks to divert my mind.  Music worked a bit, but I found myself composing lines of prose and even rhyme in a bid to preserve and record what I was going.  I spent those hours playing with the words, and crafting ideas and phrases to express what was in my mind.

My mind turned into a kind of incubator for words, thoughts and ideas and the solution about what to do with these formed in my mind for a good few days before I did anything about it.

The solution?  The more I thought about it, the more I felt compelled to blog about what was going on.  However, I was concerned thought that it could be too revealing, too personal and possibly too upsetting for friends and family if I downloaded everything from my mind straight onto the public domain.

My first step was to post a Facebook status update saying that my head was overflowing with thoughts and I had a compulsion to blog –

“FBG’s head is full processing all that’s going on and feeling a very strong urge to blog it – would I upset anyone if I did?”

The response was overwhelming – and unanimous – DO IT!!  And as one friend pointed out:

“Blog away! Anyone who doesn’t feel comfortable is free to not read!”

And the rest, as you would say, is history.  I had been blogging about life and work in Asia for some time, but this would be a new blog, albeit from the same Feisty Blue Gecko, which would focus on my encounter with Breast Cancer.

This new blog was hatched on 30 October last year and it rapidly took on a significance which was largely unexpected.  It took several weeks in fact to record the detail of those early days, not helped by Twang Arm, but I was also able to share the smaller details as they happened.

I have found over the last months that blogging has served several purposes.  It has helped me to rationalise everything which was happening.  I also wanted to document and record what was happening and how I felt about it, because I knew I would forget the detail and forget the sentiment.  Being so far from friends and family, it was also a way of updating the detail of what was happening.

I had not anticipated that it would be a marvellous way of connecting with so many other women in a similar position and making close, cyber friendships.  I had also not anticipated just how healing and constructive it would be through this past year.  I also believe that it did indeed “download” a lot of what was going on and prevent it from taking an unhelpful presence in my mind.  In other words, I did not anticipate how big a role it would take in my new post diagnosis life.

So when I saw this phrase last week ((I think it was on “Cancerbanter“), it leapt at me immediately.  It so beautifully communicates how these two relate to each other and to me!!  A great new motto!

 

“Cancer sucks, but blogging rocks!”