You’re Not Alone: Cancer and My Social Support Community
By Jenny Holmes
There is nothing funny about cancer, its symptoms, treatment or side effects, but throughout your journey, if you can find some humor and have a good support group, you can get through it. This spring I went for my 50-year colonoscopy and found out I had Stage 3 Colorectal Cancer. Because I am the marketing and social media director for a large performing arts center, it was very natural to post something on Facebook and reach out for help from my friends. While still in the OR, just after getting the news, I posted my diagnosis and need for help from my iPhone, and called out for people to join me in this journey. I tagged it as “Team Butt.” Hundreds of friends united to serve in a variety of roles and began supporting me on a daily journey of treatment from chemo to radiation, to surgery and more chemo. Still in round 2 of chemo, I post and tweet daily about my cancer journey. Hundreds of people call themselves members of Team Butt. Many have given themselves clever titles and fulfill their roles as prayer warriors, counselors, nutritionists, brownie-deliverers and the midnight vent team.
For me, using social media to share my journey brought me an opportunity to vent, ask for help, share the funny stuff, share the awful stuff and work through the process of eliminating this disease. Those “likes” and “comments” have gotten me through some of my darkest moments and helped me find humor in some of the funny stuff that comes with my type of cancer. I could not have done this alone. Beyond the hundreds of friends I already had, lots of new people came along and asked to be my Facebook friend. Turns out there were lots of cancer survivors willing to join my journey and give me advice on everything from ways to deal with nausea and fun stuff to do in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep.
In addition to Facebook posts and Team Butt tweets, I started recording videos on YouTube as a way to help other people going through cancer by sharing all of the things I have been learning as part of my own journey. The social media posts evolved into a book, Seusically-inspired, “There’s a Mass in My Ass: Social and Interactive Ways to Get Through Cancer.” The book offers tips on how to form a support group on Facebook and set up a Twitter account. It has chapters like “How to Tell People You Have Cancer at a Party,” “Invoice Your Physicians” and recipes for “Miralax Martinis.” The book also offers interactive pages to design funny cancer t-shirts, how to bling your bags, and places to journal your journey.
Cancer, unlike many diagnoses, isn’t just fixed with a pill or a shot. Cancer treatment is a process and for many people, it is a very long journey through an assortment of different treatments ranging from radiation to chemotherapy to surgeries. Many cancer patients are cured and call themselves survivors within a 9 or 12 month period. Others have been battling their cancer for a decade or longer. The daily struggles of cancer can be very lonely and overwhelming, so the need for a support group is more important than ever. You don’t have to do this alone. If you or a loved one are muddling through this diagnosis, look no further than a free Facebook account to get some help from your friends, make some new friends and see how many people are cheering for you to win this battle every step of the way!
Jenny Holmes is Director of Marketing & Social Media for Paramount Arts Center and is the author of several books including “Marketing the Arts” and “Mobile Marketing: 50 apps and tips to up your social game.” She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org