Sharing of information has never been as easy as it is these days and is something I am very grateful for in my current situation. Going through breast cancer treatment before the advent of the www would have been a much lonelier and far scarier journey for me, and I think I can speak the same for many thousands of other women out there too.
Now you do have to be a bit selective about what you read and don't read. There are some loonies out there as we all know and also a lot of very complicated and in depth medical information and statistics that could have you reaching for the razor blades if you're not careful.
There were two main websites that I was directed towards by my friendly breast cancer care nurses - Macmillan Cancer and Breast Cancer Care. These two sites offer a wide range of information on all aspects of living with and treating cancer in an easy to understand format and without being dramatic.
It was through these websites that I came across two of the most helpful links which have been a lifeline for me. The first was the Young Breast Cancer Network which is a private Facebook page for women under the age of 47 going through breast cancer treatment. It provides a forum for women to chat about whatever is bothering them, compare notes, get information about treatments, have a good old rant, or more importantly, just a laugh. It's so comforting to know there are others out there having the same issues and to know that we are really not alone.
I contacted a lady via this network who had opted for the same surgery as me, but had had it about six weeks prior. I can't tell you how great it was to chat online with her and get her viewpoint and experience of the procedure. We got to messaging fairly regularly and when I was in hospital and struggling with my recovery, she was just brilliant. She offered tips, positivity, relayed her fantastic progress and generally made me realise that my discomfort and worries were all only temporary and that life would go on. It's difficult to relay here what that meant to me at the time without sounding like a weirdo, but believe me I will be eternally grateful. Thanks C, I know you will be reading this.
My lifeline through chemo treatment has been another Facebook page which I came across through Breast Cancer Care and is for women going through chemo at the same time. There are around 38 of us on there who all started chemo in September. Our ages range from late 20's to late 60's and some are going through treatment for the second or third time. It is comforting to chat to them on a daily basis. We discuss side effects that would make your toes curl and talk about stuff that others just wouldn't understand, or be interested in. My cyber mates are an often rowdy and fun bunch of ladies who are able to lighten the mood when necessary, but offer support and compassion when one of us hits a low point.
We are hoping to meet up for real at the end of all this. We've been through too much together not to. Nothing can replace the support we all get from friends and family, but I think it's also very important to connect with people who totally get it because they have lived, or are living it.
I found a link on Twitter tonight to a study done on the benefits of blogging or online journaling in any form. The results showed that those patients who had written about their experiences through treatment showed fewer signs of depression and were able to maintain a more positive outlook. http://www.breastcancer.org/research-news/20130904
I knew there was a good reason for my wittering on. Thanks to everyone for reading and encouraging me to keep blogging. I really appreciate it. Creating and writing this blog has been more helpful to me than I ever realised it would be.