Margit Detweiler, creator of the lifestyle website TueNight.com, started googling everything possible when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. While she found many support groups and networks, she decided to open up about her illness through social media channels and her website. In fact, social media has proven to be a way to relieve stress in cancer patients. A 2015 study from UCLA discovered that anxiety in breast cancer patients went down when they discussed their experience on Facebook and Twitter support groups. It gives them a sense of community and a way to process a new reality which involves waiting rooms and family obligations.
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Denise Albert, co-creator of lifestyle platform TheMoms.com, says she shared everything about her life on social media when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She explains that it would have felt dishonest if she’d tried to cover up the fact that she had cancer and that there is no shame in having it. Detweiler did the same as well and believes that it’s equally important that her followers see the full spectrum of what cancer looks like: from pictures of chemotherapy treatments to pictures of artfully made breakfasts. She can feel a tremendous amount of support in sharing her story, knowing that there are many people rooting for her. Lynda Mandell, a psychiatrist specializing in psycho-oncology, stated that the cathartic feeling that social media can have changes a life-threatening disease to one that is life-changing.
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Albert explains that it sometimes can be challenging when followers ask for specific medical advice as everyone’s treatment plans is different. She makes it clear that she is not a doctor. Also, there can be added stress from talking too much about how sick one is. To combat “sharing fatigue,” survivors recommended having one social media account for cancer updates and another for lighter topics. But one thing is for certain—there is no better support than “in real life” support; having someone ask to go outside for a walk or receive a heart-felt hug feeds the fire to continue fighting this life-changing disease.
Luis Gay is a Junior attending the University of San Francisco, pursuing a Biology degree. His aspirations include serving underrepresented communities through medicine and advocacy. He is a Social Media Assistant at Cancer InCytes Magazine.
Davies, Anna. 24May2016. “Oversharing my Cancer Helped Me Survive”. New York Post. [Accessed 5 May 2016]