When I moved back to Chicago from Los Angeles in 2001, I decided that I wasn’t meeting anyone interesting in my everyday world and that I should try on-line dating. I registered for both Match.com and Matchmaker.com and tried my luck. I found the whole process intriguing in those early days of digital matchmaking and still do. There were guys who only wanted to connect via email and those who were looking for a green card. There were two guys with the same first name and similar last names who asked me out the same week which I found complicated. There was the older architect that was on a marathon to meet as many women as he could as if the whole process was a competition. And then there was this hottie with beautiful brown eyes, similar interests, overlapping backgrounds, and actually mentioned liking the movie “Harold and Maude” in his bio…
Terry and I celebrated our 9th wedding anniversary in November and I am grateful to online dating for bringing us together. I seriously don’t think we would have met in our everyday lives. Maybe on a chairlift at a ski resort, but that is pretty random.
Anyway, more than a decade later, I’m finding that there are some distinct similarities between online dating and what I have done with social media to build a social and support network to deal with breast cancer and survivorship. One of the reasons I began this blog was that I was feeling isolated here on the Bayou and missing the interaction of people who understood what it was like to experience breast cancer. I saw that other bloggers had not only used blogs to communicate with family and friends, but they had actually built new friendships as well. I wanted–I needed–that. They also shared resources and knowledge, which I also wanted and needed.
With more than a year into Searching for EMWA, I am recognizing the friendships and connections that have strengthened or been created through this blog and my other interactions with social media. The little chirp I get on my phone when someone has liked or commented on a blog post that I’ve written makes me smile. It’s exciting stuff!!
The High Points:
•Family & Old Friends
My relationships with family and friends that follow my blog has definitely strengthened. My mother hasn’t known this much about my life since I was in Peace Corps writing weekly letters home!
I’ve been touched by the interactions I have had with people I’ve never met who have taken the time to read my blog and post comments. True friendships have evolved and I think that is invaluable. In the past month, I got word that I’m going to meet my first friend from the blogosphere, Elizabeth at My Eyes Are Up Here, in person here in NOLA during Jazz Fest. How cool is that?
•Exploring Online Support Groups
I signed up for an online support workshop/study in October 2012 with the American Cancer Society (which is who sponsors the monthly support group I attend in person) called Cancer: Thriving and Surviving. I was chosen as part of the control group with the option to participate in a workshop after the study was completed. I registered for this study at the lowest time in my breast cancer recovery/survivorship and was bummed that I wasn’t chosen to actually participate in the support group itself. I took the 3 random surveys I needed to complete over the course of the 12-month study, though, and I am now in an actual 6-week online support group.
I find it fascinating that last year, by looking at the questions on the 3 surveys of the study, I basically created my own program and implemented it! I created an online support community, continued therapy and support group at my hospital, set into motion my own exercise plan and used action plans to deal with stress. Some aspects of this online support group are annoying, but I’m finding the group useful as a self-assessment tool. Where am I? What do I need to tweek? What kind of support can I offer others? The fact that the group coincides with Lent and I have set this time to reboot my health anyway is rather useful. I enjoyed the holidays and Mardi Gras a little too much! 🙂
•Taking the Social Interaction to a Whole New Level!
In January, I read a message that the online support community I Had Cancer was looking for cancer survivors, fighters and supporters in New Orleans to be a part of a panel discussion at the American Medical Student Association’s Annual Conference on Saturday, March 8, here in New Orleans. I was intrigued and contacted Emily, I Had Cancer’s Community and Social Media Manager, about participating.
I Had Cancer was formed in 2009 to:
…empower anyone who has been affected by cancer. Whether you are a fighter, survivor or supporter/caregiver, you can find the support and answers you need from people who have experienced similar situations.
Who is I Had Cancer for?
Fighters: People currently diagnosed with cancer who are looking for information and support from other people who have been through a similar experience and understand.
Survivors: People who have overcome their diagnoses and are looking for continued support or hoping to inspire and help others who have been recently diagnosed.
Supporters: Caregivers or supporters who have been with their loved ones through their cancer diagnoses and are looking for support or to exchange information.
It turns out they were looking for volunteers to share their cancer stories and unique perspectives with medical students–and I was chosen as one of the participants. What an awesome opportunity it turned out to be! I was a little intimidated showing up to the Riverside Hilton for the conference and panel, not knowing what to expect, but I need not have worried. The I Had Cancer team is such a positive, receptive and engaging group and they immediately put me at ease. They facilitated an engaging set of panel discussions that drew on the experiences of the panelists while drawing in the audience of pre-med and medical students. The best part, however, was meeting other cancer survivors and being able to gain fresh insights from one another.
One never knows where one might find support and comraderie!