People from all walks of life start blogs about their families, their hobbies, their politics, their religion, their art, their beliefs in all sorts of things. The world of people with cancer is suddenly made smaller. They write about their cancer, their treatment, their testing, their family, their hopes, their fears, their triumphs and insecurities. They write about the lessons they have learned…and wish to pass on. They write about anger. They write about pain. They write about love. And when they are too sick to write, or when they have succumbed to their cancer, sometimes someone else sits down at the keyboard and continues the tale. For as the playwright wrote in “I Never Sang For My Father” – “Death ends a life, but not a relationship…which struggles on, seeking its own resolution.”
A blog is just an online journal. Cancer patients start them for a number of reasons. Getting a blog out there can be very simple to sorta simple to sorta technical to very complex. It can be free or can have up-front or monthly fees involved. But they all do essentially the same thing – communicate your thoughts and feelings about cancer, treatment or just life. You put it out there. People read it. They respond or not.
Many persons with cancer begin a blog merely in order to keep friends and family informed about your progress through treatment – daily reports of chemo, radiation, tests, feeling yucky, feeling depressed. This keeps folks up-to-date on what’s happening. And it keeps you from repeating your story for well-meaning but too-numerous phone calls.
Some people stop or slow down their blogging efforts once treatment is over or once they are on remission. Others continue on, offering reflections and thoughts about how cancer changed or transformed their lives. Sometimes they do it for themselves because they need to get it out, unburdening themselves. Sometimes they continue for others, as a way of paying back kindness and grace, as a way of making a difference. In publishing their blogs, many cancer survivors discover a whole new support community out there. People with similar cancers tend to seek each other out. Regardless of diagnosis people share their own thoughts and experiences and offer words of support and encouragement.
The easiest way for a person with cancer to start a blog is to utilize either of two services that are explicitly designed for persons undergoing serious illness. All you have to do is register, choose a design or background and start writing. You can post photos, your hospital number and address, other resources. You provide the web address (URL) to friends and family. They visit your page whenever they like. They can look up old entries, photos, and they can leave messages for you in a “Guestbook”. The most notable sites for this are: CaringBridge.; CarePages; and My Life Line.
A similar but slightly different cancer blog format is provided by Cancer Blogs — Blogs for Cancer Survivors in which you join a sort of cancer community and share a common home page. Cancer Community – Wellsphere offers a similar service.
Then there are free general blogging services for all and any type of blogs not just about cancer or health. These offer a bit more freedom in designing what you want to say and how you want to say it. You have more flexibility with features. You can add “widgits” or “plug-ins” in the margins that show where people are visiting from, who your “followers” are, your favorite blogs and websites, listings of your most popular entries or “posts”. You also get to choose your own clever title to your blog. By far the most popular blogging service used by the cancer bloggers I have catelogued is blogger which requires you to have a Google account. Another free and easy blogging platform is found at WordPress.com. With both of these you share your web address or URL with the host service, i.e. www.”your special blog title”.blogspot (or wordpress).com.
If you want to have even more control over the design and features of your site, there are sites which offer free or fee-based blogging software. But with more freedom and control comes the need for a little technical know-how. This can be learned through books or on-line tutorials, help forums, and support departments but it does take extra time, research, study, and commitment. In addition you will need to select an FTP (file transfer protocol), again either free or fee-based, in order to move data such as your downloaded blogging software from your computer to rented space on a server somewhere (mine is 2000 miles away in San Francisco). Monthly or quarterly fees are available – $8 – $50+ The other cost associated with hosting your own blog is buying the rights to “your clever blog title” , your domain name, followed by .com, .org, .net, etc. There is a yearly renewal fee. $8 – $30
Examples of this software are MovableType.org ; TypePad.com; and WordPress which is what I use. Examples of FTP are Fetch 5 and Cyberduck .(although both of these are for Mac) Domain names can be purchased thru Go Daddy
From here it can get as complicated as you want. There are a number of fee-based blogging platforms that are perhaps more oriented to business enterprises. You can get books on the various blogging platforms, and on such exotic but basic language tools at HTML, MySQL, XHTML, Java, or on web design, web development and, of course, if you want your blog to be widely read, SEO (search engine optimization).
Right from you own kitchen, bedroom, study, or even hospital bed. You just need a laptop or desktop computer and an internet connection.
You can start right now…or maybe tomorrow if the treatment has got you down today. Teach your mate the basics so that they can step in and write the entries when you are not up to it.
Why … again?
In case you are not there yet, I leave you with a gift, a poignant little post of one cancer blogger signing off, getting ready to head his life and writing in a new, more healthy direction:
Imagine a small bald baby bird as he calms his screaming, looks over the edge of the nest, and takes a leap. No longer is he dependent. He stumbles at first, not quite sure which direction to fly, or for that matter, if he’s flying at all. Hopefully soon, he will be soaring to new heights and building his own nest.
Little Bald Baby Billy Bird is writing his last blog . . . with tremendous sadness.
This experience with you, my readers, has been without question the most healing part of my journey with cancer. But it’s over now and I have to move on, physically and emotionally. Just as much as the chemotherapy, the medical teams, and my private journal, I want this blog to always be a part of the capsule that I will close and file away under the title of “My Most Amazing Year.”
I hope I have said something of purpose for each of you. There is no question that this writing, the research for it, and most of all, your responses and comments, have projected me into a new realm of spirit.
Of all of my 95 blog entries, this is the most difficult. Just as I ended my journal with “Goodnight sweet cancer,” I will end this amazing segment of my healing with,
Goodnight sweet friends. You saved a life.
from Lymph Notes