Today the Washington Post ran an article - How Frozen Peas Started a Movement - about my experience with cancer and how the virtual world of people on the other end of computers all over the world have felt somehow moved to reach out to me.
What does this mean to me, to someone with cancer, to have others walk towards me instead of away? Approach me with interviews, blog posts, interaction on twitter and more?
In some ways of course not, but in other ways I'm reassured, and most of all I feel a supportive wall of people at my back - and distraction from the pain when it's not relieved by traditional medications.
It also means a lot to me just to have people talking. I only found that out after the fact - when people started interacting with me and with other people not just about their support but also about their experiences.
One of the most surprising facets of this for me is that men are talking to me about cancer more than women.
Maybe women already have people to talk with about boobs - or other delicate topics. But it's most often men who tell me about their mothers, sisters, grandmothers, aunts, daughters, wives struggles with breast cancer or other less well known cancer.
For the most part it sounds like they
haven't really communicated this information to anyone before. And most of the stories are things
that have really impacted them on a personal level.
I guess its true - it's hard to go to work and chat up your coworker on the topic of your aunt's wasting away with breast cancer - but that is something I hadn't thought of before.
What have I concluded from these conversations?
Rather than suggesting we need to have special programs to get a man - or anyone - to join a group or move too far outside their comfort zone, I would like to just start the conversation with anyone who will listen and maybe talk back or talk to someone else about the issues surrounding prevention, diagnosis, treatment and finding a cure.
I hope that I can simply let these all people young and old, of whatever sex, know that we do appreciate them mentioning that they had an experience with cancer. I hope to remind them that just speaking about it a little - one sentence even - has potential to do good. To encourage a new patient to discuss more, to ask questions. It reassures that someone understands at least part of our story.
Their words might get someone else talking, and thinking, and
remembering that they wanted to keep up to date with cancer signs or symptoms like this excellent article from the American Cancer Society, or to do a self-exam.
But how do we use this information and the ability to draw people out and encourage them to communicate?
I don't know - this is all really sudden for me so master-plans or long term strategies are hard to come by.
For now I'm thinking it needs to be part of my mission statement down the road when I get that far. For now it's good to file away and remind ourselves in the future that we want to make sure to keep the issue of encouraging communication on the table, however that happens.
I hope you will help.
- digg the Post's Frozen Pea article
- follow me and communicate at twitter
- contact / send kudos or more information to Post writer Craig Colgan
- check out what's happening with the amazing group at the frozen pea fund
- keep talking, keep asking questions, keep writing
- keep the faith that I'll get through this and so will people who are close to you