The Real Value In Cancer Blogging

There are times, when I struggle to believe my own life now. Since cancer took over, I have a totally new way of living, planning very little and seeing what life throws at me next, and it is not all bad either! Of course my health is not good but I have been able to paper over those cracks, with the support work and writing that I do. Several years ago, when it was suggested that I write a blog, I was sceptical. Who would read it and what would I get out of it? Now it dominates my life, wherever I go people ask me about it, and on social media it is shared frequently. I am now contacted daily by people who want to know more about what I do, and join my community to help others affected by cancer.

It doesn’t provide me with an income, and at times it gives me massive headaches, but I wouldn’t change it for the world! I have now found something that gives me great joy and a warm glow, knowing that people around the world are being helped in some small way by my writing. Not only does it provide me with a focus but it has introduced me to many incredible people, and provided opportunities I could have only dreamt about.

The real value in cancer blogs

As the years have gone on, blogging has become  a really popular way of communicating, and there are now literally millions of people writing about their cancer experience. The great thing is that we all write in an individual style and have our own story to tell, so each one will be unique. Also we all write for different reasons, most want others to learn from their experience, but speaking personally it is an incredibly cathartic experience. Sharing experiences in this way is very definitely a two way process, and I think I would have struggled a lot more psychologically if I wasn’t writing.

Today I would like to introduce the wonderful Dawn Hamill, who is one of the incredible people I have connected to because of my work. Dawn writes so eloquently about her blogging experience and what it means to her.

“I am on a writing journey

Writing is the sequence of letters, words or symbols marked on a surface.

Yet it so much more; it is an art, a therapy, some people even make a living out of it. It can be a tool of influence, a way to get in touch, make and keep friends…

I used to put pen to paper to write cards or letters, academic articles for journals or never ending assignments for my next nursing qualification. That was before a brain tumour fragmented my life into tiny jigsaw pieces.

After my surgery I borrowed a slim clear plastic tube with black ink inside but it wobbled between my thumb and finger like I was a child holding a pen for the first time.  I wrote my name but it was someone else’s writing. I asked a nurse for a thicker pen, but the words on the paper were still not mine. Practice she said, practice.

At first my fairy like writing carried little meaning but soon became a record of significant events: I lifted my right foot five inches off the sheet… cried with joy when I stood strapped into the standing hoist…had a fall when I tried to reach the end of the bed without my zimmer frame…Now as I look at those six year old notes I can see how far I have travelled

At home my scribbles turned to chapters and with guidance from an author friend I developed my own flair for writing. Show don’t tell Kate repeated when we pored over my sentences; so ‘I cried’ became ‘tears washed my cheeks like an overflowing river’; ‘I enjoy the small things’ became ‘I stooped to look at a buttercup and its waxy golden leaves smiled back at me’…

I researched how to write a book proposal and received the nicest agents rejection letter my friend had ever seen. I decided to share my story and improve my writing at the same time so my blog ‘Mind The Gap A-Z’ was born.

The real value in cancer blogs

Instead of writing academic articles and assignments I write with a spring in my heart. I write to raise awareness of the impact of brain tumours, even benign ones, epilepsy, disability and more recently breast cancer too. I hope I inspire others to keep going when the mud threatens to suck them in.

I get a bubble of excitement when someone tells me my Blog has helped them. I felt the old buzz of achievement when articles I wrote about our allotment and pieces about my brain tumour and breast cancer were published in magazines.

On a good day when I sit at the keyboard, the words flow and as they do my heart rate slows, I breathe easier and a sense of calm settles around me.”

In the relatively short space of time that I have known Dawn, I have seen her deal with many knock backs, and because of her very ‘open style’ of writing I feel I have gone through things with her. I am also thrilled to learn that she has been nominated for an award in the UK Blog Awards 2015! It would be great if you could vote for her here to ensure she gets into the final. Also if you would like to read more from Dawn you will find her own blog here, and follow her on Twitter @dawn_Hamill

Do you write about your experience? Have you thought about it but not made a start yet? Have you benefitted from reading/writing blogs? As always I would love you to share your experiences below.



  1. Hi Chris
    I think the way you’ve used your blog to communicate about cancer is amazing.
    You’re asking about other people’s experiences. I started mine partly in order to let friends and family, and colleagues at work, know how I was, to save them ringing to ask, or so that when they do ring we can talk about other things; several people have said they’ve found this useful. More generally, friends affected by cancer have said it was helpful for them to know practical details, for example about a PICC line. A more selfish reason was as therapy for me, as Macmillan’s website suggests, and I’ve certainly found it works, although as you’ve said, sometimes it takes over when you could be doing other things!
    Since starting the blog in July there have been over 3,000 views of the English version, and over 600 of the Welsh language one, and I must admit there’s a smidgeon of pride in there too now, that people are still bothering to read it. I’ve linked it totally with the chemotherapy experience, so now I can see an end to that (fingers crossed), I might have to sign off after January – something else to think (and blog!) about…
    I hope you carry on though; you’ve managed to make your thoughts relevant and interesting to a wide audience, which is fantastic.
    Very best wishes, Ceri.

  2. Hi Ceri, and thanks so much for the lovely comments. It becomes a little easier once you understand who your audience is.

    It seems that your blog serves several purposes as mine does too, and I’m interested to see that you also find it a good personal therapy. We can certainly all learn something from each other’s experiences too, particularly the practical tips.

    You should be very proud of the number of reads you have had, and being a typical Londoner I forget about the Welsh Language too, great work!

    Even though you have linked your blog to your chemotherapy, I’m sure there will be many issues occur for you after treatment, that you will want to share with your audience. You may even decide to write for fun 🙂

    I have been writing weekly for more than two years, and I will certainly be doing less in the New Year. I have had to re-evaluate my priorities, in terms of how much I can do, physically and online.

    Many thanks for your support and wishing you well with your own treatment, Chris

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