This week I was doing some filming. I got asked about some of the changes I had seen during my own experiences with cancer since 2007. Back then it was still difficult talking publicly about the subject. But the Internet was just coming into it’s own. Being bombarded with information booklets is what I remember most. Which was an improvement from previous years where it was hard to find. However, these days you only have to open any social-media platform, and cancer posts are everywhere. Surgeries, chemotherapy and radiotherapy sessions there for everyone to see. People proudly displaying their scars.
Also, this week I helped facilitate our regular prostate cancer support group in my local cancer centre. Something I have been doing for many years. Here we have members that have been attending for a long time, and also newly diagnosed patients. We kicked off the session by asking one of our regulars to tell us how things were for him. Before we knew it, we had got into a part of the process that newly diagnosed people may not even experience. The group were interested which prompted a discussion. I’m not convinced that was helpful to the new members. But is something that happens where people feel comfortable to talk.
This prompted me to think about my personal communications. Speaking openly and unfiltered about this terrible disease is something I am ‘guilty’ of too. I am frequently giving presentations or being asked to talk about many uncomfortable issues. Which I’m happy to do. I believe that people should hear things as they really are. Not wrap them up in cotton wool. But does that frighten people? So many vulnerable people hearing what I say. Things they may not even experience!
Of course, there is an off button! People don’t have to read it I guess. But it is becoming more difficult to ignore these days. Personally I think that is a positive, but it may not be for everyone. Is it doing more harm than good? Like with most things in life it is about extremes. No information at all and within a few years you can’t escape it! But one thing I want to stress at this stage is that it is not all bad news.
Cancer is a particularly emotive subject and we tend to have many highs and lows, with little in between. Hard to explain to those who thankfully have no direct experience. How is the disease viewed by those people I wondered? So I asked, and mostly people are frightened when the word is mentioned. Many have friends/family experiences, but most see charity fundraising adverts. Where in many cases the fear factor is increased, so you dig deeper into your pocket.
Nobody chooses to get cancer! But if you do, there is a good chance you may continue your life WITH it. Meaning things will change in so many ways. But not all bad, I must emphasise that. A lot of people I know have found a new meaning to their life and are now doing things they might previously never have imagined. Just look at the impact covid has had on our society and see how many lives have been changed forever. New ways of doing things have been found, many certainly better than before.
We all know the importance of the language we use, both spoken and written. For any situation we are in. When we communicate, there is a good chance our message may be misunderstood. Some of us need time to think about what we want to say. Others like myself fire quickly ‘from the hip.’ Thankfully we are all unique, which makes the world an intriguing place. I am too old to really change my communication style. Having been fortunate to transfer my verbal ways, to social-media. Humour is one of my personal strengths but it can be difficult to introduce that in a thread about cancer!
I would be delighted to hear your views about how you navigate cancer online. What style do you prefer, and can it be overwhelming at times? Do you find other peoples reality quite frightening, or reassuring? Do you use the Internet more or less since your own cancer experience. In summary, does the reality that you find help or hinder you?
As usual please let me know in the comments below.