If you follow any number of higher profile cancer warriors - from bloggers to doctors to celebrities - you may have heard about the articles that appeared in The Guardian (now down) and the New York Times by a married couple of "journalists" - a term I use very loosely for the Kellers. The wife got information from a cancer blogger via private messages with or without full disclosure that they were not only the subject of an editorial, but that it was using her blog as a means to "debate" the "ethics" of blogging about one's cancer journey, particularly if the end is sooner, and more grueling, than one might hope. It was a despicable piece. What was worse was that the "author's" husband then, in the New York Times, essentially re-wrote his wife's article, even admitting to loosely "perusing" the cancer fighter's blog, and stating that because his father-in-law died one way, it was "unethical" and "unbecoming" to share one's journey any other way.
I lost my mind. I really did.
I'm not going to speak for all of us cancer fighters that choose to share our journeys and fights through blogs and the like. I'm going to speak for myself, because I know there are a lot of folks out there who feel the same way, and to educate the morons like this husband/wife pair who, rather than ask why, suppose they know best and then impose their beliefs as the moral standards.
First, I was a LIVESTRONG Leader first, which meant that my involvement in the cancer community was that of a leader publicly. So, it was natural that I share my fight in the same manner - it would have been hypocritical of me to be asking those fighting cancer in my community to come out and talk about their journeys when I was silent about mine.
Second, from a practical standpoint, I have friends, families and colleagues all over the world. However, I only have one set of hands, one mouth, and two phone lines. Unless I had absolutely nothing to do all day but to call, email, write and Skype with every individual that wanted to be kept up to date, I had to find a more universal means of letting folks know what was going on - my blog accomplished that. My fellow LIVESTRONG Leaders, high school friends, college buddies, family, colleagues etc, could simply check out my blog if they couldn't connect with me, and I could rely on that one outlet to share the basics. Obviously, I spoke with folks in other forums as the relationship and events dictated, but this was a resource for anyone to check in and catch up.
Third, there were days when I didn't want to talk to anyone. There were days I didn't want to see anyone. There were days when I didn't want a dialogue - I wanted a monologue. I was too uncomfortable to have the patience to deal with responses. I wanted to just get things off my chest, share my thoughts, and that was it.
Fourth, I didn't know if I was the only one who was experiencing what I was experiencing. I shared things I lived through hoping to get more experienced cancer fighters to respond with advice, information, etc. And it worked.
Fifth, I did it to share so that other women who were diagnosed similarly knew what the general path could be like, in a non-clinical fashion. I wanted to share the funny experiences and thoughts I had in hopes that I could make someone going through this farcical situation laugh when they needed. I wanted to share the absurdity so that I could waylay someone else's fears.
Lastly, I honestly wanted to lay down in writing what I was thinking in case a) I forgot what my journey was years from now, b) the cancer and treatment didn't go well and affected my memory, c) I needed to document what tests and treatments I had in case I had to provide a doctor my medical history for future treatments and d) in case I didn't survive my cancer, my children could read in their mother's words what her journey was. I wanted to leave a legacy of my voice. I wanted to tell my own story so they wouldn't have to try and remember on their own.
I assure you, if my tale ended grimly, I would have continued to write just the same.
You do not have the right, however, to judge how I share my cancer story. You have the right not to read it, you have the right to say that you wouldn't do the same. But you do not have the right to tell me that what I am doing is not "ethical." Keeping silent is unethical. Judging a woman who is dying and is reaching out for support is unethical. Talking about the realities of this disease is not.
Good for you, Lisa. So many of us have your back.