Although I have been living with lung cancer since 2006, I never wanted to start a blog. How self-centered do you have to be, to write stories about yourself, and hope that other people will want to read them? It sounded like an awful idea, and I didn’t want to do it.
Not back then, when I was first diagnosed with Stage III. Not when I beat cancer, and had no evidence of disease for almost five years. And not when the cancer came back in 2011, this time as Stage IV.
I knew it would suck up a lot of my time, but that was not the reason why I didn’t want to do it. The terrifying part would be exposing myself to total strangers. Even worse, I would be exposing myself to people I already knew. Gahhhhhhh!
Exposure of any kind has been a lifelong fear of mine. I would steer every conversation in a way that would be sure to nip any curiosity about me in the bud, and turn the conversation back on to the other person. It’s no coincidence that I worked in the mental health field for twenty-five years, where nearly all conversations are designed to be about the other person. And my aversion to attention started earlier than that. Since childhood, I learned that the way to survive in my family was to become invisible. So I did my best – and I was really successful at it – right up until this whole blog thing came up.
Compounding the challenge, I work in commercial real estate now. If people find out that I have lung cancer, will they run the other direction, so they don’t have to worry about whether I will be around long enough to get their costly deal done? Will they avoid me because I have the “C” word, as if I have leprosy? It was one thing to have my blog out there where only people that wanted to know about lung cancer could find it. It scared the daylights out of me when I started attaching my last name to things I do related to lung cancer. Now, when future or current clients Google my name, the word “cancer” shows up in almost every entry, including a link to this blog. Gasp! I outed myself! Will my career go into a tailspin?
These all seem to me to be pretty good reasons not to write a blog. So why am I writing one, anyway?
It started out when I began sending emails to family and friends after I got that first terrifying diagnosis. I sent out pretty much straight medical reports at first, along with a little bit of my optimism. Gradually, I started sharing more about what I was learning about attitude, which I believed was making a big difference. Then I learned it was about more than attitude. It was also love that was keeping me alive. So I also shared those lessons, along with a few others that popped up along the way.
Friends and family began telling me that they were forwarding my emails to people they knew with severe health issues, because they thought these people that they cared about might benefit from what I had learned.
That was the most deeply gratifying thing that I could have been told: That maybe others could benefit from my journey. If my emails were already getting circulated, maybe I should take it a step further, and go public. Get over myself. Start… a…. blog.
It took some self-convincing, however. Being vulnerable with people we have never met does not come easy for anybody, let alone someone who grew up in a tortoise shell.
I finally got over the hump by discovering this jewel of a paradox: Even though almost every story is about me, it’s really all about you. It’s about sharing what I learn so that maybe you can take a shortcut to some of the ways to not only survive with lung cancer, but to thrive with it. You see, I want you to thrive, too – enough so, that I am willing to expose myself.
Here’s hoping you will thrive, no matter how long you live.