Who are you? Tell us your genre, how long you’ve been at it, who or what inspires you or whatever you want us to know.
I am a metastatic breast cancer “endurer” (thank you to Rudy Fischmann who can be found on twitter @fschmnn) and have been writing for my blog and guest writing about metastatic breast cancer for over 6.5 years. Prior to that time, I had a very active blog called Techronicity in the high tech marketing community. I created friends where the word “friendship” has meaning when you’re climbing the corporate ladder as in, “what can you do for me now.” Very little of that conversation exists today as do very few of the friends I made during that time, maybe half a dozen check on me regularly and one in particular who she herself had breast cancer has remained a friend in the truest sense of the word, thank you Marcie Lascher.
Let me explain the photo that’s at the head of this post. I’m grateful to be in my house not having had it burn down in the wildfires that surround us in California. That was the sun about 7:30 pm two days ago and that is not what the sun is supposed to look like. That added a few days to my personal deadline of making sure my photos and important papers and a take along bag for me, my partner and my cat Simon were at the ready.
This blog, Https://cancerbus.com/, represents another way in which we stumble into our friendships that arise from a cancer diagnosis. Each person somehow magically comes into our lives at just the right time.
I write both first person essay as well as poetry, and in the last couple of years dabbled, via friends with video blogs both audio and video forms of the genre including podcasts for several excellent interviewers to whom I am forever indebted. Please see Rudy’s former Brain Cancer Diaries on YouTube now named That Cancer Life found here https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1_GCferA7W2dr5WVP2rq_w
I use the blog and the podcasts and the vlog episodes and the guest posts (thank you Nancy for inviting me to write for your excellent Mets Monday series) to tell personal stories of my experiences since diagnosis from the eyes of someone who is facing their death. Yet, I look back on my life with the lens of death over my eyes sometimes and sometimes a very different view of my life appears.
I try to focus instead on living with not dying from metastatic breast cancer and still tell the truth, which can be a difficult rope on which to balance without a net below. I doubt the swan song gets new for any reader, but the plain honest writing about the truth of what life is really like doesn’t get old. It’s kind of like rereading tarot cards after the reader has laid out my fortune but with knowledge that those cards can be read so many different ways.
My writing from the time I can recall took me through the most traumatic life events and experiences as well as the most joyous. Perhaps in trauma we can also find ourselves – the true meaning of self and the moment at which we can become whole – can one still be considered a person with meaning in their lives and making a contribution to society if they aren’t working at a desk winding away the hours for a paycheck anymore?
I can allow myself to hear what I feel as opposed to just what I think. This is when I find those peak moments of joy though going through very painful times. And an MBC diagnosis rocks your world and rocked my way of seeing it – therefore I cannot say my blog isn’t a reflection of who I was and ergo who I am now. I was diagnosed almost 7 years ago and immediately took my pen in hand, as I do for most things life disruptive both good and bad…in journals, on pieces of paper, in little notebooks, on my iPad and my in the notes on my iPhone, and scribbled across whatever kind of things I can find to write.
These become transcripts for the blog – either in “idea” form or fully formed posts or poems. I concoct these into essay form, and very personal essays indeed. Including the time I went through opioid withdrawals over an entire weekend and snapped a photo essay of my entire ordeal. And of course, theres always Simon my tonkinese cat who many know never leaves my side.
What’s been your biggest blogging roadblock this year and did you come up with a way to get around it? (If you didn’t, that’s okay too. We’re here to support you.)
What’s something you accomplished with your blog this year that you’re proud of?
As I wish to answer this question fully I ask myself did I do enough with my writing to create conversation and in so doing did I create friends from that conversation? I share completely of myself. I hold nothing back. If I think it may help by sharing an experience did I write it honestly enough for it to truly help. As I answer this very coercive question, I’m caused to pause and think about why I began writing it in the first place and it comes down to love.
So now, I’m sitting here thinking about love. I wonder if I was on my death bed if I’ve loved this life enough. If I poured it into my work of writing enough for it to show the reader something unique, interesting and to make them see that I’ve loved what I’ve been writing enough to insure they feel it.
I think about if I took life by it’s lapels and held it well enough to look it dead in the eyes so that the mark I left was love – in friendship – the friend is the Devine and the creation of life of course we hope is from love. I was somehow created from love. And in so being created, a great hope for the future. Kind of like the birthing of a blog that from the heart.
Did I do enough to love it back? Life and my readers? Was I a loving enough friend to all who came by once or many times? Was I giving enough? Did I share parts of myself enough to have created friendship and thus from where there was nothing to create something beautiful and meaningful enough?
Isn’t that why we are here on this earth? To be loved and love in return and split ourselves wide without fear of hurt or criticisms and look within to find the Devine that is friendship? Did I hold life? Did I write it understandably enough for anyone to understand what I meant? Did I kiss each reader hello and goodbye and did I hold them dearly and with that hug did I love them fully albeit with words? Did I know it well enough to be loved in return?
Yet most importantly did I listen fully enough to the questions asked to show I heard everyone? That takes active listening. Deep listening. I did not write for accolades I wrote for acceptance and accomplishing only one thing: to be wise enough to know when to say enough and to know how to say thank you for being here I hope you leave changed by knowing you’ve stumbled on something written by someone who truly cares.
Did I accomplish that grand task? This song – “I sing myself” as the great Walt Whitman said – and in so singing did you hear what the tune was well enough to take a little with you leaving more enriched than when you’ve just entered this very personal space.
We all know blogs are self published confessions of a sort. They can become so centered on the self we forget we are taking a job upon ourselves that must be taken seriously by ourselves to become a stand alone even long after our words have stopped generating themselves through our beautiful minds and our loving hearts.
What are a couple of your best blogging tips?
- Write. Just write. If you’ve written honestly there’s an audience waiting to hear your voice.
- Mix it up a little. Share things like music and poetry that grabs you and moves you. It might grab and move another.
- Never lie. Never plagiarize. Always quote and give reference.
- When someone takes the time to comment take the time to answer fully not just say, “thanks for stopping by.” To me, that’s a grave injustice to someone who listened and had a question, a comment, or even the greatest thing of all a compliment. For they are why we write. If I write only for myself then I would simply keep a journal. You don’t get a question or a comment if it’s not meant to be shared.
- Read your work aloud to yourself or to someone else you trust before you hit publish. You’ll have far fewer grammatical errors, typos (in full disclosure since my eyesight has been waning due to the diabetes caused by the current cancer medication I catch more after the publish button is pushed). I have to go back a few times to fix some issues but that doesn’t mean I didn’t care enough the first time to try to polish it before I published it. But go back and fix the typos as you find them.
- Share from others blogs and make sure you get the word out about other blogs either in your own category or others.
- Read other blogs and comment. We are not alone we are a community of people behind these words. There is no better way to say, “thank you” or “I appreciate you,” then to reblog someone’s work.
- Publish regularly even if you can’t get a whole piece together try to even share a quote that’s inspired you or a photograph.
- It’s not a crime to use writing prompts.
- Don’t write for awards write for the sake of sharing your experience so others feel less alone or to speak for those who cannot find the words.
- When you write on a topic as serious as cancer, it’s okay to incorporate humor into your work. That’s if your a decent humorist. Humor is an art like all writing. Kristie Konsoer (kristiekonsoer.com) is masterful as a humorist.
- Your words are not set in stone. Do not get married to your words so much you’re always afraid to take away what doesn’t belong or edit.
- When you have a terminal illness and keep an active blog, write your last post (you can always edit it later) so that there’s a piece of yourself to leave as the last word with your readers and to let them know you’ll not be coming back. Assign someone with the task, clearly someone who you trust deeply, to let your readers know you have died.
- Make sure you consistently use language that’s appropriate for you and your genre – and it’s in the language you’d want it in, for instance, so many of us do not like the battle language to describe our health situations. So I do not want my readers to hear “Ilene lost her battle with metastatic breast cancer” on so and so date. I want them to know when I die and that the medicines no longer were able to be effective in extending my life. I want them to have a bookend. I want them to know how my death was, where I was, who was there, what time, and what song was playing or what I was listening to at the time. I want them to know where to send donations in my name and not flowers to my home wherever that is if they choose. I also want a last poem published to express my love of this life and of them for being a part of it. But that’s me. Some may choose to let another do that for them completely but don’t let people find out in some tweet months later. Too many people have taken the time to read your writing. It’s incumbent on us to not hurt them and know grief takes many forms. Our readers will grieve.
- If your asked to participate in a blog hop like Nancy’s, do it. Take the time to fully answer the questions and give what you’ve been asked. There’s a good reason that person pinged you. And invite more people to participate so the hop hops as it should.
- How do you handle negative feedback or comments?
Luckily I have received relatively few negative comments. Perhaps the content prevents more people from plundering my writing. Because poetry is a matter of taste and my kind of breast cancer will eventually kill me I get more than my fair of positive “atta girls” and comments thanking me for saying what someone else didn’t have the words to describe. I never leave public negative comments for anyone else. If I don’t have anything kind to say, I say nothing at all.
Share a link to a favorite post you’ve written RECENTLY (since last year’s challenge perhaps) that you want more people to read?
I really enjoyed my last post https://cancerbus.com/2021/08/18/four-connected-haikus-about-existence-and-sake/ Four Connected Haikus About Existence and Sake. It was a fun trip and had no connection to cancer at all really it was memories of food and love and sake from my life prior to cancer diagnosis.
And this one on post breast cancer diagnosis loss of sexuality and the ambiguity of grief https://cancerbus.com/2021/07/31/ambiguous-loss-sexuality-after-breast-cancer-diagnosis/.
The second one I think is important to read because it’s a topic not readily shared or discussed. We lost so much more than just our bust lines when we had our breasts operated on either in full removal or in my case through a lumpectomy and through medical castration.
It’s just as when we lost our immune systems due to medications and chemotherapies. As well as when we lost our vim and vigor due to radiation. But the losses add up and the ensuing grief is ambiguous indeed. Like the major loss we suffer of the image we had of ourselves, none of us looking the same in the mirror and I myself not feeling very sexy anymore.
And I know many men who have had prostate and other cancers and women who not only have had breast cancer but brain and other cancers that shift our shapes from being on steroids and other drugs. We lose the hair on our heads and our bodies and faces including eyebrows and lashes. We come to find a growth on our heads afterwards if we aren’t very lucky to have it grow back the same color or texture. Mine now just breaks off before it has a chance to grow out of a terrible haircut I keep covered mostly by my signature hats for which I’ve come to wear in most pictures and videos, which are hard to keep on during sex. Unless of course I tie it to my head. Which would be stupid. I now wear a scarf flowing down my back to make myself feel like I have something sexy on my head, now that my long blonde locks will just not grow back after I had IV Taxol.
Tah Dah! And Much Gratitude to Nancy Stordahl at Nancyspoint.com
And I hope this concludes my very lengthy answers to Nancy’s Summer Blog Hop with few typos I’m sure and an honesty that I really wanted to come to the table with as a way to bring my authentic voice and self to the project.
Thank you, Nancy, for allowing me to participate and I love you so very much for the important support you continue to show the breast cancer community with consistent love and care.
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