Blogging Cancer

How and Why to Start Blogging

by Jacki Donaldson

Wellness image

When my husband first threw the word “blog” at me in November 2004, it was as foreign as the cancer terms that had been swirling in my head – stage, grade, nodes, margins. So I barely paid attention to his recommendation that I document my breast cancer journey online. Once I started really listening to him, however, his idea made a lot of sense.

Blogging is an easy way to update friends and family in one fell swoop, he told me. No barrage of phone calls or e-mails. I’d just type and publish updates, and those wondering about me could check in at their convenience. The idea grew on me, and in December 2005, three weeks after my lumpectomy, I wrote my first post.

Getting started was simple. We created a blog, named it “my Breast Cancer blog,” and I was off and running. I wrote about my diagnosis at the age of 34, my port, losing my hair, and how my skin fared during radiation. I shared about my little boys, worries about recurrence, and strategies for living a healthy post-cancer life. And a funny thing happened as I kept writing: blogging morphed into something more than just a tool for communicating with the people in my life. It became therapy, a connection to other survivors, even a career.

Blogging as Therapy
Blogging breast cancer helped me process what overwhelmed me. After a four-hour wait to see my oncologist left me feeling totally frustrated, I wrote about it, and it made me feel better. Blogging helped me chart my healing, too: When I first got my diagnosis, I cried a lot. A doctor friend told me it’s okay to cry, but to limit it to 15 minutes per day. Now I don’t even cry every day. That must be progress.

Author of Article photo

Jacki Donaldson

I still blog for therapeutic reasons. I wrote a post recently to help me wrap my head around some suspicious MRI findings: You see, tests like MRI are very sensitive, and they pick up all sorts of things. It’s all probably benign; it could be fibrous stuff, or hormonal stuff, who knows. The “who knows” part is what scares me.

In the end, my MRI turned out fine.

Blogging Creates Connections
My blog is a virtual support group – readers leave comments, I respond, and some beautiful relationships have blossomed because of it. There’s something powerful about shared experience, and it’s uplifting to know I can help others.

One commenter wrote: I just found your blog and I wanted to say thank you. I was diagnosed on December 23rd, and I am just beginning this journey that you have made it through. Reading about your experience has calmed my nerves, allowing me to know what I can expect, both good and bad. The best part is you’re celebrating that 5-year mark, and I know I can be too. Thank you again.

And it gives me a boost when others reach out to me. In response to a post about my training for a half-marathon, one reader wrote: Congratulations!!! You look wonderful, and I know you probably went through hell to get where you are. I praise you for where you’ve been and how far you’ve come.

My goal for connecting with folks is to offer them a road map, sprinkled with personal tidbits, resources, current news, links to other inspiring blogs, and giveaways, too – because, well, who doesn’t like free stuff?

Blogging as a Career
I had no idea early on that my blog would lead to a writing career, but it did. It started when an editor found me online and gave me a position writing for the now-retired “The Cancer Blog.” Then other assignments started rolling in. While I’ve scored a whole slew of jobs over the past five years, the biggie was an ongoing writing and assistant editor position with AOL’s diet and fitness blog “That’s Fit.” There’s also a story I did for Family Circle magazine – oh, and this article right here, which happened because of, yes, my blog.

How to Start Blogging
Blogging can be a life-enriching (and free) endeavor anyone can pursue. Here’s how you can get started:

  • Sign up for a free blog. Two popular platforms are WordPress (wordpress.org) and Blogger (blogger.com). Both have easy-to-follow instructions for setting up your own blog.
  • Write posts. This is your space; use it however you want.
  • Add photos. Most blogging platforms let you add photos to your posts.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Jacki Donaldson is a wife, mom, and freelance writer and editor. When she’s not blogging breast cancer at cancerspot.org, she’s usually spilling secrets about her kids at bravingboys.org.

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, July/August 2010.