How an Online Journal Helped Me through Cancer
by Don Preston
You have cancer. Those are words no one wants to hear. But I did. How are you supposed to react when someone tells you that?
Based on what I’ve seen on television, you should erupt into uncontrollable sobbing or be stunned into a state of total stupor. Maybe I’m weird, but I didn’t feel that way at all. Instead, I was struck by a sudden peace.
The news brought me serenity. I had a great life. I’d accomplished most of my goals and dreams. I enjoyed my wonderful friends and family. I was thankful and comfortable. But my reaction should not be mistaken for surrender. No, it was an acceptance of my new reality. It was a perfect state of mind for what was really on my mind … and that was to fight like hell!
One thing that did concern me, though, was how to communicate my medical news with friends and family without becoming overwhelmed. I very much wanted to keep my loved ones in the loop, but the thought of having to call or text or email 40 or 50 different people every day was daunting. What if I wasn’t up to it? What If I overlooked someone? How many friends wanted to know how I was doing but would never call to check in for fear of being a bother to me?
When a friend told me about CaringBridge, I knew I’d found the answer to my questions. Here was a free website that was designed to help people like me. After creating my own personal site, I could make an entry into my journal anytime I wanted, and an alert was sent out to anyone who followed me. If I wasn’t up to doing it, my wife could also make entries. All at the same time, everyone in my circle would receive my news of the day, and they could respond with likes or comments. With a few strokes of the keyboard, I was in touch with friends and family, and they were in touch with me. No calls needed to be made. And no emails or texts to sift through all day.
I started by sending a link to my site to 40 or so people. As I was someone who had never used social media, I was not prepared for what happened next. The news spread throughout the network, and before long, more than 200 people were following my journal. Some were friends I had not seen or talked to in years. Despite the awful incident that reunited us, it was just so wonderful to regain contact with so many old friends and distant family members.
By the time I decided to stop making updates, eighteen months after my bone marrow transplant, people had logged in nearly 12,000 times to check in! I was absolutely astounded by it. It turned out that my willingness to share my worst moments brought hundreds of supporters into my fight.
They say that attitude is everything in surviving cancer. Well, I had everyone I knew cheering me on and helping me stay positive each and every day. I learned that cancer doesn’t need to be fought alone. Having an army of people helping me through it made all the difference.
Don Preston is a graduate of St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY. He spent his entire career in financial services, where his final position was as a managing director for Lincoln Financial Group. He currently lives in Reunion, FL, and summers in Upstate New York. You can read more of Don’s story at MyStruggleByDonPreston.com.
To learn more about CaringBridge and how to create your own personal sharing site, visit CaringBridge.org.
This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, November/December 2020.