This entry was written by Anna Shaffer, LBBC’s Web Content & Editorial Manager:
Whether you are dealing with a breast cancer diagnosis yourself, or you are a caregiver, family member or friend, you may be feeling many different emotions. While talking openly about breast cancer can help you take in the reality of your situation and begin to problem-solve, sharing your personal thoughts about something this frightening can be challenging.
Still, you may long to connect with others who understand what you are facing. Through my job at Living Beyond Breast Cancer as well as my own personal experience, I’ve found that online communities can be incredible tools to find connection, information and support. Judging from the active conversations on our Facebook page, blog and message boards, I know many of you feel the same way.
Online communities break down geographic barriers by allowing you to reach out, connect and build relationships with others with whom you share things in common, regardless of where they are located. They provide a sense of community in an increasingly fragmented society. They can also serve as a place to share information and voice thoughts and emotions about difficult subjects without having to be face-to-face.
When my mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, I joined several online communities for those dealing with this disease. The sense of anonymity given by these mediums was liberating, and the sense of community empowering. I could share as much or as little as I liked—I could read information others have posted and hear about their experiences, but whether or not I actively contributed to a discussion was up to me. I could feel a sense of connection to others who were in my situation while sharing my emotions and asking questions, knowing that others in the community would understand. And I could do all this from the comfort of my own home.
Online communities can also help raise funds and awareness. I witnessed this firsthand during last year’s Yoga Unites for Living Beyond Breast Cancer fundraising campaign, when I was part of LBBC’s team, “Living Beyond.” In order to raise money in honor of my mom, who was diagnosed with breast cancer twice, I reached out to my Facebook friends and encouraged them to donate. I posted status updates with links to my fundraising page, the Yoga Unites for Living Beyond Breast Cancer video on YouTube, the Yoga Unites for Living Beyond Breast Cancer blog and photos of the event on Flickr. I was overwhelmed by the response. Donations flooded in from friends, family, former co-workers I hadn’t seen in years and folks I didn’t even know—the old “friends of friends” gone viral. I don’t think I would have received half these donations without the help of Facebook.
For these and many other reasons, I was excited to see LBBC’s online community expand in 2009 to include a Facebook page, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and blog, in addition to our message boards and Lotsa Helping Hands caregiving coordination service. We hope our online communities will help you to reach out, connect with and get support from others affected by breast cancer, as well as to raise awareness about the disease.
We plan to expand our lbbc.org online community in 2010, and we want to hear from you. What do you look for in an online community, and what features do you like it to offer? Drop me an emailand let me know your thoughts.