When you’re diagnosed with cancer you mourn the life that was just got pulled out from underneath you. Worrying about the right house, your dream job, new car, foreign holiday, on-trend fashion dissipates. Your only goal now is to stay alive.
Not one day went by in any of the last four seasons that I haven’t cried. I heard comments like, “You should go to counselling” and “Counselling would do you good”. Oh really? Is counselling going to tell me I don’t have cancer? Is it going to cook the dinners? Do the school drop? Get the groceries? Clean the house? It’s not like I don’t understand I have cancer, it’s not like I haven’t accepted it. So I’m sorry if my tears make you uncomfortable but I can’t see right now how counselling will help.
My first encounter with social therapy came through @georgie.crawford. I was listening to Matt Cooper on Today FM one day driving home from work when Georgie came on telling her story. I couldn’t believe cancer could happen to a young healthy women with a baby girl. I remember crying in the car thinking about this amazing strong lady. I found her on Instagram and followed her journey. I PMed her my support. Two weeks later I was diagnosed. We shared messages at the time and I watched her shave her head, I watched her cry and I didn’t feel so alone the nights she loaded her stories.
Then @TheresaCostello came into my life via her closed Facebook page: Breast Friends. This was such an amazing resource, more than 5,000 women throughout Ireland and even further ask and answer all types of cancer-related questions. Once I realised I could ask a question without my Facebook friends knowing, I embraced it whole heartily. I was still in the closet so to be amongst like-minded people, in a safe and private setting, meant I could get involved in giving and receiving advice and tips.
Then I found the podcast @YouMeBigC hosted by Deborah from @Bowelbabe, Lauren from @GirlVsCancer and the amazing, beautiful and inspirational Rachel Bland. They have lots of things in common but the major one is cancer. I devoured more than 20 hours of their friendship and cancer-related conversations (that’s over 100km around Ballincollig Regional Park). Lauren delayed radiation after chemo to go to Glastonbury, Deborah drank prosecco connected to her chemo infusion and wearing her @scummymummies catsuit and Rachel was the person to bring it all together, I feel like I know her husband Steve and son Freddy. These ladies talk about the effects of cancer on relationships, finances, on your mental health, on dealing with death, on intimacy and these ladies became my best friends and support. I cried the day I heard Rachel died. I had only found her, she was my hero. RIP Rachel Bland and thank you for coming around the Regional Park with me.
As I was got better at curating my Instagram to support my needs, I found Dublin-based @deedohertycarroll. We are twinning in our treatment so far and @Alexincork who is a survivor. She’s further down the road, lifting weights, loving life and looking great. @louisemcsherry always puts a smile on my face, another survivor, living well and mother to a beautiful boy named Sam.
So, anyone who thinks Instagram is only about meaningless topics like Kylie Jenner’s lips is following the wrong people. I found my reflection and worked on my new norm.