Please allow us to introduce Tracy, who has been blogging since her HER2-positive diagnosis of breast cancer in 2012.
Tracy was kind enough to tell us more about herself and her blog (whose name is certainly perplexing for the “uninitiated”). We heard her views on sharing experiences with cancer, some links to other blogs she follows, and we were glad to hear she is also participating in a clinical trial on Herceptin!
An unfortunate family history of breast cancer
I'm married, mother to one son and live in a rural area of the U.K. I'm the only income earner in our household and have worked hard over the last 15 years to progress my career. I'm currently Chief Information Officer and IT Director for a university. I developed aggressive HER2 positive breast cancer in my early 40's.
Sadly breast cancer runs in my family and almost all my female relatives over at least six generations died from it before the age of 50. I don't have the BRCA genes but am likely to have other genetic mutations responsible for the breast cancer in our family so I actively participate in research studies. I'm currently part of the Persephone trial, to establish whether 6 months of Herceptin is as effective as 12 months and am also taking part in a familial breast cancer research programme called EMBRACE.
Blogging: a way to keep loved ones informed, and so much more
I started blogging shortly after I was diagnosed with cancer in 2012. Initially it was a means to keep family and friends informed about my situation and progress, because some live overseas in New Zealand, California and Switzerland. As I continued blogging I realised I'd become part of a community of people all over the world who are dealing with cancer themselves or have friends or relatives with cancer. I also realised that by sharing my experience I could help others who are have to face this disease. I also realised that blogging became a cathartic experience and helped me to make sense of my own thoughts and feelings.
What’s in a (blog) name? The right attitude!
The name of my blog, FEC-THis is a play on words and stems from the name of my treatment. FEC-TH was the name of my chemotherapy and Herceptin regime. FEC-THis means "stuff this" as in "I'm not putting up with it" or "for goodness sakes!"
My favourite post
My favourite post is 'Cardinal Virtues, Cancer and Justice. It just is.' It covers some challenging issues and was written at a time when life was very difficult for me. I wanted to shine a light on some of the realities of cancer, without sugar-coating them.
Sharing cancer experiences can help others
It's important for me to share my experiences and write about my story online because in doing so I help other people. If I can help one other person feel less alone, less afraid and more informed then that's a good thing. I've been able to help people undergoing the same treatment and some who've had side effects that weren't explained by their hospital. I think that's a good thing too. Ultimately it's about supporting one another at a time when life is really hard.
Suggestions for some other patient blogs
I read other patients blogs. I've found it helpful to know I'm not alone and the challenges I've faced have been overcome by others. Some blogs I would recommend are Cancer in my Thirties, Mae's Day, DGlassmes Blog, Cancer Curmudgeon and Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer.
Express your emotions and thoughts – it’s good for everyone!
I think everyone deals with cancer differently but if you're able to, blogging is a good way to express yourself and can help you make sense of mixed emotions and thoughts. Getting those "out" of your head can be useful. It's also a good way to share experiences, including the things people don't usually talk about or hospitals don't tell you. For care givers it can be a good way to get additional support or advice. The cancer blogging community is a very supportive community, there's a real sense of unity.
Keep asking questions and stay open to getting help
My message to patients with cancer is to become as well informed about your condition as you can. Understand your disease and what treatment options are available to you. If you're unsure about anything keep asking questions until you get the answers you need. My other message is that if people offer help when you're unwell don't be proud, or turn it down. Let them help you because by doing so it helps them too, they feel involved and useful.
More about Tracy’s blog
Blog name and link: FEC-THis
Twitter handle: @TiggiTiger