By now many of you have heard the news that my blog was chosen to be included in the New York Times Motherlode Blogroll. I’m so thrilled that editor KJ Dell’Antonia chose to share my writing with a wider audience. The original web announcement appears here, and the text appears below.
It’s exciting to see the readership grow. I’ve been busy reading the emails, tweets, and comments from readers who connect with what I’ve written. The notes of suppport and appeals to “keep doing what I’m doing” cheer me. When someone writes, “you’ve expressed what I’m feeling” or “I’m learning from you” I know that what I’m doing is right. I try to answer emails, even if it’s just a sentence or two, but sometimes I just cannot. Please know I read EVERY word you write to me, if I can’t respond individually all the time, I ask your forgiveness.
If you haven’t read my essay The mentor I never met about my own introduction to a blogger with cancer, please do. It’s one of the most important things I’ve written. It explores the connection between a reader and a blogger. I know there are thousands of you reading these words that don’t know me personally. But that doesn’t matter. I understand how reading a diary of the innermost thoughts of someone facing stage 4 cancer brings us together. My readers here and followers on Twitter understand me in a way that even my close friends cannot. It’s one reason I love social media. There is a connection that can be made (at least the way that I use social media).
I welcome new readers who’ve come here after seeing KJ’s announcement. I treasure the readers who have been with me, encouraging me from the start.
A bit of housekeeping before I turn you over to the Times profile: my bloodwork this week showed stable tumor marker (CA 15-3) numbers. This is good. Side effects from the chemo have varied from annoying/challenging/painful to quite tolerable. This is as much as I can hope for. I was able to spend a lot of time with my family this week and enjoyed being at school for conferences and a reading celebration of Dr. Seuss’s birthday.
I will continue with the dosing that I have done for the last two rounds (I’m on round 11). I take 27,000 mg (54 pills) of Xeloda over the course of a week and then have one week off. Before starting the next round I do bloodwork, make any adjustments to the dose based on tolerability of side effects, and repeat the process. I will do this as long as the cancer responds to the drug and does not spread further. I will be on some form of chemotherapy for the rest of my life.
I received my monthly Xgeva injection for my bones which I’ve tolerated much better this month than the Zometa intravenous infusions I was getting since October. Those treatments were giving me difficult side effects.
Thanks to you all for reading. I appreciate all of the warm greetings I’ve had so far.
Blogging Her Life With Cancer
When I called on readers to submit the blogs they loved for the Motherlode blogroll, one name came up more than any other: Lisa B. Adams. And I can understand why. The best personal blogs come from people on a journey through something that is as intense as anything they’ve ever experienced, and Lisa is on a journey none of us want to be on. She has breast cancer, and last fall she learned that the cancer had metastasized to her bones, becoming Stage 4 breast cancer.
It’s hard for me not to resort to clichés in talking about Lisa’s blog — to say things like “she’s taking it one day at a time” and “she’s playing the hand she was dealt.” I suspect that those clichés are an excellent way to distance myself from her experience. But it is Lisa’s gift that she does not allow that distance between herself and the reader. She has a directness that draws you in, and she tells her story in a way that is never maudlin. It’s just … her story. It could be anyone’s, but it’s hers, and she’s willing to simply tell us how it is to be her.
I wrote Lisa, and asked her to tell us how her blog began and what it means to her, and to describe a few of her favorite posts.
I probably started blogging in the reverse order many people do. Rather than it mattering intensely to me and then later realizing it mattered to others, I started by doing it for others and then realized how much it was part of me.
I’ll explain a bit. When you have had cancer and are one of the first ones to have it, you become the reference point as others are diagnosed. “Oh, Lisa had breast cancer… you should talk to her. Do you know her?” This is a natural branching out of social circles based on disease.
As a person who gets asked for advice all the time (most frequently about medical information), I was asked repeatedly for advice about cancer and how to help people who had friends or relatives who were diagnosed. Once I started writing informative pieces to share with them and saw their reactions, I realized I filled a void in the cancer blogging community at that time. As a result, my interactions with readers and the writing process itself became fulfilling in a way that my prior academic work never had.
I strive in my writing not to always focus on cancer per se. A few of my posts are, in fact, technical updates on my condition. These are the posts I like writing the least. I focus on the emotions of cancer … the disease itself is not usually what’s important. Instead, what I try to focus on are the emotions that accompany these hardships: fear, anger, despair, hope, grief, love.
A few of my favorite posts:
“These Things Are Not Tied With a Pink Ribbon” is an emotional reaction to Breast Cancer Awareness Month and details why I think those campaigns don’t relate to me.
“If You Knew Suzy, If You Knew Me” is a reaction piece to the Wall Street Journal reporter Katie Rosman’s book about her mother’s life, “If You Knew Suzy.” This piece is special because it really explores the very reasons why I write. If you want to know why I do what I do, you need only read this piece. I write to be known. I write to be understood. I fear others won’t be able to do that for me, I must do it for myself. In the process, I’ve found that others can learn and grow. I am glad that we all can do that together, even if the circumstances are not the ones I want.
“The Hardest Conversation” (published in The Huffington Post) details a long talk I had with my oldest child (age 14) shortly after I received the news that my cancer had metastasized. I think one of the reasons people like to read my blog is that they want a window into a family where difficult topics are discussed openly and honestly. We are a society which often does not treat children as if they can handle illness, death and tragedy. I believe teaching children coping skills is one of the most important things I can do as a parent. This piece has been one of the most personal and important ones I’ve written.
Some parents feel their job is to protect their children. I believe protection should not equate with hiding information. To me, protecting means educating them how to deal with what the difficult things life hands them.
“To My Dearest Children” talks about some of the joys of parenting and explains to them that being their mom is the best thing I’ve ever done. It’s the one job I haven’t quit, and the role I think I do best.
You can find Lisa’s blog here, and soon on the Motherlode blogroll, which will appear in the sidebar just as soon as I’ve welcomed a few more blogs. That main blogroll will be short, strong and as broad as I can make it. We’ll also be adding a page of resources — blogs and other sites you can look to for specific topics or to find some new reads. I’ll keep that as current as possible — so if you ever click through to a dead or abandoned blog, let me know.