While technology has caused a lot of disruption in our lives, it has also provided us with some incredible opportunities. One of those is the introduction and use of online communities.
When my mum went through breast cancer back in 2002 there was no such thing as an online community. The best she could hope for was chatting to her medical team, attending face-to-face support groups if available, or seeking support from friends and family.
Now there are a number of online communities out there specifically for those with a breast cancer diagnosis. If you've never heard of or used an online community, I'll give you a quick rundown. Put really simply, an online community is a group of people with common interests who use the internet to communicate.
In the case of those with a breast cancer diagnosis, it's a place online where we can go to connect with others, to seek information and support, to ask questions, or even just to have a vent! A personal favourite of mine is the BCNA Online Network.
You might wonder why you would use an online community if you can do this through a support group or even with some friends or family? Well, there are lots of reasons why.
Online communities provide this opportunity for those who may not have the option for face-to-face support (think of those living in rural and remote areas), for those who may not be well enough to leave the house, or even for those that are just more comfortable communicating online from their lounge room with a cuppa.
When I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012, the BCNA Online Network was the first place I turned to. Why? Well, there are a couple of reasons. I wanted to express my emotions but I wasn’t exactly doing that in person… so I used the Online Network as a personal blog. I also really wanted to shout, scream and vent all at the same time without looking like a complete lunatic! I was able to do this not only without judgement but also knowing that there was someone to listen or provide some support at any hour of the day (because lets face it - when it comes to breast cancer there are many sleepless nights!). What turned out to be a little side benefit from using the online community was meeting and connecting with some wonderful women online, who I now call my friends.
While the most popular topics discussed are often around chemotherapy, side-effects, coping, mastectomy, reconstruction and radiotherapy, there is also fun in the community – celebrating birthdays and milestones and sharing photos.
One other truly brilliant aspect of the BCNA Online Network is that it is a CREDIBLE source of information, which means all the content is checked and vetted for correctness. So no more Dr. Google!
I would have loved for the BCNA Online Network to be around when my mum had breast cancer. She struggled to communicate her emotions and I know something like this would have helped her immensely.
But the good news is, it's available now, and best of all, it's entirely free! So if you or someone you know has been affected by breast cancer, get on and check out the BCNA Online Network - you've got nothing to lose.
LISTEN: Want to learn more? Check out The Pink Movement Podcast Episode 10 with Cosette Paneque, where she shares more about online communities, the BCNA Online Network and how getting involved can help you.