Some Say Social Media Is Ruining Our Generation. But For Young Cancer Patients, It Can Be A Ray Of Hope.

Social Media and Cancer Patients

Social media is both a bane and a boon in this modern day world. With people constantly taking pictures and posting on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, one has to wonder if anything is ever truly private anymore. What’s more, the social media mania means everyone is constantly attached to their phone all the time, interrupting actual social interactions. However, the trend toward social media is no longer just the domain of selfies and millennials. Some people use social media as a way to keep in touch with long distance friends, video chat with people they wouldn’t see otherwise, and be connected to people in a way that wasn’t available before. Taking the useful applications of social media to the next level, many cancer patients and survivors even find it to be a useful source of medical information and support.

Through social media, patients can commiserate with others who know exactly what they’re going through, as well as receive support and love from friends and family. A quick search on Facebook brings up numerous cancer survivor and support groups. One such group, Fxck Cancer, has different themed days of the week, like Motivation Monday and Throw It Up Thursday, where they post pictures of people in treatment or motivational statements. These posts receive a plethora of comments from people supporting loved or lost ones, cancer survivors, and those currently going through treatment. Statements like, “We fight together!” and “I was diagnosed with that. Stay strong!” are common.

Toni Speyer, a spunky, upbeat Los Angeles resident and breast cancer survivor, found a dimple on her breast and thought it was just cellulite. She brought it to her doctor’s attention at her routine annual exam, and it turned out to be Stage III cancer. She told me social media helped her immensely after her diagnosis:

“Throughout my journey of surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation, my friends followed me from around the world…and offered their love, support, and prayers. Without Facebook, I would not have known that all these people had my back and cared about me.”

Social media is also becoming a great way to create awareness around cancer and other medical issues. Toni posted her dimple on social media to alert other women that any change in their breasts’ appearance is something to be concerned about.

“My post was shared and liked by hundreds of people. My daughter was horrified that I posted my breast on social media, but hopefully I helped even one person!” she exclaims.

Fxck Cancer, founded by Brandon McGuinness, who was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma in 2004 and unfortunately passed away in 2007, created the group not only to offer support, but “to fight cancer by raising awareness and to educate about early cancer detection, ultimately putting an end to late stage cancer diagnosis”. They also have a wish granting program in order to give hope to those fighting cancer.

Even hospitals and cancer societies are hopping on the social media train. There are Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and blogs for the National Cancer Institute, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and other such organizations. These organizations provide both awareness and education for patients through social media. They post pictures of fundraising and support events, as well as posting articles about new cancer research and other relevant articles, empowering the patient to educate themselves and take control of their diagnosis.

While social media hype may come with its downfalls, we should not be so quick to judge its applications as a tool to create awareness and provide support for those diagnosed with cancer.

Kari Cowell
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