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Blogging Cancer

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If you don't already know, you should ask your oncologist about your cancer. What kind of tumour is it? What are your treatment options and which ones are most successful for women of your age? What are the side effects of the treatments available to you? Are you eligible for any clinical studies?

I would also suggest you get in contact with someone at the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. The CBCF will definitely help you come up with questions to ask about your recurrence.

Becky Haig, Barrie: Hello! I have to admit, I was so intrigued by your story. Not that it's a nice thing to have in common, but I was diagnosed with stage 3c ovarian cancer when I was 26 years old. I have not actually met anyone who is younger than me. I can't begin to tell you how important it is to someone like me to see you're still here three years later. I just started chemo yesterday for my first recurrence - I'm only seven months out from my last chemo. I can't help but think this is it for me. The statistics on this disease are so horrible. I know they are just numbers, but how do you not get caught up in them? Thank you for sharing your story. I'll be sure to check out your blog and I wish you many more years of good health. Take care, Becky

Alicia Merchant: Hi Becky, I'm sorry to hear about your recurrence as well. I don't really know how to answer your question. I don't know that there is a good way to not get caught up in the numbers. I know it was something that I struggled with a lot in the beginning. The one thing that really helped for me was my gyn/onc telling me to ignore the numbers, that the numbers didn't adequately reflect my situation. The statistics are based on women older than us -- recent studies state that younger women survive ovarian cancer better. Your numbers aren't the numbers of ovarian cancer in general. Try not to focus on the numbers, try to focus on making it through the day.

One of the girls who started blogging at the same time as me went through several recurrences before she was finally proclaimed to be cancer-free. Her blog can be found here. She's funny, smart, and cynical, and her story is amazing.

If you ever want someone to talk to, feel free to email me. You can find my address on my blog. Good luck, Becky.

Mike S, Pickering: I got the sense from your blog you were concerned about your family discovering your online persona. What changed your perspective on that, and I'm curious if your family has read it and what they think of it (or do your rules of never being allowed to bring it up still hold?).

Alicia Merchant: Until recently, no one in my "real" life even knew I had a blog. Over the last year, friends have learned about my blog though none of them knew how to find it. It wasn't until Erin Anderssen approached me about the cancer series that I even considered going public with my online persona to friends and family. It was something I had to think about before I agreed to do the interview. I was given the option to keep my blog private, but I declined.

Having my family read my blog was (and is) a big fear of mine. We don't talk a lot about the emotional fallout of my cancer diagnosis and half my blog discusses this very thing. My cancer diagnosis brought up a lot of issues with my family -- it's hard to deal with everyone's pain. We generally think of our state of health as a private thing, but cancer makes it rather public. You lose a sense of the personal. I wanted to maintain some privacy and so I set boundaries with my family as to what we could and couldn't talk about.

My younger sister (who I live with) reads my blog. She said it makes her cry sometimes. My mom didn't even know about the article until after it ran; I only just told her. She's asked if she can read my blog, but I haven't decided if I'm okay with that. I'll probably let her, but the rule of not discussing blog topics (unless I bring them up) will stand.

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