I have to share about a time that hit me like a brick. I was in Philadelphia with other contributors and moderators from Skincancer.net and other similar health community-based websites. I saw how everyone interacted and I began to open up. I sat with others who had been through skin cancer and other life threatening diseases and conditions. We shared stories. We shared laughs. Some cried. It felt like a safe place to me. I needed that.
Alone? Not anymore
Specifically, I have made new friends who write about skin cancer and interact with our online community. I am not alone. I know very few people in my day-to-day life here in Buffalo who have had skin cancer and none who have had melanoma. No one really “gets” it. No one really feels what I feel here where I live. This is the beauty of the Internet and instantaneous communication. I am not really alone. I have brothers and sisters who are just keystrokes away.
Making connections with others who understand
In Philly, I was able to talk about prevention, diagnosis, prognosis, pain, and victory. I realized more than ever that I wanted community. I wanted to communicate with others who were fighting the same battles. I wanted allies. I wanted friends who understood. I didn’t want to leave them, but then I remembered that we had organized an email group to keep on touch. The connection did not have to end.
Needing support to get through cancer
These are my new peeps. Real empathy comes from walking in one’s shoes and these people have and do. I am committed to walking through this with them. I hope they feel the same way about me. I am an independent sort of dude, but this cancer thing can rip me apart at times. I don’t need to be a Lone Ranger. I don’t function too well in isolation.
There is an old saying that goes something like this, “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” In modern parlance, it goes something along the lines of “Find your peeps.” I don’t mean the yellow, marshmallowy chicks, but find your people. Find those who have walked in your shoes. Find those who will be walking yours.
It’s not just about who you can find you help you, but it’s also about finding someone else you can reach. There is a joy in giving that is hard to replicate. I have found it to be therapeutic both ways, both in giving and receiving encouragement and that really is the genius of community.