Three Lessons I Learned From Sharing My Cancer Journey Online
Last updated: January 2022
In December of 2019, I heard the words, "you have stage 4 melanoma" for the first time. It was the day my whole world turned upside down and everything would change.
I decided to share my melanoma story
Up until that point, I wasn't an avid Instagram user. I would only post heavily filtered selfies, share photos of my food or repost funny memes. I had never turned the camera around and spoken to my 1,000 or so followers. Cut to today and I have over 17.2k followers. I now use my Instagram account to post all of the highs and lows of living with cancer. As I look back on the past 2 years of sharing my cancer journey, I've realized it has taught me a lot.
Here are the top 3 lessons I learned about sharing my story
Being yourself online gets easier the more you do it
When I first started sharing my story, I fell into the dreaded perfection trap of Instagram. I always wore make-up, only posted images that were flattering, and took take after take of every 15-second Instastory. The deeper into my cancer journey I got, and the more I opened up, the less I started to care about perfectionism. The less I worried about how people perceived me, the more freedom I had to show up as my authentic self. This was a domino effect, and the more I did it, the more comfortable I became. Today I know that being authentic and honest is much more important and impactful than trying to look like an Instagram "it" girl.
You are not alone
I've shared everything from strange side effects to my deepest fears and, no matter what I've opened up about, there is always someone who can relate to what I'm experiencing. I've learned that there is so much comfort in knowing you aren’t alone in feeling the way you do. Being able to speak to other people helped give me a sense of belonging in this world. I also found that by sharing what I was going through, I helped other people to not feel alone and that is a very empowering feeling.
Before my cancer diagnosis, I thought my purpose was to be successful in my career and live up to society's expectations of getting married and having children. Since I began sharing my story online, I have encouraged hundreds of people to get skin checks and to wear SPF daily. I've educated thousands of people about the dangers of sun damage, which has saved lives. I helped raise over $250,000 for melanoma research. I was even part of a live press conference with the Prime Minister, launching a new national sun safety campaign. Through posting online, I have truly found my purpose of helping others to protect the skin they’re in and be confident to be themselves.
Turning pain into purpose
If you had told me a few years ago that I'd be sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of my life with thousands of people every day, I'd have thought you were crazy. The online world can be a pretty horrible place at times. I've managed to find a pretty special community that supports and encourages me through my cancer journey. Cancer takes away so much from us, but I am glad to say I was able to turn my pain into purpose.
What lessons have you learned from sharing your story?
Do you sunscreen in the fall?