Whether a patient or a caregiver, an individual’s personal cancer journey can be wrought with previously unexplored emotions. Several social websites have popped up to help patients and their caregivers cope by chronicling their experiences.
CaringBridge, Lotsa Helping Hands, and Peer Support Network are three online social sites that offer a safe haven for support, sharing one’s experiences and connecting with others facing similar health challenges.
The day after he was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma in 2011, Michael Buller started blogging about his cancer.
“Cancer is complex -- biologically, physically and mentally,” he says. “Thinking Out Loud: A Cancer Blog is to sort out some of that complexity. [It’s] part mental therapy, part conversation, and part update. The blog talks about all the myriad aspects of being diagnosed with cancer -- symptoms, treatment, attitude, support, research and many other topics.”
Annette Stanton, a professor of psychology and psychiatry/biobehavioral sciences at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, and her colleagues knew from previous research that expressing emotions surrounding the cancer experience and gaining social support can be helpful for patients.
The researchers however wondered if there were truly tangible benefits for people who create personal websites to detail their cancer journey.
As it turns out, there are.
Those who blogged about their experience were more likely to increase their quality of life, elevate a positive mood, experience less depression and enhance their appreciation for life, according to the new study published in the August 12, 2013 online edition of Journal of Clinical Oncology.
The effects were particularly strong for women in active medical treatment, most of who had advanced (metastatic) breast cancer.