The Unexpected Benefits of Blogging

By Maria Lissandrello
Reviewed by Marc B. Garnick, MD, and Lillie D. Shockney, RN, BS, MAS

Before starting chemo eight years ago, Jacki Donaldson had a special wig made up—cotton on top, human hair on the sides, designed to be worn with hats or scarves: “I loved the thought of a baseball cap on top of hair that looked real.” The wig was so well made, in fact, that a neighbor commented on how great it was that Jacki had not lost her hair. 

Little did she know her “underhair” would eventually travel the U.S., bringing hope and happiness to other women going through chemo.

The blog begins
The journey started in 2004, when Jacki, then 34, found a lump in her breast. As she got her diagnosis and embarked on treatment, concerned friends and family kept checking in on her. That’s when her husband prompted her to start a blog—something she knew nothing about—to keep her loved ones up to date. It wasn’t long before Jacki was posting like a pro on “my Breast Cancer blog” (http://cancerspot.org) and reaping an unexpected benefit: “I was able to process everything I was going through and feel better,” she says.

  • Things like finding her cancer while showering: I knew it was not normal. It was hard and felt like a small green pea.
  • Things like getting her first chemo treatment: The chemo is done for today. I’ve had fluids, antinausea medication and the chemo drugs, and now I’m home. The whole process took four and a half hours.
  • Things like losing her hair: I think my morning routine is going to be quicker now. I just have to put my hair on—instead of drying it, curling it, styling it.

Seeing the silver lining
Quite unexpectedly, blogging gave Jacki a purpose: “[Through my blog] other people are finding me—like other survivors and loved ones of cancer patients…the disease begins looking more like a gift than a curse.” It even launched a writing career and widened her circle of support: “I hear from someone every day—it might be a comment on this site or a personal email. Something might arrive in the mail or someone might call to check on me. It keeps me going. It lifts my spirits in moments of weakness. It reminds me of the power of love and friendship. It’s the best medicine—and the best side effect—so far.”

Paying it forward
Now that she’s cancer-free, Jacki’s breast cancer blog has become a vehicle for spreading her optimism: “My goal is to share the hope with people early in their journey.” She also shares her underhair, sending it to some of her blog readers as they prepare for their own treatment. It’s traveled to Florida, Ohio and now to Michelle in Vienna, VA. “This wig brought me peace when my world was crumbling. I think it will do the same for whoever is in line next.”  

Published March 2014

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