Thursday, January 21, 2010

Shout Outs, Carson Daly-Style

I was diagnosed with cancer over nine years ago, when I was sixteen years old. My fellow patients and I were encouraged to share our stories, open up, and reach out to others. I may have my facts slightly off the mark since I cannot find it on any Google search. But if my memory serves me right, Steven Spielberg began an online cancer network for young patients around this time. It was meant to show them that they were not alone, and that sharing their struggle with other patients of similar age could help alleviate the pain, whatever form that may be in.

Had I created one, my username would have been, “Instead of this Crap, Start Working on a New Indiana Jones, but Nothing to do with a Crystal Skull, because that Movie would Really Suck.”

I never logged on or navigated Spielberg’s network, and I became volatile when anybody encouraged me to do so. Opening up was for girls and weaklings. I was even more passionately opposed to people who wrote books about their journeys, including the ultimate badass, Lance Armstrong, and, had I known, myself several years later.

Talking to other Cancer People wouldn’t make the chemo more potent or my cancerous cells less reproductive. It wouldn’t make my nausea retreat or Week 6 of the NFL season arrive sooner. It was a waste of time.

But sharing cancer with others did affect some people positively, though, and they weren’t always girls or weaklings—take the guy whose neck turned purple from so much radiation and who forced down food no matter how he felt. I don’t know for sure, but maybe sharing helped him feel relaxed, grateful, relieved, or happy. Perhaps those emotions indirectly lead to survival. More research to come, hopefully.

Now there are many similar networking sites where patients and survivors can connect, find useful information, or keep friends and family abreast through their cancer blogs. One such site, which just launched, sounds impressive. Navigating Cancer allows you to create a calendar of events (i.e. doctor visits or chemo days). You can post a need, like a ride to the clinic, which readers can see and assist with. You can upload important files, like insurance documents. Much like Facebook, you control your level of privacy and who is permitted to see what.

After many years of hostility, I now support sites like Navigating Cancer. It took my mom and Facebook to show me why. Facebook—with over 350 million users—is the largest social networking site. In 2007, Microsoft pegged its market value at $15 billion. According to The Economist, Facebook may eventually enter “cloud computing” and compete directly with Microsoft, Apple and Google.

My mom joined Facebook a few months ago. She posts updates, and gossips about her friends’ updates. “Why would she write down where she’s going for lunch? Why would I care?” she complained of her friend once.

“You took the time to read it, so apparently you!” I replied.

My mom started a farm in Farmville, and needed me to be her neighbor in order to grow her farm, even though by now all my crops are dead and I’ll never play Farmville again. (Unless my mom needs me to grow sweet corn or baby tomatoes that she can steal and sell as her own…does Farmville permit felonies?)

I’ve come to realize that Facebook is an amazing thing—it connects over 5% of the entire world into one single community, at no cost. Some use it for business, to create social events, or just to have fun building a farm. Hopefully Navigating Cancer and sites like it can similarly bring encouragement and a sense of community—though maybe not farming.


My friends and I made a bet ten years ago to see who could last the longest without getting a job. I came in second to Hamburgers, who got his first summer job well into college. He has also gone longer than anyone without getting a permanent job, lasting more than three years since graduating college, a feat too impressive for words. Congratulations to Hamburgers for beginning his new career this week. Good luck, pal.


I’d like to wish a Happy Birthday to Hamburgers and my mom, who share January 21 as their special day. That is almost as cool as me sharing December 30 with Tiger Woods, Sandy Koufax, and LeBron James.