The first time I had ever been exposed to the realm of social media was in 2002 when my son’s friend Jordan was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s disease. He was 12 years old and played on my son’s hockey team. I felt helpless. As a mother, I could not imagine what his parents were going through and it consumed me. My heart sank. Maybe it was because I could relate, having a child the same age. Maybe it was the fact that I witnessed this little goalie at hockey practice who could barely stand up in front of the net. Jordan wanted to play. Cancer or not, he was determined to be a brave and courageous warrior and nothing was going to stop him.
His mother could not cope. She started posting a journal with day to day updates on Jordan’s condition on www.caringbridge.org, a website for people dealing with terminal illness. I logged on and began to read her heart wrenching posts. Unfortunately this did not end well. She took us through the last days of his life and reading her words brought me to tears. Through the months of postings I was amazed at the amount of friends, family and complete strangers in the community who would respond to her journal with such wonderful inspiring words of love, support and compassion. This woman was dealing with a parents worst nightmare, yet she was surrounded by a world of people who were right there beside her.
Since then, I have had other friends with family members dealing with cancer and terminal illness. When a family gets hit hard with a horrendous health shock like this, reaching out around you for a physical support hug is just not enough.
Social media can have a profoundly positive impact on families dealing with a health crisis. They are vulnerable, desperate, weak and emotional. It becomes both therapeutic and comforting for them to post their thoughts and feelings out on user friendly personalized web sites such as www.mylifeline.org or www.gofundme.com. They can draw from the support of friends and family and complete strangers who have gone through similar circumstances. It’s inspiring, motivational and it benefits everyone. This creates a whole lot of love and engagement for all who have been affected by a family illness.
Below is a photo of Jordan. His story can be read at www.moxam.org