Blogger Shares her Cancer Story At BlogHer Conference
Laurie Kingston reflects on her experience at the BlogHer conference, which took place earlier this month in San Francisco.
When I meet someone new, I don’t usually introduce myself by saying, “I’m Laurie and I have cancer.”
In fact, there are many people I know only casually who have no idea that I have ever been through cancer treatment, let alone that I live with metastasis. People tell me all the time how healthy I look and I take pride (somewhat irrationally, I admit) in the fact that I don’t look like a typical “cancer patient.”
Entire days often go by when the word “cancer” does not cross my lips (I would like to say that there are days when it does not cross my mind but that would be a lie). I write about living with cancer but cancer is not my life. And I like it that way.
This year, for the second time, I attended BlogHer, a conference for women bloggers (last year it was in Chicago and this year in San Francisco). The conference sold out this year and there were more than 1,000 women in attendance. For someone who spends a lot of time by myself by choice, this is both an exciting and scary concept.
Meeting that many new people at the same time is always overwhelming. However, this is compounded for me because, at BlogHer, when I introduce myself, I have to lead with the fact that I have cancer.
Last year, one of the first people I met walked away after I introduced myself. “That’s heavy,” she said as she turned her back in search of more light-hearted company. Many others were not as explicit but seemed ill at ease around me.
The thing is, as a person, I am often light-hearted. And my writing is often humourous, whether I am writing about the bizarre nature of cancer treatment or my day to day life (my blog is called Not Just About Cancer for a reason). I have cancer but I am not defined by it.
But how to get that across in a context of hundreds of brief daily encounters? This year, I took it upon myself to put people at ease. It helped that my story is a hopeful one and I shared it often. I participated in discussions on a range of subjects. And when someone brushed me off, I tried harder not to take it personally.
I met many wonderful people at BlogHer this year, who were interested in my story and were happy to share their own. I had the chance to speak on a panel about “Blogging Community as a Healing Force.” I experienced tears, applause and cheers when I shared my story. And I connected with many people across difference as we found similarities in our own life stories. I even talked about being strengthened by life’s crises without being defined by them.
I wouldn’t trade my experience at BlogHer for anything, as I return to the keyboard with renewed inspiration.
But I am happy, too to go back to the life where I am mom, writer, lover and friend. The life when I am defined by so many other things than cancer.