We’re continuing our guest post series this week with a post from AnneMarie Ciccarella. AnneMarie talks about the power of community.
I can barely remember what I did yesterday, and yet, this is vivid.
I can see myself sitting on the side of my bed. It was 3AM and sleep was no where on my radar. It was November of 2011, just months after the weekly #BCSM chat was launched.
Because Cancer Scarred Me, I spent much of the night walking around in circles. I couldn’t calm my nerves and I wasn’t about to use one of my 3AM “talk me off the ledge” calls. I had an appointment the following day and I was sure I would be getting bad news. Without even allowing Dr. Google in, I knew the treatment would be torturous.
I sent a message into the world of twitter. Maybe if I just purged the fear, I’d be able to get some rest.
“Can’t sleep. Appointment tomorrow. So scared to hear bad news. #BCSM”
I was still a dim twit at the time. When did this “#” turn into something called a hashtag? It was the dreaded pound sign on the phone pad that forced me through endless robots before finally being connected to a real live person. If I am to be totally honest, in my mind, it was still a tic-tac-toe board.
A moment later, it was the most powerful symbol on the globe.
“AnneMarie, I know how you feel. You aren’t alone. Try to sleep.”
I stared at the computer screen and the tears began streaming down my face. A complete stranger, someone from South Africa, who was following #bcsm, saw my message and reached out to comfort me. This simple act of kindness not only enabled me to finally rest my mind and get some sleep, it made me realize an exceptionally special community was growing.
This was no longer just a chat that took place for one hour on Monday evenings. It was the beginning of an extraordinary movement. At 3AM on a lonely and fearful November morning, #BCSM was woven into the tapestry of my life.
Friendships have been formed that are as real and genuine as anything I have in my 3D world. There is love. There is unconditional support and acceptance. Good news is celebrated, not so good news is NEVER dismissed. Sometimes, you don’t want a cheerleader. Sometimes, you want someone to say, “THAT sucks and I’m so sorry.” Many times, “conversations” that begin like that, strangely turn into a giggle session.
The chat takes care of one hour a week. The hashtag is the umbrella under which we all stand the other 167 hours. The batsignal. Like many others, I try to reach out when I see a tweet appended with that hashtag. Most always, someone is around to do exactly what was done for me when I was having my melt down. The caring is palpable. The love jumps right through the monitor.
Never was this more apparent to me than it was this past January. I was with my mom who was having a biopsy of a suspicious area on her rib. It was simply a biopsy. I wasn’t expecting results and therefore, I was solo for this outpatient procedure. I was texting my family with updates throughout the afternoon. I sent them a rather funny picture of her just as she was getting ready to go in for the biopsy.
Over the next two hours, the routine biopsy was no longer routine and I was alone. First came the good news that the procedure was over; then, her lung was punctured. Texts to my family, limited information to relay despite their repeated questions sent my anxiety into the stratosphere. And then, information that I could not, WOULD NOT text to anyone. I was in a panic over the lung until it got far worse.
The doctor came to tell me my mom’s cancer had metastasized. She knew and I had to go face her as soon as they stabilized her in the recovery room. Once again, I was in that familiar place: walking around in circles unable to calm my nerves with nowhere to turn.
I turned to twitter. I turned to the COMMUNITY that is #BCSM.
“I was not supposed to be a #FearlessFriend to my mom. It appears she is #metastatic. After 5 years and 4 mos. #bcsm”
The outpouring of love and support was instantaneous and unconditional and it came at me in waves. I wasn’t alone. I was lifted by global support of many people, most of whom I’ve only connected with via those short 140 character twitter bursts.
The ways in which the #BCSM community has enriched my life and expanded my world are impossible to capture with mere words. Having the community step from twitter to Facebook and now to this website speaks volumes to the vision of Jody and Alicia. Having Deanna join forces brings a depth that truly can’t be described.
Mostly, it’s about all of us…. whether we choose to speak or we choose to quietly watch and learn, we are all connected. We are all making a difference no matter how grand or how small and we are all learning that together, we are stronger than the sum of our parts. Together, we can and will change lives.
Me? I’m simply grateful for the people that this community has brought into my life.
Editor’s note: Thank you AnneMarie for sharing your thoughts on #BCSM. This global community continues to grow each day! To read more of AnneMarie’s work, visit her blog, Chemobrain, or follow her on twitter @chemobrainfog.