Having Cancer in a Digital Age

Not many years ago, I had a dim view of the Internet’s ability to create cultures of anything productive. Living and working with others constantly connected to—and distracted by—digital tools left me skeptical that any new relational depth was being plumbed through our wired lives.  I didn’t even have a cell phone until last year and was quick to judge others who ignored their children to carry on conversations in public on their phones. 

Then I got sick.  Really sick.  In a matter of months, I went from being a healthy forty-one-year-old religion professor, wife, and mother to a virtual invalid with a broken back, a stage IV cancer diagnosis, and a grim prognosis for the future.

To keep family and friends updated during the early days following the diagnosis, my brother created a Caring Bridge site for me, a website dedicated to connecting people with serious illnesses with those who care about them.  News of my diagnosis spread quickly; just as quickly loved ones, friends, and eventually even strangers signed up to receive my Caring Bridge updates.  From my narration of what stage IV cancer had done to my body to sharing the grief of having to resign from my very full and wonderful life, each of my posts was met with dozens of responses on the Caring Bridge site, as well as emails, cards, packages, visits and calls from people from all corners of my life.  It was startling to realize that through our connectedness via Caring Bridge I was being surrounded by a cloud of witnesses greater than any I could have previously imagined.

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