Cancer online: Finding support on the internet

Image courtesy of DigitalArt /

Image courtesy of DigitalArt /

This blog entry is inspired by a very brave young girl I have been following on the internet over the last few months. Many of you will have followed her well before I stumbled across her story. That girl is Talia Joy Castellano. Diagnosed with cancer in 2007, and relapsing again in 2008, Talia regularly blogged throughout her 5 year fight with cancer. Talia sadly passed away on the 16th July 2013 aged 13yrs. In addition to blogging, Talia also recorded and shared many makeup tutorials including how to put on false eyelashes for others suffering from hair loss due to cancer treatment. She was followed by millions across the globe and without doubt inspired many young cancer sufferers to keep going and live their life to the maximum. Despite her illness she achieved many great things including a clothing line which will soon be released.

You can view the legacy of videos from Talia on her channel here or follow her story on her family’s facebook group, Angels for Talia.

Talia is not alone in reaching out and making her mark on the world via social media….

  • Zach Sobiech past away in May this year aged 18yrs. He was suffering from a rare bone cancer. Before his death Zach wrote the song “Clouds” about his battle with cancer. He inspired many people with this song (and others from his album that was released a shortly before his death) and he helped raise a phenomenal amount of money for cancer research. His song will continue to be an inspiration for many across the globe.
  • Lauren “Lola” Scott was diagnosed with metastatic retro-peritoneal undifferentiated soft tissue sarcoma in 2009. You can follow her quest to complete her bucket list on her Love Like Lola blog.
  • Helen Fawkes, a news correspondent for the BBC, blogs about her life with cancer and her ‘list for living’. You can visit her inspirational blog here.

Sometimes it is not the sufferer but rather their family that turns to social media to share their story, raise awareness, seek support and/or offer advice to others in their family’s situation. One of these families is that of Claudia. Now 7 years old, Claudia was only five when she was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour. Her family, primarily her mum, regularly update followers of Claudia’s progress via the Claudia’s Cause Facebook page. Claudia’s family also raise a lot of money through this page for charities and to help fund research. Claudia’s mum has also previously spoken of the enjoyment that her daughter gets from hearing how many supporters she has. In that sense, social media can benefit in many ways:

  • Benefit the blogger by providing access to support from others and providing a source of enjoyment, hope and/or relief
  • Benefit other sufferers who may feel inspired or find comfort in reading about, and connecting with, someone else who understands what they are going through
  • Benefit the general public by raising our awareness, providing us with a mechanism to support research (e.g., by raising donations or getting involved in charity events) and make us thankful for every day with our families
  • Benefit the charities and researchers who work hard to find a cure

I am sure the list of positives goes on…

There will be many more pages like those by Talia, Zach, Lauren, Helen and Claudia which are helping to raise awareness and bring light out of a dark situation. This is just one of the many positive contributions that social media can bring, and one of my reasons for sharing this blog post. For every negative that people raise about social media, there is a positive right there to counterbalance it. Sometimes it’s nice to share a good news story.

I will continue to follow Claudia’s cause and Talia’s family and I wish them all the very best.

Together we can beat Cancer

Having witnessed the impact of cancer on many of those around me, I have decided to raise funds for Cancer Research UK when I run the Great North Run in September. The Great North Run is the second largest half marathon (13.1 miles) in the world!

More than 1 in 3 of us will develop some form of cancer at some point in our lives, and almost all of us will know of friends and/or family who are affected. Let us help find a cure for this horrible disease.

If you would like to help raise funds for Cancer Research please sponsor me on my Just Giving page – this is a recognised safe and easy way to donate and the money goes straight to the charity, no middle man. Every single donation, no matter how big or small, is greatly appreciated – every penny helps πŸ™‚

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!


7 responses to “Cancer online: Finding support on the internet

  1. I was painfully aware of some of this brave little cancer stricken children. Sadly, the scourge of cancer affects us all in some way. I often wonder why so much money is raised for cancer research, and no visible headway is made in finding the answers we all seek.
    Thanks for highlighting these brave little ones.

    • Thank you Princess Shimari. I know that people can lose faith in cancer research when no obvious advances are made (and some believe there may be a conspiracy behind this) but I do believe that we have many many amazing researchers out there who are doing all they can to find a cure and they are making progress it’s just that we won’t get to hear about this progress until something is deemed significant enough to announce (and everything has been tried and tested as safe).

      As a doctoral student myself (although not in the area of health), I have faith that there are many researchers with good intentions out there. Let’s just hope they find a cure soon.

  2. Wow, what wonderful stories. Cancer can be such a dark place, but these children have managed to find something powerful within themselves. Thank you for sharing their stories.

  3. Good luck in the Great North Run – my husband has run it a few times.
    I have lost several friends last year to cancer all at too young an age. These blogs do provide comfort and inspiration.

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