In her PEOPLE.com blog, Diem Brown, the Real World/Road Rules Challenge contestant recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer, opens up with her usual wit and insight about coping with chemotherapy.
“Sandy, oh Sandy” I can hear John Travolta crooning away in Grease, but now “Sandy” evokes a slightly different memory.
Forget “stranded at the drive-in.” For the East Coasters affected by dear old Hurricane Sandy, it’s more like stranded at your powerless apartment realizing, “Oh dear lawd, I’m addicted to technology!”
It’s funny how dependent we have become on technology. As I write this blog on my cell phone, it’s even more apparent. When you have no power, your cell phone is like a life-line on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. Have a question about what’s going on? Easy! Just check Twitter to connect with the rest of the world. But like on the game show, there is a limited number of times you can check – because after a storm like Sandy, cell service becomes spotty and your battery life is just as limited.
Right now I’m at an Upper Manhattan Starbucks, charging my phone. I had made a video for this week about “the funny road to bald-dom,” but no “free” Internet wifi has enough bandwidth to upload it. Which got me thinking.
I’m here at this Starbucks with my usual two-hat motif – one hat forwards, one slouchy hat pulled to the back covering every inch of my bald head. Yet, I just made a video of my bald self, documenting my “road to bald-dom” totally exposed. So why do I race for a head scarf as my sister enters my bedroom or frantically tug at my hat as a gust of wind threatens to expose my soft bare bulbous scalp?
I think because while writing a blog or documenting something on your cell phone or flip camera you feel like it’s a modern version of a diary entry. You are not face-to-face with someone who can judge your thoughts or emotions. It’s just yourself and an electronic device whose only job is to record … i.e., no electronic equipment has a judgment switch.
Understanding the Trolls – Sort Of
I have realized this “distance” between a person and the content they put out there makes more room for honesty – but also more room for trolls. Yes trolls, as in people who make nasty comments behind a cloth of invisible identity.
From the very beginning of this journey I have vowed to be honest in these blogs and videos. I have loved reading comments and supportive words of kindness, and I’ve also appreciated words of advice or concern and appreciated people’s willingness to disclose their own experience with infertility, cancer, invisible illnesses, etc.
However, the few trolls who used their invisible identity cloaks to inflict pain through nasty ill-willed comments … I never understood until now.
I feel I am stronger dealing with my cancer/chemo side effects this time around. I can look in the mirror and become fascinated with the medical side effects the drugs have had. Yet, I am still not comfortable going outside without a head wrap. I am not even comfortable having my loved ones see me so … raw … so … vulnerable.
Yes vulnerable. I have faith I will get more comfortable in my skin as time passes, but isn’t ironic that my loved ones have only seen me with out head wraps on the Internet? I have more guts behind a self-made video online than I have in person. So I guess the trolls that have left me death wishes in the comment section here on this PEOPLE blog also have more “guts” from behind their computer screens.
Shocking Death Comments
When I first read comments talking about my impending death I was shocked, hurt and amazed. Why would someone wish death upon someone they don’t even know?
I received death comments ranging from people saying I won’t survive this round of treatment, people saying I deserve to have cancer again because I didn’t remove both ovaries the first time, and even people saying that I don’t deserve to live because I delayed cancer treatment in order to freeze eggs. These comments created a pain that burned deep inside, a pain that I’ve never felt before.
I would learn to dismiss these trolls as people who are not happy with something in their own lives, who are just looking for a way to retaliate. Although it’s not easy, I can handle ill-willed comments, and being a person of faith I believe “God gives you what you can handle,” so I realize these few troll commenters lashed out at me so maybe they would not torment another person who couldn’t handle it at a particular moment. I, after all, have had the good fortune of soooo many beautiful people wishing me well 100 times over, which well out-numbers the few nasty troll commenters.
This might be a weird blog, but as I realized how dependent we are on technology from a power outage in Lower Manhattan. I think there is a gift in technology to be braver than we could ever be face-to-face. But there is a responsibility to also realize that being brave doesn’t mean being cruel. Expressing your feelings, views and opinions is one thing, but inflicting pain by being a cruel cyber bully shows a severe crack in character in my humble opinion.
I hope to become as brave as I am behind a computer screen. I think technology has given us so many ways to express ourselves and so many ways to have our voices heard. The question is … What do you want your voice to sound like?
Check back for updates every Thursday: Diem will be chronicling her journey through fertility treatments, chemotherapy and her quest to educate others about ovarian health exclusively for PEOPLE.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @DiemBrown.
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Diem Brown Blogs: What Hurricane Sandy Taught Me