Elephants And Tea - March 2021 - 13

Q&A WITH THE CANCER PATIENT
Jen: You mention survivor's guilt, and I
know that's something a lot of us struggle
with. You see a lot of loss in running this
page, can you speak to that more?
TCP: Being as active as I am in the cancer
community, loss is inevitable. It's a part of
the journey. Meeting and loosing these people. When I look back, at every milestone,
cancerversary, rebirthday, remission, it's
always part of it. When you look back and
ref lect- the people who've touched your
life and how you've touched their life as
well. Aside from the survivor's guilt, it's
also how you look back at your own personal struggles, and the struggles that the
people around you had to go through, and
how much you owe it to those people that
you got here.
Jen: You've shared the word community so
much. Tell me more about how people have
touched your life.
TCP: When I first heard that I relapsed, I
strongly considered not doing treatment. I
didn't even tell my family this at the time,
but I thought maybe I should just go back
home and wait it out. I talked to one of my
closest friends right now, who I met shortly
after I relapsed, and she had just finished
a stem cell transplant. She told me what
she was going through regarding biopsies,
hospital stays, and chemo. To be able to
connect to her and hear her experience
firsthand, even the nitty gritty bad parts, I
thought well damn, she fucking survived!
If she could do it, I could do it too!
That was pretty much the first of many
instances of how support and community,
whether in-person or online has a huge
impact on me. It was a monumental part
of what I went through. From almost not
wanting to do treatment, to talking to someone who had been there before. It was very
uplifting. Since then, it was ingrained in
me that online cancer support is a resource,
something that I can reach out too. Even
if someone is 1,000 miles away from me,
they can still identify with what I'm going
through. To have your own feelings validated and acknowledged through someone else
makes a world of a difference.
Jen: So that brings us to your own online
community. How did this start?

TCP: I need to go deeper on the back story. It
all started with cancer memes. Shortly after
my First Descents trip, one of my camp mates,
Ashley, found out her breast cancer came
back, and was now metastatic. She was just
having a hard time with treatments and tried
some alternate routes. But her cancer kept
progressing, treatment wasn't working, and
she couldn't tolerate the treatment anymore.
She was transitioning to hospice, and I talked
to her almost every day. She told me " I'm so
sick and tired of people checking on me " .
Texts from people demanding for updates.
People who donated to her go fund me or
sent her coloring books and casseroles. You
feel somewhat obliged to respond. I listened
to her, and it just hit me- I think I should
just send her stuff to cheer her up. I started
making cancer memes and sending them to
cheer her up.
I was in a lymphoma support group on
Facebook, that was very informal and inappropriate, and memes are constantly shared.
I started sharing the memes I sent to Ashley
in this group and posting a few other places
as well.
And I slowly started noticing that every
time I posted a meme it had a lot of humor,
but it hits real, and catalyzed real ass discussions about what we go through. It hits you
right in the feels, and the flow of conversation
and discussion come out naturally. Such hard
hitting issues, portrayed in a lighthearted
way, makes it easier to talk about.
From that, my friends said I should start
a page, and I thought that's not a bad idea!
I liked the template of one of my favorite
nursing pages (@nurselifern) with the meme/
community page format. Everyone knows the
story feed is where the real tea is at.
Jen: How did you decide on a name and
profile pic, both of which have become iconic
legends in the cancer community?
TCP: So the page was started in October 2018.
The first thing that popped into my head was
that the profile picture should be the hold
your breath face [from the CT machines]. The
page was private for three weeks, because I
didn't like the names I was sorting through.
But once I got The Cancer Patient, with the
profile pic, it just fit.
Once I got the name though, I still had so
much self-doubt such as " can I really talk
about cancer on a daily basis? Can I really

Conversation

come up with content and memes and sustain
this page? Am I going to run out of gas? " So
after three weeks, I told myself I wanted to
create 100 memes before I started posting,
just to reassure myself I could sustain the
page for one month. I was sending memes
to my friends, who said just fucking start
the page already!
I wanted to post every day, and not talk
about myself, as this is a community page.
Maintain anonymity. The first few days, my
name was in the bio and then I took it out.
My goal for the page was to get 100 followers
a week. In three weeks, I was at 1,000. I knew
I had the skill set to pull off a support page
fueled by humor and shared experiences, but
I never expected it to grow that fast!
Jen: Running the page involves dealing
closely with cancer on a daily basis. Personally, I would be so overwhelmed to do
that. How do you manage?
TCP: There are days that it is overwhelming.
I think a lot of it has to do with having a
mental and emotional stamina to withstand
hearing all the stories and converting those
stories into content.
As a registered nurse, there's a part of me
that knows how to compartmentalize. Also,
I started this two years out from my treatment. I don't think I would have been able
to pull this off in the middle of treatment.
Jen: This page involves a lot of time and
effort. What keeps you doing it?
TCP: I have an insatiable need to pay it forward. So many people around me helped
me get through treatment. People I met
online, various support groups, non-profits,
organizations - I wouldn't be here today if
it weren't for their help. I've met strangers
from the internet, people I didn't know at
all, who offered me money, groceries, or
stuff like that. I may never be able to pay
them all back but knowing that I have the
skill set and the platform to impact and help
a lot of people and having the opportunity
to pay it forward is what drives me to do it.
Jen: Tell me a little bit about how it got
started?
TCP: When I started the page in 2018, I had
a hand-me-down iPhone 5S from my brothELEPHANTSANDTEA.COM
MARCH 2021

13


http://www.ELEPHANTSANDTEA.COM

Elephants And Tea - March 2021

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Elephants And Tea - March 2021

Contents
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