When Susannah Breslin got breast cancer, she shared the news with 50,000 people.
Breslin, a Forbes blogger who writes about “irreverent life and work advice,” made her diagnosis the subject of her most recent blog post, “The Business About My Breasts.”
In a culture that values youth and shuns mortality, Breslin has made an unconventional choice. It’s not the first time the blogger has made an illness public however. Last August, she blogged about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after Hurricane Katrina for the Atlantic.
Breslin told the Daily Dot in an email that she found blogging about illness to be therapeutic.
“It externalizes it,” she said. “It makes it real. It forces you to accept help and compassion from people, something I’m not always good at.”
The article was met with an overwhelmingly compassionate reception in the comments section, on Twitter, and on Google+.
Once a private matter, illness-blogging has publicized some peoples’ greatest struggles. At the Daily Dot, we’ve written about Shane Burcaw, who blogs about spinal muscular atrophy, and Alice Pyne, a teen who blogs about life with lymphoma. Kris Carr’s blog, Crazy Sexy Cancer, was turned into a movie. Some illness-blogging addresses mental illness as well, as in Penelope Trunk’s blog posts about Asperger’s syndrome.
According to Anthony McCosker, a professor at the University of Melbourne, writing about illness helps people to control and understand disease. In Blogging and Illness: Recovering in Public he writes, “Much of the work on illness and the Internet focuses on the liberatory and empowering act of story telling.”
For Breslin, the personal process is what makes or breaks illness-blogging.
“It’s all about the writing,” she said. “And the attitude. If you’re a self-pitying sack of illness constantly cogitating on your crap and expecting other people to care, then you suck. If you’re brave, you need to show other people how to be brave
With her post, Breslin is doing just that.
Photo by Susannah Breslin