Friday, May 11, 2012


Three things happened this week that birthed this blog post.

First, I was catching up on my blog reading when I checked in on Jan from Mourning Has Broken; her post title caught my eye. By the time I was done reading it, my emotions had run the gamut. She had shared a secret she'd been harboring for years, and was so brave in revealing her truth that I couldn't comment quickly enough! This is what I wrote:

  • "When I first started reading this post and saw the words “blog party,” I thought oh, this is going to be a funny post. As I started reading I realized it was serious — but I thought you were telling the story of the girl in the video. THEN I finally realized you were telling your own story. And then I watched the video. And now I want to give you a great big hug and say you are AWESOME and brave and amazing for sharing your secret! So proud of you!! And so sorry you have suffered with this disorder on top of suffering with BC and lymphedema. It ain’t fair. Truth be told I think we all have idiosyncratic behaviors that we use to keep our anxieties at bay. Some people drink too much. Some eat too much (as you have described). Some have compulsive routines that bring a measure of calm to a very topsy turvy world. Some are hooked into being drama queens. Some people exercise too much. Oh, the list goes on. The important thing to know is that we’re all just trying to cope. And you are definitely not alone. I suspect you have helped more than one person with your sharing today. Good on you!"

That's a cancer surviver for you: Strong, brave, and not afraid to tell the truth. (To read Jan's revealing post, click here.) I continued on with my blog reading.

Next, I popped in and out of a number of blogs (you know how that goes: One blog leads to another, and another...) before I landed on a sweet little one that (again) caught my eye: "Things I'm afraid to tell you." Intriguing title. Sounds like what Jan just did. I keep reading.

I quickly learn that blogging has gotten too pretty, too perfect, and too polished (not my words, but those of other writers). In fact, a movement is underway to bring more honesty to the blogosphere

More honesty? Really? Again, I think of Jan's post. And I keep reading: A group of bloggers have challenged each other to be more authentic by writing about the stuff they don't normally discuss on their blogs. You know, the things they are afraid to tell you.

As I'm sure you guessed by now, these are not cancer bloggers. 
So what's this 'movement' all about? Blog envy. It's (apparently) a real thing. Bloggers see beautiful things on other beautiful sites and have a misperception that the blogger has a beautiful life too — free from the many things that make us all human. Bloggers want to see that their fellow bloggers aren't perfect.
Well come on over to Cancerland! I'll show you a community of bloggers that is not shy about sharing its dirty laundry. Heck, it's why we're here in the first place! Our blogs are our attempt to make sense out of cancer, purging our minds of the darkness that hides within its cracks and crannies. 

Yes, I had a good laugh at the humor of it all. But don't get me wrong — I mean no disrespect to anyone out there who is blogging about something other than cancer. (Talk about blog envy — I wish I wrote about travel, not tissue expanders!) We need those kinds of blogs too: The ones focused on the pretty things, the ones we go to in order to forget (for a moment, anyway) our troubles. They're all important. It's just that I had no idea that "blog envy" existed. 'cause I have never felt it. So I decided to leave a comment. And here is what I wrote:

  • "This is my first time visiting your blog (I followed a link to 'Things I'm afraid to tell you' and landed here). I feel compelled to leave you a post. I started blogging after a breast cancer diagnosis, and honesty is the backbone of my little corner of the blogosphere. I am stitched into a supportive, witty community of cancer survivors who tell it like it is every single day. No holds barred over there. No one afraid to tell their truth. There is transparency aplenty. And talent. And humor! Lots of humor. Really. But I had no idea that it wasn't like that in other web niches. Never really thought about it before. Kinda having an AHA moment over here — seeing a benefit to cancer I never noticed before. Thank you!"

I felt a great deal of honesty and transparency in leaving my comment. Maybe one person will check out my blog and discover some of your blogs too. We never know the ripple effect that one toe in the water can create. (Ever hopeful am I.)

Lastly, I read a brilliant post by Suleika Jaouad, who writes a column in The New York Times about her experience as a young adult with cancer (in Suleika's case, it is acute myeloid leukemia). The title of her article also caught my eye: "Posting Your Cancer on Facebook."

Whoa. Talk about truth telling. I don't share in that way on Facebook. That's my cancer-free zone. I'm just not comfortable talking about all my 'stuff' to all my peeps when all of them probably don't really want to know all the gorey details. That's why I have this blog. If you are a regular reader, you're not afraid of my truth or my cancer. And that makes me feel safe. Facebook does not feel safe to me in that regard.

Suleika was deep into chemo when she decided to finally "come clean" on Facebook. She writes that it felt "inauthentic, even dishonest" that her FB profile did not reflect her current reality as a cancer patient. I have to give her props; I'm just not ready to do it. 

And that's not blog envy. That's just the truth.

(To read Suleika's revealing post, click here.)

Amended to add: The Huffington Post has picked up on this "truth-telling" phenomenon (aka, TIATTY). OY. Too bad no one mentions cancer bloggers...


  1. I read your blog because it is so honest, so real... I can be nothing less then honest in mine. Mine is about overcoming trials of childhood abuse to being married to a man who demeaned me and then raped me. In no way do I think what happened to me is anything like what you are going through. I started blogging so that I could rid myself of all the horrible feelings I have had about myself all my life and I found it worked, it made me take a long look at how I allowed negativity into my life and how I could change it. Unfortunately for you, you can't just blog away cancer. I guess it is one reason I read your blog because even though you have cancer, I see that you always try to find the good in it... Amazing blog as usual Renn

  2. I have never heard of "blog envy" either nor the challenge to write honestly?!

    I'm confused. What were they writing before?!

    I guess I never had to look very far to find women who were truth tellers. I was originally linked up with a PPROM group (preterm rupture of membranes - my first baby was born at 34 weeks).Most of the ladies in my group lost babies due to their water breaking early. Its some heartbreaking stuff.

    Then I got linked up with a congenital heart defect group...again a lot of women who were worried about their children or lost them.

    I guess I assumed that most people on the blogosphere told the truth about their life - good and bad?! I see I was a bit naive...

    Weird. Blog envy. Didn't know there was even such a thing.

    On a side note - you Renn are the ultimate truth teller. I love your outlook on life and your courage to tell the truth. Your truth got me through my own health scare and THAT is what the truth should be for. To reach out, to guide and offer support to those who might be going through the same thing. Or even when stripped down to its bare bone - truth is about hope, and hope whether found through a "mommy blogger" a "cancer blogger" or a "CHD blogger"etc - should have the ability to touch everyone whether they can empathize or not.

    Truth should not be used as some sort of gimic...

  3. @Luanna: Blogging really is a terrific avenue to rid ourselves of the negative crap that accumulates in life. (And you've gone through your share of negative crap.) Thank YOU for reading! PS: I love your line: "You can't just blog away your cancer." True dat!

    @Carrie: Blog envy is a crazy notion. I'm not sure why it surprised me either! I don't think it exists for writers of blogs based on serious issues. (Just a hunch.) Thank you for your kind words!

    Though other bloggers may not be writing about heavy stuff like many of us over here are, I applaude them for trying to dispel the myth of perfection. ;-)

  4. Agreed. Perfection is a mythical beast that should be slayed everywhere!

    Still an odd concept. Blog envy...



  5. Yes I got the idea for my blog from yours!

  6. Renn,
    I had the exact same reaction to Jan's post. I thought it was going to be funny, then it took me a while till I realized she was talking about herself. It was a brave thing for her to share that with us.

    I also saw the post about blogging's become too pretty! What land are they living in? All of us who are breast cancer bloggers share everything from our bathroom habits to our smallest fears. Not to sure I want to live in the pretty world although I did have fun perusing a decorator's website this afternoon. Just looking at the photos of beautiful homes & castles she's done made me feel like I'd gone on a short vacation.


  7. Brenda: Interesting you felt the same about Jan's post, and also that you "noticed" the emerging trend of blogging envy too. OY!

    I suspect regular bloggers might have a similar reaction upon visiting cancer blogs as you did when you visited the "pretty world" one: Nice place to visit, but I don't want to live there. Hence no need for blogging envy! ;-)

    Thanks for stopping by. Always nice to "see" you!

  8. Wow. This whole idea of blog envy is certainly a revelation. I started my blog because of breast cancer, too, but before that, I had started to add an informal blog to my art site just to talk about the nuts and bolts of making art. It was certainly a lot 'prettier' than talking about cancer, but it was no less honest for that.

    In the blogosphere, as in the rest of life, there has to be room for bloggers to tackle all sorts of subjects, I would think. There also has to be room for bloggers to decide what their intentions are. There's no rule that says that every blog and blogger has to be self-revelatory. One hopes that bloggers who write about cooking or gardening or politics or software are at least factual and honest about their individual perspectives, but I don't really care if the Photoshop blogger I visit reveals anything about her personal life. That's not what I'm there for.

    I don't know...maybe I just don't get this blog envy thing. [scratching head]

    Thanks for reminding me to visit Jan's blog. There's someone we can always count on to tell the truth with a generous heart. Like your own sweet self.

  9. Kathi: You are right, there is room for all! Well stated. Still scratching my head over here too. ;-) Thank you for your kind words!

  10. Ha ha, blog envy--really? I guess I didn't even consider NOT blogging truthfully. I doubt that there's any envy going on when, or should I say IF anyone reads mine. Disgusting details indeed...cancer is not pretty, nor is life as you're going thru treatment.
    Thanks for blogging truthfully and sharing links of others who do as well.

  11. loving this from new yawk

  12. Blog envy? I guess that must be similar to Facebook envy. My son told me recently that many feel jealous of others who post on Facebook. That's because most of what's on social networks is positive, the beautiful parts of life. I see little of the seedy side of life in the pictures people post or their status updates.

    Like you, Renn, I strive to be real. I want others to do the same because it speaks an honesty that so few people want to own up to in our culture of the rich and famous.

    Thanks for mentioning my blog. I hadn't meant the title of the post to be funny, but it's what came up from WEGO Health, so I just ran with it. And thanks for sharing the other links. It's good to expand our blogging repertoire. xx

  13. Jan: I think it's a youth thing. The younger you are, the more blog (or FB) envy there seems to be. People craft a persona and that's what they show the world. The older you get, the more real you become. Kinda like The Velveteen Rabbit! It is an honor to mention your story, as I said, so proud of you for being "real." xoxo


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