Silvia Soo wrote her way through a breast cancer fight at her blog Cancer Fabulous. Now a survivor, she’s still writing, and has teamed up with Rethink Breast Cancer to create The Cancer Fabulous diaries. One part inspirational memoir, one part practical handbook, Cancer Fabulous Diaries documents the journey from diagnosis to recovery. Rethink is also launching a YouTube channel for those dealing with cancer and the people who love them. In advance of all this multimedia excitement, we caught up with Sylvia and MJ Decoteau of Rethink to talk about sharing stories, surviving, and thriving.
SDTC: Where did the channel come from? Why do you think it’s important?
The LiveLaughLearn videos evolved out of the peer-to-peer support work we do with young women. Whenever we would get a group of women together we’d notice that they would immediately start sharing tips, tricks and advice with each other. So we thought this would make a great video series to kick off our digital breast cancer channel. Each of the women featured in the LiveLaughLearn videos came up with the tip they wanted to share with other young women going through breast cancer themselves.
The digital breast cancer channel was created to help reach even more young women affected by and concerned about breast cancer across Canada (and the globe!). We create very unique content about the cause that speaks to young women in their own voice (with sass, style and high production value) and wanted to use the online platform to make these resources as widely available as possible.
SDTC: What kind of content will you guys be producing after these videos?
We have tons of ideas for more content and plan to roll out several new videos in 2015. Early ideas include a series on beauty tips to help overcome different issues that arise during cancer treatment, health and fitness, talking to your friends and family about cancer, and a series specifically for metastatic women. Stay tuned!
SDTC: What role do you hope the channel will play in the lives of women who haven’t been affected by cancer?
For those who haven’t been affected by cancer, we hope to give them more insight into the disease, prevention tips to help live a healthy lifestyle, understanding for what those who are going through it are dealing with, and maybe even inspire them to donate and keep our work going.
SDTC: Zines are really having a moment right now. What do you think is the reason for their enduring popularity?
We think zines are so popular because they provide information in an inspiring context. You can find them on just about any subject now (and now even breast cancer!) and the visual format really lends itself to sharing stories in a way that is easy to digest.
We created Cancer Fabulous Diaries as an alternative to all the clinical brochures women are handed when they are newly diagnosed. After connecting with blogger (and artist) Sylvia Soo we loved the rawness of her diary entries, how they captured all of the emotions that come with the breast cancer experience, and felt it would make a wonderful narrative thread for the zine. We wanted this resource to show young women the stories of other young women as well so readers know they are not alone, along with helpful tips and tricks from experts and those who have been through it. Cancer Fabulous Diaries is part inspiration memoir, part practical handbook. We’ve made it available in both print and online version because nothing can replace the beauty of flipping through a beautiful zine, but a digital companion can reach women wherever they are!
SDTC, for Sylvia: Why was it important for you to keep sharing your story beyond your blog?
I receive a lot of emails from people who stop by my blog Cancer Fabulous and tell me how inspirational my story has been to them. Some of them are going through breast cancer, while others are friends and family members of those experiencing it. I get a lot of emails telling me how I helped someone through their experience. These are the best emails. They encourage me to continue doing what I am doing.
I wanted to take my blogging a step further by creating a book/zine that would be a how-to/what to expect book that was easily accessible. I didn’t want anyone to have to flip through a big pile of text-heavy pamphlets in order to find the information they needed. I’d like to believe if you took all the information pamphlets they give you when you are diagnosed, condense it into a source that was interesting, personable, age-relatable, and readable – you end up with Cancer Fabulous. I had started to put my writing together as a digest myself when Rethink offered to help turn my diaries into a beautiful zine.
When we started the project we had so much information and so many interviews. Cancer Fabulous Diaries is the best of all that information. I think the wonderful team of designers and editors, brought together by Rethink Breast Cancer, did a great job.
I was very thorough on writing down questions, thoughts, feelings and experiences as I went through my journey. I wanted to help make someone else’s journey a little easier. The response has been amazing. A lot of feedback I get is from people who don’t actually have cancer. I get a lot of “I finished your book in one sitting because I couldn’t stop reading.” Sometimes you don’t know what is going through the mind of a loved one who is diagnosed with cancer. The ‘zine sheds some light on that.
Through my writing and blog I am more than happy to be an “open book” for others. My hope is that my story will continue to inspire people around the globe. By partnering with Rethink Breast Cancer, it is my hope that this resource will reach all the young women across Canada who have been or will be diagnosed with breast cancer. It can be a lonely journey, especially when you live in an isolated community. I hope I can make that journey a little less lonely.
I will also continue to blog on www.cancerfabulous.com. I don’t want anyone to read my story and wonder what happened to me. I think a lot of bloggers share their cancer experiences when they are in the thick of things. However, it’s more difficult to follow their lives after because they seem to disappear. I get that, but I want to blog through the good and bad times and to show others what life after cancer has been like for me. There are side effects to deal with, emotions to process, careers to pick up, and like me- sometimes a cancer re-occurrence. My story is far from over, so I just might have to write a sequel!