After a really dedicated month or two of blogging, I sort of fell off the regular posting train there, didn’t I? And during Breast Cancer Awareness Monthno less, when I had so many topics that I wanted to post about it. Alas, after a few months of relatively low key unemployment, my October got REALLY busy. Busier than I’ve been since my dissertation defense last December. Here’s just a sampling of what I was up to in October that kept me away from writing:
- I spent four days in Savannah with my family celebrating both my husband & a cousin’s shared birthday and another cousin’s wedding. It was a BLAST.
- I spent three days volunteering at and attending the Network for Public Health Law conference here in Atlanta, networking my tail off and learning so much about this fascinating aspect of public health. If you follow me on Twitter, I was blowing it up with conference tweets there for a bit using the hashtag #PHLC2012.
- I spent four days in Washington DC taking a series of informational meetings on public health careers within the federal government and government affairs that a long time friend and colleague of my mom’s generously offered to set up for me. I also got to see some of my closest friends from Atlanta, almost all of whom have relocated to DC over the years, including their cutie kids Alice and Soren!
- I also had a series of informational meetings with folks working in public health here in the Atlanta area that came out of my networking at the NPHL conference.
- I took part in a number of public health related webinars and web/twitter chats, something I’ve been doing regularly since last spring in order to learn as much as I can about the current state of public health and the big challenges facing those working in the field.
- I volunteered at two health fairs on behalf of the Atlanta affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, helping to hand out important information on breast health care, mammography, and breast cancer, something I’ve been doing now for about seven months.
- I volunteered twice with the Atlanta Track Club, helping them prepare for the Atlanta Marathon and Marathon Relay that took place on October 28th. I LOVE getting to know people in the Atlanta running community and being a part of these events even if I wasn’t running – so inspiring!
- Speaking of running, I ran in the Winship Win the Fight 5K to raise money for the Winship Cancer Center at Emory University. I also walked in the American Cancer Society Making Strides event in Marietta and ran in another local race as well.
- I cheered on my friends on the last day of the Atlanta 3 Day for the Cure, which unfortunately overlapped with my DC trip so I couldn’t take part on the other days.
- And in the midst of all that, I got the worst head cold I’ve had in years that is still with me more than two weeks later. Ironically, I’m pretty sure I picked it up from the Health Policy Director for the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee.
Plus I was still trying to keep up with my usual job searching and training activities throughout all of that. As I said, it was a crazy busy month and I’m honestly not surprised I got sick in the middle of it. I haven’t been out running around like this in a pretty long time. And with all of that going on, something had to give and that something was my blog, just for a bit.
BUT! Looking at my calendar for November, things look a lot calmer. Things seem to maybe, possibly, be settling in on the job search front (no more details for now until things are more definite… ) and I’m not planning to attend any races or big advocacy events in November. In fact, the only really big thing on my calendar is my husband and I’s first trip home to New York for Thanksgiving in nine years. So my big goal for this month is to pick up where I left off with my blog. Which brings me to #NHBPM…
#NHBPM is the Twitter hashtag associated with WEGO Health’s National Health Blog Post Month. WEGO Health is an online network of health activists that I’ve been keeping up with primarily via Twitter over the last few months. WEGO’s primary goal is to connect health activists using social media platforms and to help health bloggers especially by providing useful resources and inspiration. WEGO Health also sponsors weekly twitter chats focused on various challenges facing online health activists that I’ve found pretty interesting, including one on breast cancer activism last week.
Inspired by other November writing challenges, like NaNoWriMo and BlogHER’s NaBloPoMo, National Health Blog Post Month is WEGO Health’s latest initiative to help foster conversations amongst the health activist community of which I consider myself a member. The challenge is relatively simple in concept: 30 health-related blog posts in 30 days. To help with this challenge, WEGO Health has set up different writing prompts for each day of November that I’m mostly going to try to stick to. I say mostly because I’ve looked over the prompts and there are some days where I’m just not inspired by either of the prompts that were given. So on those days, I’ll go “off script” a bit and instead post on the topics that I’ve been meaning to write about for a long time now. Knowing myself and how I work, I can already tell you that I won’t necessarily get a post up every single day either (like, uh, yesterday… ). But it’s my goal that by the end of November, I will have written and posted 30 different blog posts relevant to my little corner of the health activist world, which is breast cancer research advocacy.
Since I’m a day behind already, I’m going to roll my #NHBPM response for Day 1 right into this blog post. For each day of this challenge, there are two prompts and as bloggers, we’re challenged to reply to one of them. So, for Day 1 the prompt I’m choosing to start with is:
Why I write about [my] health…
First and foremost, I should note that I differ from the majority of WEGO Health’s bloggers because I generally don’t write about my own health (other than talking about my training for events) and I definitely don’t write about my experiences with a given health condition from the perspective of a patient. While I do choose to focus my efforts on one particular disease (breast cancer, natch), I instead write my blog from my perspective as the daughter of a cancer survivor, a biomedical health researcher, and a passionate research advocate. As I’ve dug further into the breast cancer advocacy community, I’ve come to realize that, through no fault of their own, health research advocates, while well meaning, are often ill-informed about the actual process and needs of biomedical research. Rather, I think this mis-information is the fault of scientists who have done an exceptionally poor job advocating for themselves and educating the public about why science and health research is so critical if we want to live in a world with breast cancer. Or diabetes. Or Alzheimer’s disease. Or any of these diseases that are stealing our loved ones from us far too frequently. So as a biomedical research scientist (I studied neural/immune control of heart function as an undergraduate and Alzheimer’s disease and mild cognitive impairment for my doctoral work), I decided it was time for me to heed the advice of Ghandi and be the change that I wanted to see in the world.
Ultimately, I have three primary goals that I’m working towards by writing this blog:
- I want to be the best advocate I can be by learning as much as I can about the current state of breast cancer research, funding, and policy. Researching and writing this blog helps me achieve that for myself.
- I want to help my fellow advocates be the best advocates they can be by helping them to understand the biomedical research community and its needs from an insider’s perspective. I don’t think I do this nearly enough, and I want to change that.
- I want to inspire those who are currently on the sidelines to get into the game when it comes to health advocacy, whether they choose to focus on breast cancer in particular or not. We are all human beings walking around in vulnerable bodies, which means we all stand to benefit from a better understanding of public health best practices and from more/better biomedical research. I hope that by highlighting various ways to get involved in advocating for improved health education, greater disease awareness, and increased research funding, I can motivate others to join me in my efforts.
So that’s why I choose to write about health issues. Hopefully with each post that I write, both throughout #NHBPM and beyond, I’m getting closer to achieving those goals!