When Allison Ruddick was diagnosed with stage 3 colorectal cancer in October 2014, she turned to the world of hashtags.
After her initial diagnosis it wasn’t clear if the cancer had metastasized, so she was in for a nerve-wracking wait, she says. She wanted outside advice. “But they don’t really give you a handbook, so you search kind of anywhere for answers,” Ruddick says. “Social media was one of the first places I went.”
Under the hashtags #colorectalcancer and #nevertooyoung on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, other patients were sharing a fuller picture of their experience with cancer treatments.
Later she found even more advice on specialized message boards. Patients posted everything from the details of their surgeries to the ice packs they liked best as they recovered. “These weren’t things that my doctor could tell me, and as much as I appreciate their expertise, it’s also really limited by the fact that they’ve never really experienced any of this themselves,” Ruddick says.