Monday, April 30, 2012

Bullying In Melaland, Including Cyber-bullying And On The Streets

Soapbox time. And I've got a healthy dose of attirude flowing. Uh-oh. Time to vent, preach, and have at it. Watch out. And guess what? This is directed at adults. Who ought to know better.

What am I up in arms about? We've got bullying happening in the melanoma community. It's happening in cyberspace as well as in the real life, out on the streets life, of warriors. The cyber-bullying seems to mostly come from within the melanoma community. The real-life out-on-the-streets bullying seems to mostly come from people who see a warrior, particularly stage 4 and don't believe they're sick or pass other false judgements.

The first type of cyber-bullying is carried out by adults who claim to have melanoma themselves. The cases I'm aware of are all directed at stage 4 warriors who are actively fighting active disease. These men and women are truly in the fight for their very lives and should be getting respect, compassion, support, and prayers from those of us who also have melanoma. They don't need someone coming at them, usually on Facebook as this format lends itself to this type of behavior, and harassing them. Whether in private message or on their wall, these bullies torment warriors by telling them they don't have melanoma and are faking it. They are cruel and vicious in their attacks and can even try and make their attacks sound like "jokes." For some reason, bullies seem to gravitate to the warriors who are on grueling treatments and are already tired and sick. Like other types of bullies, these people look for the weakest and pick on them in an effort to make themselves look like big shots; like "some body." I wish I could explain their behavior in a way that makes sense. It's hard to "make sense" out of cruelty. They also claim to be "people of faith."

That's one reason I'm bringing my soapbox out of retirement. I'm a person of faith, who is stage 3b melanoma, and I get the privilege of being part of the lives of many warriors of all stages and that includes stage 4. I stand in awe of these men and women and I'll be damned if others are going to harass them to the point of driving them away from the support they need. This problem has got to be exposed and fought. Our stage 4 friends have got to know they've got friends and a community that supports them and will not tolerate the bullies among us.

This, in red, is added on September 21, 2012. I'm not a happy camper! I've become aware of YET another type of cyber-bullying, again usually against stage 4 warriors and this comes from people who do NOT have melanoma. Do not stalk family or friends and go from page to page trying to find out details about someone's illness. If your family or friend isn't telling you something...there is a reason. Do not use other people's pages to find out what you won't learn by picking up a phone. Facebook is meant for many is NOT meant to be a place of meanness, vindictiveness, and outright lies. I understand some people have a messed up sense of reality, but again, if you know someone and they are NOT talking to you or otherwise giving you information, there's a reason. Don't air your business online, don't stalk, don't and create trouble by trying to turn people against each other or by trying to drive people from Facebook or from other means of support. And, do not think other people are stupid or naive. We may, or may not, catch on right away. But we WILL catch on. Don't mess with warriors. We stand together and I stand with stage 4. Don't mess with them.

Cyber-bullies in Melaland, you are on notice.

The second type of cyber-bullying I'm aware of is the type that comes when a warrior dies and their family mourns and shares on Facebook. They are entitled to their grief and entitled to express it as best suits them. If a person doesn't like what they share, feels they're too morbid or depressing...get off their friends list. Block their posts. Ignore them. They are entitled to share their pain on their own page! NO ONE is entitled to make comments that pull them down or belittle their pain. NO ONE is entitled to tell them "for their own good" that they need to get a grip. NO ONE is entitled to get nasty with them about their own posts. Again these people can often be "people of faith." They claim to be people who "care" and only have their grief-stricken friend's "best interests at heart". What they are accomplishing is intensifying pain and causing the mourner to question their own grief.

As a person of faith who's a pastor who is Hospice trained and pastoral-care trained who has stage 3b melanoma and a family who may one day grieve me...this type of cyber-bullying must stop. It's mean, unwarranted, and one day these bullies may find themselves in a similar situation and they will want some compassion not criticism.

Cyber-bullies in the melanoma community, I'm angry and this behavior will not be tolerated. I'm tired of reading posts by friends who have been recipients of bullying. People of faith don't act like this. People who really have melanoma themselves don't act like this against fellow warriors and/or their families. People of character and integrity don't act like this period. Especially towards people who are sick and fighting to live.

I write and admin both Melanoma Prayer Center and Melanoma Grief Chapel on Facebook. I choose to stand with my own and lift them up. Nobody better mess with them.

This post you are reading is actually the second post I've done today about this topic. After I posted the first one about cyber-bullying on Melanoma Prayer Center I heard from two people pretty quickly. The first is the big sister of a warrior and the second is the mother of a deceased warrior. What they each wrote pertains to bullying aimed at their loved ones in real life...not in cyberspace.

From the big sister: "It happens in real life too! My brother is a stage IV warrior, but he's encountered people in our hometown who don't believe he has cancer 1) because they equate cancer to chemo and it's futile to explain to them the unlessness of chemo on stage IV brain mets and they see his red face and say, "well if you have skin cancer from the sun, why are you getting sunburned?" They're they lucky ones who haven't had to experience radiation burns! 2) He doesn't look sick...until he takes off his shirt and you see the Frankenstein like scars and swelling that are left behind after stripping lymph nodes or he takes off his hat and you see where they cut into his brain! And even though he's 35 now, just like when he was 5 and getting bullied on the school bus, big sister couldn't hold her tongue. Everyone in Walgreens that day will remember me FOR SURE! In the Army, every warrior has a battle buddy..the one who's got your back, no matter what! In this war, I'M his battle buddy and I've got his back. I'll fight melanoma, ignorance and bullies for him, even though he's bigger than me, because I'm his big sister and they're all going to have to come through ME FIRST! And I'm not as nice as he is!"

From the mother: " My daughter endured a lot of bullying from adults with her Melanoma, but the worst one was from someone who wrote her a letter and told her that it was because she must have done something wrong and God was punishing her. Oh, the tears that others can cause someone is cruel. My daughter didn't "look" sick until the last three weeks she was alive and people claimed she was faking sick. People should never judge what another is going through - or judge at all for that matter as there is only one judge and we will see him someday in Heaven."

Bullying anywhere is wrong. It is hurtful. But that's the bullies intent. Often when we think of "bullying" we think of kids and teens doing it; cruel teasing, maybe some physical contact. It makes the news and youtube. The consequences of bullying have proven horrendous. Nobody should ever be bullied, particularly someone fighting cancer. And adults inflicting this kind of pain?!  

People with melanoma, even advanced stage 4, do not look like other cancer patients. They don't "look sick." That's part of the nature of the beast. All the horrendous tumors usually aren't where the general public can see them. But they're there. 

This behavior must stop. Perhaps we need to step up our awareness campaigns to include what we "look like" at each stage. Maybe people need to see we look like everybody else and in many ways we are like everybody else, but in other ways we aren't. Looks can be deceiving. Sickness doesn't always look sick.

Because I'm a person of faith, I'm going to practice what I preach. I'm going to pray for those who engage in all kinds of bullying and ask others to pray too. I ask others to expose the bullies among us and when you see bullying at work, take appropriate steps to stop it. Report cyber-bullies on Facebook to Facebook. Send them a message to stop it. Stand with the person who has been attacked. Be a "big sister" or "mama bear" to a warrior who needs you, whether on the street or online.

Warriors fighting to live and those who grieve shouldn't be driven away from Facebook or anywhere else. Those who bully them should. Warriors shouldn't be driven into their houses or scared to check their mail either.

Bullies of people with melanoma, be on notice. And, remember, God is watching and I guarantee He's not pleased or laughing. Keep that in mind. Change your ways.

We'll all be grateful!