“ Seek out someone who is or has been in your same situation. I never thought that I would say this, but, take to social media. You never know what or who you’ll find out there. I have found some of my best brain tumor and cancer resources through Facebook and Twitter.
Catherine Blotner is an extremely active mAss Kicker. She is the youngest thriver we have profiled, but she has accomplished so much in such a short time! She revitalized #BTSM (Brain Tumor Social Media hashtag on Twitter) for brain tumors patients, healthcare professional, and healthcare advocates to connect and discuss in real-time trending issues with brain tumors. She started her own blog about her experiences as a college student dealing with the effects of her brain tumor surgery, “Plated” Life. We were able to catch up with her on her winter break to ask her a few questions…
mK: Thanks for doing this Catherine! What/ when was your diagnosis? How did you find out about your diagnosis?
CB: I was initially told that I had a brain tumor over the phone without many details in September 2007. That same tumor was re-diagnosed in March 2012 as a grade II astrocytoma in my left insula after the watch-and-wait tactic showed that the tumor had grown.
mK: What were your symptoms?
CB: Tingling and numbness from focal seizures.
mK: Why did you start #BTSM Chats?
CB: I started brain tumor social media chats with the help of Liz Salmi because I wanted to create a space and online presence for a discussion about brain tumors that would be accessible to anyone from anywhere in the world. Patients, survivors, caregivers, family members, friends, physicians, nurses, and advocates alike all have their own individual perspectives about the brain tumor experience, and support groups often focus on a singular perspective. People can recognize and learn from all of the different perspectives shared during #BTSM chats.
The chats take place the first Sunday of each month on tchat.io/rooms/btsm at 7pm PST/10pm EST. Join us!
mK: Who are your heroes?
CB: I do not have one specific hero. Heroes are everyday people who do a little bit more than the rest when nobody is looking. Heroes walk among us every day, we just can’t always see them.
mK: So, what motivates you?
CB: Providing support that I didn’t have when I was first diagnosed motivates me because I know that patients will have an easier time adjusting to their new normal with the help of a friend who “gets it.” My drive comes from a belief that people affected by brain tumors are not the underdog.
mK: When was the first time you felt like yourself after your diagnosis?
CB: I adapted to become a new me. The switch was so gradual over time that there isn’t one specific event or moment I can pinpoint that really signaled the change.
mK: What makes you laugh, cry, angry?
CB: I’ll laugh at just about anything. Hearing a disappointing update from a friend still in treatment can make me cry. Patients being misdiagnosed for months or years makes me angry.
mK: What would you say is the most interesting thing you’ve done?
CB: In terms of the health community: promoting #BTSM chats for the brain tumor movement. Uniting patients and advocates with physicians and comrades for an hour via the Internet, for free, isn’t something that has really been done before.
mK: What was the toughest challenge you faced as a survivor? How did you overcome it?
CB: Bridging the gap between the mindset of a chronic patient and healthy peer is challenging because the concerns of those two groups are vastly different. At the same time, recognizing the differences between the two groups helps identify commonalities and keep us on the same page with each other. It’s still a work in progress.
mK: Changing gears… What is your guilty pleasure?
CB: Oberweis Ice Cream! Especially their seasonal peppermint flavor.
mK: If someone gave you one million dollars and you had to spend it on yourself… what would you buy?
CB: I would buy button down shirts… so many button down shirts.
mK: hee hee… That would be A LOT of shirts! 20,000 if they were $50/shirt. If you wore a different shirt for every meal, 3 meals a day thats still 6667 days of shirts… 18 years of 3 shirts a day! just sayin… Anyways, what do you like to do in your spare time?
CB: When I’m not studying I am usually joking around with my roommate or taking a ridiculous amount of photos.
mK: What are you up to now?
CB: I am tackling my first year of college like a champ!
mK: Enjoy yourself! (but not too much… trust us) Any advice for people or loved ones that get daunting diagnoses?
CB: Seek out someone who is or has been in your same situation. I never thought that I would say this, but, take to social media. You never know what or who you’ll find out there. I have found some of my best brain tumor and cancer resources through Facebook and Twitter.
mK: Tell us something about yourself that people probably didn’t know… anything.
CB: I took, I mean borrowed, some plates and cups from the dining hall this semester. Shhhh.
mK: Any parting words for all the mAss Kickers?
CB: Respond to your diagnosis. You are your own best advocate.
Catherine Blotner: Ice cream-face-stuffer, jokester, cafeteria delinquent, and rising star in brain tumor advocacy. Check out her blog, “Plated” Life. Thanks for hanging out! We’ll def keep an eye on you!