breast cancer · ironman triathlon · mastectomy

Checking in or not?

Facebook location check-ins have always been amusing to me and I have long been a participant, (sometimes unwilling). Must be something to do with my love of all things geographical. From atlases, topography, Google Maps, orienteering, the way ‘space becomes place’ to people through their cultural interaction with it. After all, I did become both a Geography and Outdoor and Environmental Studies teacher.

The bulk of my Facebook check-ins have been added by my cheeky husband who predominately checks me into cafes and restaurants.

Sometimes, we leave our town and only an hour later stop for coffee. If he likes the brew, the menu, the ambience or the service, the place is awarded an esteemed Facebook check-in. It’s a strict criteria, being that we are both from hospitality backgrounds.

Sometimes he might check me into a cafe twice in one day and has on occasion, to the amusement of our friends, checked us in for coffee or food only hours apart. Perhaps we are addicted to cafe experiences and coffee? Maybe.

I like to check into special events in my life. As a way to document my journey. And I am sure that this is a common reason for others. One day, I believe Facebook data and the enormous digital footprint that all of us are leaving will be a wonderful tool for researching our ancestors. So it will be part of my legacy to my children and grandchildren in a small way.

Check-ins are always of people’s positive experiences. Those positive aspects of their lives get to be on show; holiday destinations, theatre shows, marathon events and Ironman triathlons, restaurants, weddings, visits to national parks. The possibilities are endless. Sometimes it’s to brag about their experiences. Sometimes it is purely to document their life as a form of historical record keeping. The Facebook timeline format helps facilitate this.

People rarely however, check into funeral homes, hospices, brothels and cancer hospitals and I find this very interesting. The feared and the taboo subjects. Death, sex, and cancer.

So as I sit upright in bed post mastectomy and lymph clearance surgery, on the third floor with a nice cup of tea, and an excellent view of St Patrick’s Cathedral, I decide to have a look at the check-in statistics of the Peter MaCallum Cancer Hospital. Not surprisingly, it says only 248 people have checked in here in the recent years that Facebook introduced such a feature.

Is it the shame of it? The shame of having cancer? Is it that people are deeply private and don’t want to document their health issues for the world to see? Is it consideration for the uneasiness of the people reading about someones health struggles that deters people from checking in to such places?

The Peter MaCallum Cancer Hospital is one of the busiest buildings in this part of Melbourne. The cafes around it are full of patients and workers from the hospital. Some who have come on recommendation from the oncology nurses or surgeons. But check-in numbers here are very low compared to surrounding landmarks.

If I look to the surrounding sites, this is what is revealed…

Treasury gardens (7200),
Parliament Railway Station (7500),
Fitzroy Gardens (25892),
Park Hyatt Hotel (10085),
The Commune Cafe (789),
Peter MaCallum Cancer Centre (248).

There are many check-ins for the parks and gardens adjoining this hospital. Many check-ins in the cafes and restaurants in the same block. And I wonder how many of these where people who had visited Peter Mac that day, as a cancer patient or accompanying someone who was and were to ashamed to check-in.

Cancer is a common disease and a major health problem in Australia today. The Australian Cancer Council states “At current rates, it is expected 1 in 2 Australians will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85″ and this year alone …”an estimated 124,910 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the Australian population.” So this place, and similar hospitals will be the reality of many.

The Peter MaCallum Cancer Centre is a world leader in cancer treatment, research and education. Here, they treat more cancer patients each year than any other hospital in Australia. Their treatment of me has been nothing short of amazing. I can not fault them. Peter Mac is full of wonderful surgeons, doctors and nurses who work everyday to remove and treat cancer, and care for those with it. A noble career don’t you think?

So I have decided that I am going to check-in here on Facebook today. Along with the 248 other people who bravely did.


6 thoughts on “Checking in or not?

  1. What a great post and a wonderful idea. Why do people hide the fact that they are being treated for cancer? Since I was diagnosed, it seems like breast cancer is almost as epidemic as the flu, yet we don’t talk about it. Last week, I too decided to check in at the University of Chicago cancer center when I was having my infusion. I was hesitant at first, but then I thought why wouldn’t I? Hopefully our willingness to be open about our cancer treatment and our feelings about it will help someone else. The scariest part of the process for me was the thought of chemotherapy and that’s why I write about it. I found it is not as scary as I thought nor is it as uncomfortable.
    I am keeping you in my prayers. Keep writing.



  2. Thanks for your comment Betsy and good on you for having the guts to check-in!
    My emotional response at diagnosis was filled with so much panic and dread that I don’t feel as though anything could eclipse that. I feel stronger for that experience. As though In having a 16 day flight or fight response has initiated me into the cancer journey. Allowed me to accept it. So the prospect of chemo doesn’t frighten me as much as I thought it would. Maybe that will change as it approaches. Best wishes to you! X


    1. Hi Lisa
      I couldn’t sleep so I read your blog – it’s awesome and so true. Let me say a big thank you on behalf of the hard-working staff at Peter Mac. Its nice to see them acknowledged! For three yrs. I worked at Peter Mac Box Hill ironically booking in all the patients for their radiotherapy before moving onto other Hospital and private rooms – I have worked in health for nearly 30 yrs. Imagine the irony I felt when diagnosed, very much the same as yourself – Stage 3, lumpectomy, more tests then ultimate the Mastectomy and full ancillary clearance followed by months and months of chemo!
      I am sure you will get thru this, but it might be tough. Just know that I’m here with you along the way and that you are in good hands at Peter Mac. Good luck


      1. Hi Helen. Thank you for your comment. Yes, the ironies are astounding. I raised money for a cancer charity by running, 2 months later cancer becomes part of my reality. We are strong women. Very glad to have met you! Best wishes! Lise x


  3. (I heard about your blog through a friend and am loving your take on it all so far!)

    When I was at Peter Mac back in 2007 there wasn’t the option to check in anywhere haha. Well done for checking in and I agree with you, why not? I guess people may feel the way I did about photos when I was going through chemo. They just want do get through it quickly and move on. Now I wish I had’ve taken some. It was a time of wonderful memories despite all the crap. You are right about Peter Mac, it is such an amazing place filled with amazing people, so you are definitely in good hands 🙂

    Looking forward to reading more x


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s