Community vs. Cancer

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Frozen Pea Friday pea-vatarsPeople who do not invest time in social networking often wonder about the quality of online friendships. They doubt the depth or strength of connections made with people you’ve never met face to face. My thoughts match those of Shel Israel: “My virtual friends are all real.” (I’m paraphrasing something you said in an interview, Shel. Hope I got close to your actual words.)

For you Doubting Thomases, here’s a story to demonstrate the depth and breadth-and the power-of online community.

Susan ReynoldsA friend I’ve never met in person is scared. Very scared. Susan Reynolds is having a mastectomy tomorrow. She found the lump on December 5, went to the doctor the next day, and was immediately sent to a diagnostic radiologist. Big words, big fear: Invasive Lobular Carcinoma.

You can read about Susan’s journey through the cancer experience in her new blog, Boobs on Ice. The story I want to share is how a community of so-called invisible friends rallied around Susan to support, comfort and cheer her up-and somewhere along the way turned it into a fight-and a fund-against cancer.

It started on Twitter, where Susan is the self-proclaimed nana; she’s also a power networker with hundreds of followers. When she posted a new avatar-a photo of a package of frozen peas tucked inside her camisole to relieve the pain from multiple biopsies-she joked about putting her boob on ice. Her friends continued the joke.

Then a few days later, Cathleen Rittereiser (@cathleenritt) tweeted that we should all donate the cost of a package of frozen peas to a fund for cancer research. Before you could say “bring back that beat,” Susan’s friends picked up on the idea, and what started as an off-the-cuff remark has become a full-fledged fund-raising campaign named, in honor of Susan, the Frozen Pea Fund.

Frozen Pea Fund logo

The site will officially launch tomorrow-that’s when we’ll have the “click to donate” button ready. Money raised will go to Making Strides, the breast cancer campaign of the American Cancer Society.

In the interest of full disclosure, my company is doing a social media campaign for a new ACS initiative that will launch early next year. When David Neff, Director of Online Communications for the corporate office, located here in Austin, first emailed to ask us to do some pro bono work for the Society, my reaction was to sigh and wonder how I could gracefully decline. David has been part of our local Social Media Club since the very beginning, and it would be hard to turn him down. But I was frazzled from a year of starting a new business and juggling client work with personal responsibilities. How could I possibly squeeze one more item onto my already overflowing to-do list?

Before I could decline, however, Susan got her diagnosis. And everything changed.

Now I had a personal stake in this battle against cancer. While I still haven’t met Susan in person, we’ve e-mailed and talked on the phone-and were about to launch a cooperative venture that is now on hold until she recovers from surgery.

The photos you see to the left are what we are calling pea-vatars. I can’t even remember how it started-probably it was Ann Miller (@annohio) who first posted a package of peas as her avatar on Twitter. Before you know it, dozens of people had added peas to their photos and the Frozen Pea Friday Flickr group was born.

Within the first 24 hours, I noted at least 40 people sporting pea-vatars, and that was only among the 600+ people I follow on Twitter. Much to my delight, Robert Scoble picked up the peas theme and tied it into the world economic forum at Davos. And even Loic Lemeur, founder of Seesmic, is sporting a pea-vatar on Twitter. (Bless you, one and all!)

So many people are working behind the scenes to help launch the Frozen Pea Fund that I’ll probably miss naming someone here, but I at least have to acknowledge Michelle Wolverton (@chelpixie), who is building the WordPress site, and Ryan Karpeles (@ryankarpeles), who designed the FPF logo. Cathleen came up with the tagline: We will not appease cancer. And Laura Fitton (@pistachio) is cooking up something with a new Twitter account: @peaple.

In the days to come, Susan’s family will be by her bedside, caring for her and assisting her recovery. But an entire socialmediasphere will be rallying around her cause, lifting her spirits and doing our small part to help find a cure. Join us, won’t you?

Connie Reece

This post was written by:

Connie Reece - who has written 142 posts on Every Dot Connects.

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21 Comments For This Post

  1. Ronna Porter Says:


    This story is a real credit to you as a good friend (of which I am sure you have always had many).

    I just wanted to say that for every instance where you have an indication of feedback, there will be many who have noticed, considered, but not necessarily felt it appropriate to respond for many possible reasons.

    For me, I had never heard of Susan before this conversation started on Twitter. I therefore didn’t feel it would be right for me to ‘jump on the bandwaggon’, even though my grandmother lived for many years with only one boob.

    The response you detail here is probably only the tip of the ice-berg (iced-bag?) of the people it has touched.


  2. OkieJ Says:

    Connie this is the best blog I have ever read! You brought tears to my eyes and renewed my interests in fighting cancer. I look forward to sharing the fund raiser site with all of my friends and family, especially those who have also been touched by cancer. Susan is a fighter and that is what it takes to be a survivor. and, us survivors ROCK!

  3. Ryan Karpeles Says:

    Truly amazing indeed. If you’re looking for the power (life-changing power) of social networks, look no further.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your entire family, Susan (if you’re reading this :). I’m incredibly honored and grateful to take part in this, and I can’t wait to see all the good that’s going to come out of everyone’s efforts.

    This is only the beginning ;-)

  4. Aruni Gunasegaram Says:

    Connie - this is great. As you know I’m new to twitter and it’s been fun seeing all the pea-vatars popping up. I don’t know Susan Reynolds but I see that she is loved and supported. What a great use for social media. :-) Keep up the great things you do Connie! I hope to see you soon in the new year!

  5. shel israel Says:

    Connie, I’m not sure what I said in the interview. The way I wrote the phrase in my book proposal was, “The communities may be virtual, but the friendships formed there are real.”

  6. Jane Quigley Says:

    Connie -
    I’m so proud and happy to know all of you. This is the best example of what social media is and can be. Please let me know if I can help (in any way) and I’m looking forward to tomorrow!


  7. Ann Says:

    I feel honored to be even a small part of all of this. I look at all of those pea avatars on my twitter list and I am inspired.

    Tomorrow is the big launch of the Frozen Pea Project. Today though? It’s huggin’ the stuffin’ out of @susanreynolds day on my calendar. I think she’s going to need a little extra love today.

    Please send a twitter hug, a dm, a comment to Susan’s blog-she’ll know that AnnOhio was behind the nudge.

    Thanks Connie for ramping up a tweet between friends into such a wonderful hope filled FUN project.


  8. Darlene Hull Says:

    When I started seeing all the “Pea-Vatars” on Twitter, I got curious and started poking around to find out what was going on. I was so inspired and blessed by the kind of support Susan was getting, that I poked some more, read her blog, and began following her story much more closely.

    When I started Twitter, it was a business decision. Kind of something “tossed into the marketing pile” but since then I can honestly say I’ve made good friends - people who make me laugh out loud (never read Connie’s Twitters with a mouth full of tea) and, in this case, even cry.

    Who’da thunk it? All of this in only 140 characters and a little avatar.

    Long live Twitter and the great community it has built.

    The “Mom-Defrazzler”

  9. DietTips Says:

    It’s amazing. For anyone who thinks Internet people aren’t real, they haven’t been following Twitter. For every post, there’s a person behind the keyboard with hopes, dreams, fears, and desires.

    To Susan, whom I don’t know, but have the upmost respect for, my thoughts, prayers, and blessings are with you and your family.


  10. Bryan Head Says:

    Great post!

    As a cancer survivor, I can relate to this in many ways. I understand the emotions that go along with facing a diagnosis as well as the way an online community can establish very real and meaningful relationships that help you cope and thrive. I’ve written about this very subject on my blog,

    God bless Susan and all those who are rallying around her!


  11. Mike Chapman Says:

    I am so proud of my business partner and social media mentor…mentor in life, really…Connie Reece. Susan, much love, prayer and good thoughts go out to you.


  12. Michelle / chelpixie Says:

    To Susan, with love.

    You are an amazing woman and we’re behind you 110%.

  13. Dave Fleet Says:


    As someone who’s family, like many others, has been repeatedly hit by cancer over the last ten years or so, I’m full of admiration for people like you and the people you’ve listed for showing the care and support that you have.

    I’m somewhat late to this unfortunate party, but I hope to have my pea-vatar up soon and I’ll do my very best to support your efforts.

    Susan - my very best wishes go out to you.


  14. Beth Kanter Says:

    This is totally amazing!

  15. yndygo Says:

    I was trying to explain to a friend why I was so concerned about a woman I’ve never met, who doesn’t even know who I am - and the best I could come up with was “she’s inspiring, but more than that, she represents the kind of person you want to meet on the internet… and the kind of person you want to pull for - and she reminds me that the only hope we really have for a cure is if we all pull together to help make it happen…”
    Now I can add a link to this and I think they’ll understand even better.
    Thanks for such an eloquent explanation.

  16. ferdie Says:

    nice one..keep it up

  17. David Neff Says:

    Thanks for posting about this and helping us fund life saving research into Breast Cancer. Susan’s story is truly inspirational and we hope this fundraiser will help spread her story far and wide.

    For those of you giving money please know that The American Society has invested more in breast cancer research grants over time than any other voluntary public health organization – $322.7 million since 1972! And thanks for giving!

  18. Connie Reece Says:

    I think I’ve responded by e-mail to each commenter … just coming back here to say thanks once again for responding to this post, but most of all for responding with your heart to the Frozen Pea Fund.

  19. John Fink Says:

    Thank you for your post. I often said it requires cancer survivors in order for a person to become a cancer survivor.

    I was diagnosed with stage 4 head and neck cancer in August of 2005. I have only one relative living in where I reside. (Cape Cod), MA) So I didn’t have much in person support going through treatment and the multiple complications as a result of my treatment. I felt very alone.

    I haven’t yet got the nack of social network sites but I am going to learn.

    Thank you for your post.

  20. ira Says:

    hi connie..
    Its nice blog to be motivation. The power of community can fight cancer. It’s really amazing. Thank you for your post.

    cancer new treatments

  21. Smith Says:

    This is a very helpful post for me because My niece is still suffering from bladder Cancer she had after suffering from Stomach cancer.Thanks for such a useful post about brain cancer.

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