It’s my great pleasure to shine the first social spotlight of the year on this week’s guest interviewee.
Terri Coutee is the Founder and Director of DiepCFoundation.org, a nonprofit organization providing education and resources to empower women and men with information to make an informed decision about options for breast reconstruction after mastectomy. After a second breast cancer diagnosis and her own successful breast reconstruction, she writes about her experience in a blog, DiepCJourney.com.
Terri is a guest speaker and a strong proponent of the shared decision-making process for patients. When traveling for advocacy, she interviews surgeons, healthcare providers, and patients on topics related to breast cancer and breast reconstruction as another resource to empower those in need of education to find their own voice in their healthcare journey.
I’ve known and admired Terri for several years through our interactions on social media. She is a real force for good through her online patient advocacy and a ray of sunshine with her positive motivational style.
And now here is Terri’s social media story.
Hi Terri, I’d like to start off by asking you to tell us something about the role that social media plays in your work.
TC: My platform as a patient advocate for breast reconstruction evolved from using social media. I utilize Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google Plus to reach a global audience for various purposes.
Twitter is my go-to for connecting with the breast cancer and breast reconstruction community. I search for the latest studies and news to share with those who may not be using Twitter. One of my favorite projects is to report from medical conferences I attend.
The global community becomes more of a family when you meet your Twitter pals at conferences. The energy and ideas are limitless. I frequently receive direct messages on Twitter asking for specific resources, so it has served me well.
You sure do know how to make full use of so many platforms. When did you start using social media – what prompted you to get started?
TC: Oddly enough, using social media started for me in an entirely different way than what I am doing now. At the time of my second breast cancer diagnosis I was in graduate school to get my M.Ed. in Teacher Leadership. I set up a Twitter account using an anonymous name, so I could be one of those “lurk and learn” social media people. I used the handle, @6state, because I taught schools in six different states.
I knew very little about any social media platforms and had no idea the power of social media at the time. Unbeknownst to me, having successful DIEP flap breast reconstruction after a double mastectomy would be the catalyst for starting a blog about my experience utilizing social media to share my story. I suppose I have nostalgically stuck with the handle @6state. Once an educator, always an educator.
One of the things I love most about these interviews is getting to learn something new about people I’ve known online for a while. I never knew what prompted you to use @6state as your Twitter name – that’s s a fun fact for me to learn. I probably interact most with you through Twitter, but I know you’re very active on Facebook. How do you like to use Facebook in your work?
TC: Facebook has been a place of support and solace for a growing number of members in a closed group I set up: https://www.facebook.com/groups/diepcjourney/about/. Women and men who are currently in treatment or planning extensive surgery don’t always have the time or inclination to leave their home to attend a support group meeting.
The Facebook group is a safe haven for many. It is another way of connecting globally. We have members from all over the world. Additionally, we are honored to have medical professionals including surgeons, physical therapists, radiologists, and support resources like tattoo artists who are welcome and lend great value to the group. The resource I provide through these professionals is priceless. I feel very strongly it brings great credibility to the site. The emotional, positive support the members bring to the group is what inspires me daily.
I have found great value in setting up a separate Facebook account for the nonprofit group I founded in 2016, DiepCFoundation. It keeps my followers informed of the Foundation’s activities, outreach, and pertinent topics related to breast reconstruction, including my blogs.
Facebook live is another great way to share topics related to breast reconstruction. Viewers can watch, re-watch, and share the broadcasts with others in their own community. One I am most proud was a presentation I made this year. It was recorded at the national medical conference of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons on a topic I focus on in my work as a patient advocate, shared-decision making.
You really are rocking Facebook! Let me take you back to Twitter for a moment. Do you take part in any health-related Twitter chats?
TC: I have been a host on #TweetChats providing information for breast reconstruction. They are fast and furious but preplanning your comments and hashtags makes them far more effective. I participated in a #bcsm Tweet with The American Society of Plastic Surgeons and one of their board-certified plastic surgeons. Living Beyond Breast Cancer invited me to a tweet chat with my own plastic surgeon and others in the breast reconstruction community to coincide with National Breast Reconstruction Awareness Day in October.
Social media obviously plays a vital role in your advocacy work so what advice would you give to others who are just starting out with social media?
TC: Take it slow and don’t be overwhelmed by the wealth of information before you or the speed things seem to travel at with constant changes in social media. As I always say, take it one bite at a time!!!
Educate yourself about all social media platforms. They each serve a different audience and purpose. Give them all a go!
Surround yourself with a tribe who will support and believe you are serious about your message.
Read articles and attend seminars to improve your skills. Know you will make mistakes, receive critique, but also get euphorically hooked on a tool that shares a wealth of valuable information to the world and in particular your viewing audience, your true purpose for using social media!
Such great advice Terri. I love your enthusiastic embrace of social media and your championing of the creation of an online tribe.
So, I like to end these interviews by asking for a favorite quote. I know you are a big fan of inspiring quotes and I always appreciate you sharing them on social media. Do you have one you’d like to share with us now?
The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward.
What a wonderful quote!
Thanks so much Terri for taking the time to share the many ways in which you are making a difference using social media.
If you’d like to learn more about the work that Terri is doing in raising awareness of DIEP flap breast reconstruction, you can find more information at DiepCFoundation.
This post is part of an ongoing conversation that explores how patients, healthcare professionals, and researchers use social media to communicate their work. For more interviews, click here.