Leukemia, Social Media, and Escapism

Sprawled on the floor of the hospital, I surprised myself with disappointment. Dr. Pradha had just detailed how Isabelle didn’t have Leukemia! A whirlwind of thousands of prayers over five days  had resulted in victory! Lurking in the celebration lay the faintest hint of something that didn’t sense.

March 10, 2017

Six days before the paragraph above, I served as the pastor of a little church. My career in 5 years didn’t have great successes to show for it. Ashley and I worked hard to parent two young girls and figure out life. Honestly, the grind of life wore on us, and we looked forward to a break in April.

Our life entertained close friends but excited few.

If you asked me I would confess wanting to either find a way to succeed more as a pastor or escape the grind of life.

March 11, 2017

Our lives convulsed with the word “Leukemia.” With the worry of the future, the grind of life evaporated into the immediate present.

While I sped to Indianapolis to get closer to Ashley and Isabelle, our circle of friends exploded. Social media has the amazing ability to electrify certain words. “Childhood Cancer” and “Leukemia” are some of those words. So our story and our family within hours had the attention and prayers of thousands.

Social Media and Escapism

You know in one day I found myself washed in a waterfall of encouraging comments. Any time of day and night, I would see dozens of new notifications. Everyone encouraged Ashley and me to focus 100% on taking care of Isabelle and us. It felt great!

I mentally escaped all my commitments and the grind of life.

March 15, 2017

It took five days for them not to find cancer in Isabelle (initially). In those five days, we had a stream of visitors and thousands of digital expressions of love. With the best of intentions, our friends had given us a dopamine feast. The news that we could leave the hospital meant that the feast had ended.

The cancer-free diagnosis elated me logically, but my brain had gotten used to a lot of attention.

FYI, they found cancer a month later. Just not in the first visit.

After five days of escaping into focusing on one thing, it scared me to contemplate going back to real life. The deluge of social media attention had me something to write about those hundreds wanted to read. Now I returned to my church of way less than 100 parishioners.

Please know, I love my church and work.

Social media tempts escapism

I think that at least for me, social media tempts me to escape. It looks like this. I face a significant need and put it on Facebook for prayer. Nothing wrong with this. I get in trouble when I always find myself checking the post for comments to get dopamine (feel good) hit. I need to find pleasure in the work I do, not in an escape to Facebook.

Asking for prayer has many benefits. And when you comment your prayers or like our family posts, it means the world. I need to caution myself not to build my emotional life online.


Over the past three years, I’ve fought to balance my life. Sometimes I need to lean in and focus on my family. Other times I need to buckle down and grind out my responsibilities. Though difficult the grind of life brings far greater satisfaction than the hit of the 100th comment on a health post.

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