[Editor: Virtual therapy has been in the news lately for everything from schizophrenia to addiction recovery to pain management for burn victims to weight loss. Studies and research reports are accumulating, showing that virtual therapy and counseling can be as effective, or even more effective, than traditional approaches. To offer a personal perspective on how virtual environments can be effective, the following is a guest column from a cancer survivor.]
Hello, I’m Libertybelle Lyric in Second Life and this is my story of survival.
I first came to Second Life after meeting a musician who told me about live concerts in the virtual world. Not coming from the gaming world, It seemed at first that I was a fish out of water but I soon got the hang of it. I learned the ropes and before long I was doing live shows in front of international audiences.
That’s how I met the Second Life Angel Group. They are a sub-group off the Relay for Life charity in Second Life. I soon joined the Angels as well as “Volunteers for Relay for Life.”
Every year, groups put on shows to raise awareness and Linden dollars, which are then turned to real dollars and donated to the “real world” charity. I was happy when they asked me to perform at the events. I also performed at other sub-groups events as well. We raised a lot of real money for cancer research. Many other artists would also participate by performing hour after hour. I looked forward to those times. Watching as people gave to the kiosk over and over again made me feel like I was helping in a small way. Little did I know at that time, they would find cancer inside of me.
I had been having stomach issues and one night, I had a gallbladder attack and while looking at my body through an MRI they saw a large mass in my left breast. The biopsy came back positive with breast cancer. I was in shock when they told me that I was being scheduled at the Hollings Cancer Center for a biopsy.
Deep down inside, the thought kept nagging at me, that I felt that I had met the Second Life people for a reason. Most of them either had cancer or lost loved ones to it and they could relate to the feelings I was having. They put me on the prayer list and they were there for me. It seemed that God had put them in my life.
I didn’t have to drive to a support group. That really meant a lot. There are a lot of cancer patients like me, sick from the cure. With all of the appointments, it was a blessing to be with others in a new form of therapy in Second Life.
I was diagnosed as having anxiety and depression by my therapist at Hollings Cancer Center. Therapy comes in all shapes and sizes. When you are roaming around in a virtual world all dressed up with others having fun dancing to your favorite tunes or listening to your favorite artists, you can forget for a while.
There are many things to keep you busy in Second Life. You can learn to build in the world and explore your creative side. Or you can design jewelry or clothes for the avatars. After a few months, I stopped seeing the therapist. It must have been the shoe shopping along with my groups in Second Life that helped get me through. (Though now I spend my time sorting the inventory……)
My inner circle, those I call my Second Life family, has been there for me every step of the way. Some of them went bald in Second Life when I lost my hair in real life. We exchanged phone numbers and kept in touch through each step. The prayers and great companionship have created some very strong bonds. A few closest to me came to South Carolina on vacations with their families and we all met at a great seafood restaurant ‘Lee’s Inlet Kitchen” of Myrtle Beach. Meeting them was so wonderful! That was amazing and the connection and bond was so strong.
Now I am cancer free. The chemo, surgery and the radiation took their toll so I’m still overcoming the side effects of the cures. The neuropathy in the toes and fingers from the chemo make it difficult to type for long periods. When I stand for more than ten minutes my toes sting a bit so I’m happier relaxing in a chair.
Another side effect of the chemo is the osteoporosis. I found I had that when I awoke one morning with a fractured spine. I was shocked. Lucky for me the surgery wasn’t too painful or invasive. The doctor waited until my radiation therapy was complete before scheduling the back surgery.
I hope the rough parts are over now.
But if there is more to come, I’m going to be fine because I have the best of both worlds — people in both real life and Second Life to care for me and help me get past the tough spots.
Therapy can come from many directions. I feel very blessed to have been a part of this fabulous team. Click here for more information about Relay for Life.