DENVER — May is Mental Health Awareness Month, but one Colorado woman is providing support to cancer patients all year long through social media.
Martha Kyler's husband found a lump in her breast at the end of 2020. Since then, Kyler has been sharing the details of her diagnosis and battle with followers on her Instagram page.
The page, @marthathecword, features informative and inspirational posts, pictures and videos.
"I mean, cancer is depressing enough. At least I can add a little bit of humor or glamour or relatability to it," the 31-year-old wife, mom and breast cancer survivor said.
Her page features comedic movie references, fashion advice for people with surgical scars, as well as bright pops of color, fun music and voice overs.
It's both a platform and an outlet for Kyler, whose journey has been a whirlwind of emotions.
"It was insanity," the former pageant queen said. "I've never been in such a rough place with my mental health. I was angry, I was confused."
Every corner of the internet was filled with information that took an emotional toll.
"A cancer diagnosis is already such a dark, depressing place to be in," Kyler said. "When you start Googling things, it takes you down a very dark rabbit hole. So, I want to be a more enjoyable resource for people to consume information about breast cancer or what it's like or how you can support someone with breast cancer."
From the very beginning, Kyler made posts to her page about her diagnosis, chemotherapy, a hair-preserving technique called "cold capping" and more.
Kyler said she felt a need to maintain a strong facade, and she would tell people that she was feeling good, even when she wasn't. She said she has learned to guard her mental health by practicing authenticity with herself and others.
"I made a conscious effort to actually change my responses and say, 'I'm having a hard day. I don't feel good. I know this is temporary, but I'm struggling today. And thank you for reaching out and thinking of me,'" Kyler said.
Kyler added that honesty opens the door to more genuine interactions and releases a person from having to shoulder the burden of both a cancer diagnosis and the feelings of others.
Kyler's husband Joshua Kyler said there's something that friends of cancer patients can also do to support their mental health.
"If that person is in a position to be authentic and be and be open with you, don't talk. Just listen," he said.
He said if someone doesn't know what to say, they can offer to help in some way.
"Something as simple as, 'Hey, can I run to the grocery store and grab you a dozen eggs?' That can be a more meaningful gesture," Joshua Kyler said. "I mean, life doesn't stop whenever you get cancer, as we've learned. Our lives or our fires are still burning every day."
Joshua Kyler also stressed the importance of talking to a doctor about your mental health. They may be able to offer something that could help.
Martha Kyler said a breast cancer journey is both physical and mental. Through song, dance and humor, she plans to continue helping people with both aspects on her Instagram page.
"That sense of community and being able to vocalize kind of the dark of a breast cancer journey helps move to a lighter place so much," she said.