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Circle of Friends

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'You Feel So Alone'

In 1998, Haines was among the first to join this message board. She had just finished treatment for stage II cancer; 10 of 16 nodes were positive. She was scared. She was jealous.

"When I was first diagnosed, I didn't know anyone who had this," says Haines. "You feel so alone. You feel depression, anger, jealousy. Your friends' lives go on. They can go home to their families, whereas my life was torn apart. At the doctor's office, the nurses were so supportive and so kind. But at the end of the day, they could clock out and go home. I couldn't. I felt bad feeling that way, feeling jealous." When she went online, she found kindred souls who understood. "I could talk it out. I could vent," she says.

She also gained perspective on her prognosis. When her oncologist advised her to have a new type of treatment, she reached out to the group for support and information.

"I went online and found that many who'd had the same treatment were doing well," she says. "It was good to know that even though the statistics weren't good, it was survivable."

Today, some eight years after treatment ended, Haines is still doing well. "It's pretty much over," she says. "I don't much think about it until it's time to go to the doctor again." Although she has other volunteer gigs, Janice_78 has remained an active voice on the Friend to Friend message board. "I love being able to use my experience, to offer some hope," she says.

Support System

"Elsa" is the current message board moderator. "I love this group of ladies -- they have faced life-changing circumstances with such tenacity," she says. "They're all in various treatment phases, they find each other, they're open to each other, to new people. They're accepted for obsessing about their disease. Friends and family get tired if hearing about it, they don't know what to say. These ladies let them talk."

The message board is all about openness, says "Olivia," who once moderated the board. "They talk to each other on a very personal level. There's a lot of venting, a lot of sharing of frustrations. They talk about everything from recipes to what the kids are doing this weekend to their treatment. They share anger at a doctor who isn't paying enough attention. They talk about a medication -- how does it affect you, have you tried it before. They talk about everything including their sex lives."

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