(Video link here.) I tend to have mixed feelings about the growing number of options for social networking. I’ve definitely noticed my own reliance on social networks making me a little more self-indulgent and a little less personal in my communications with friends. But the power of social networking sites to create communities for people greatly in need of them never ceases to amaze me. Case in point: I Had Cancer, a social networking site for folks who have been diagnosed with or survived cancer and their loved ones. It was created/improvised by a cancer survivor, responding to the need she saw around her, and that she herself had experienced. And because everyone is touched in some way by cancer, dealing with it themselves, or knowing someone who is.

Registered users can search the I Had Cancer community by age, gender, type of cancer and year diagnosed to connect with others who are sharing/have shared similar experiences. Each user has the option to post their story or keep an online journal, as well as list their treatments and any resources they may have discovered along the way. People can post questions to a discussion board as well to get advice about dealing with specific symptoms, procedures, or aspects of the illness. That’s what speaks to me most about the site; not only is there moral support from those who can understand what you’re going through, but the ability to pool resources. Though there is no substitute for the words of a doctor, I know many people who have been frustrated by not being able to access information that goes beyond what your doc tells you.

The most touching section of the site is “Dear Cancer,” where users can write letters directly to what’s ailing them. I challenge you to read them without getting choked up. From the anger of users who recently lost loved ones to the triumph of folks who are celebrating years in remission, it’s a powerful space to witness. And an amazing outlet to have.

—Sarah M.

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