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Dealing with Breast Cancer Online

Breast cancer survivor Laney Katz Becker has found comfort in the Internet since the time she was diagnosed with the disease. Soon after her doctor told her she had "atypical cells," she surfed online for medical information and support. She captured her cyberspace experiences with breast cancer discussion groups in a new novel, entitled "Dear Stranger, Dearest Friend."

Becker's novel is based on her real-life experiences as a breast cancer survivor. When she was 38 years old, she discovered a tiny lump in her breast, and since then, she's relied on online resources and information. She has joined chat rooms that focus on talk about breast cancer, and has found support from other breast cancer survivors.

Becker structures her novel as a series of e-mail messages. She weaves facts about the disease through e-mail exchanges between two women, Lara and Susan, who meet online. Lara's experiences closely match Becker's while Susan's is a composite of many women Becker has on the Internet.

Through e-mails, Susan "talks" Lara through the initial shock of discovering the lump in her breast, the diagnosis and misdiagnosis of her cancer, the double mastectomy and the chemotherapy. Lara learns the lingo, the questions to ask, the facts about the illness, treatment options and how to speak up for herself when dealing with doctors who seem intimidating or condescending.

The two female characters also talk about their lives. They discuss work, husbands, raising teenagers, major milestones and little annoyances. They even exchange breast cancer jokes.

Becker says she hopes the book will encourage all women to practice breast cancer prevention, and to get a mammogram regularly. "I want women to understand the most women who develop breast cancer don't have a family history of the disease," she says. "Anyone who don't think they have this in their history so they're okay is mistaken."

Becker is now 43 years old and freelances for numerous national magazines, newspapers and the Web.
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