A Guide to Using MyBreastCancerNetwork.org

PJ Hamel Health Guide
  • Well, here you are reading my blog on the HealthCentral Network Web site (specifically, MyBreastCancerNetwork.com), and chances are you’ve never taken the time to browse–-I mean REALLY browse–-this neat site. You may visit occasionally to read the various blogs, or to look up the answer to a question–-“What kind of side effects can I expect from this new drug I’m on?”–-but are you aware of the huge amount of easily accessible information you have here at your fingertips? No? Read on.

    First of all, the entire site has been redesigned to be cleaner looking, more easily navigated and (thank you, HealthCentral!) more subtly sponsored, shall we say. A site as large as this one needs sponsors, and clearly it has them–which is the reason you and I can access it for free–but for the most part they’re not in your face: no flashing, no neon colors.
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    “A note from our sponsors” at the top of the home page lets you access an advertiser–or not. A few other tasteful ad blocks (clearly labeled “advertisement”) are scattered around the site; and the fact that they’re NOT in your face makes them more compelling. A bit of passive aggressiveness, as it were–in a good way.

    As for navigation, unlike some sites, where once you start clicking you soon find yourself lost in cyberspace, this site has a very clear “crumb trail”–-that’s the phrases and arrows at the top left that, once you leave the home page, can easily lead you back, either directly to where you started, or to one of those stops you made along the way. Keep this in mind when you want to go back and look at a page you viewed 4 or 5 pages ago.
    Brightly colored boxes down the left side of the page point you in specific directions. “Just Diagnosed?” will help you find your way through those first dark days.

    Find” answers questions and helps you find resources.

    Manage” helps you resolve problems (mystified by some aspect of your treatment? Get answers here.)

    And “Connect,” my favorite section, brings together all kinds of voices: patients, doctors, those of us who’ve been there and want to help those just starting–-in one large community, where we share experiences through our blogs or SharePosts.

    Check out the colorful icons on the right, by the way: You can select an author by experience (“been through it,” “caregiver,” etc.), and by the type of post (“inspiration,” “gripe,” etc.) It’s a neat way to organize posts, rather than simply by date or author. And anyone can post: Got a great tip to pass along? A moment of personal inspiration that might help someone else? Check out the SharePost feature.

    I could go on and on, but let me simply bullet point some of my favorite features:

    Free Newsletter: If you’re like me, your life gets busy and you’ll often simply forget to visit one of your favorite sites for awhile. Sign up for one (or more) of Health Central’s 35 different free e-mail newsletters–“The Weekly Checkup”–and get the latest news and blogs delivered right to your inbox.

  • Choose Your Font Size! A godsend for those of us squinting to read small, faint type on our old computers.
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    Most Popular Pages, and Top Search Terms: Yeah, let’s face it. Call it herd mentality, but we all want to know where everyone else is going online.

    Print, E-mail, Bookmark: This page–speaks for itself. Easy to find, simple to do.

    Create Your Own Caregiving Site Through CareCentral: Tired of answering questions about your health from friends and acquaintances and far-flung family over and over and over again? Create a personal site on CareCentral where you can update those folks who are anxious to hear how you’re doing. Add pictures, let friends add their own posts... build a supportive community around your cancer. It’s inspirational, truly it is. This will bring out the best in people, opening your eyes to friends you barely knew you had. And don’t worry–you can make it as public or private as you want.

    I’ve barely scratched the surface of all the places you might visit on MyBreastCancerNetwork.com. Sometime when you feel like really digging in, go to the very bottom of this page, and click on “How to Use This Site” or “Site Map.” You’ll begin to get an idea of just how much interesting, useful content this site hosts; and once you start clicking, you’ll realize how easy it is to access. Trust me, from an old dog who’s learned a LOT of new Internet tricks over the past few years, this is one cool site. It’s at the top of my bookmarks. (And once I figure out del.icio.us, I’ll put it there, too!)
Published On: March 21, 2007