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A Journey from Pain to Love: A Journal of Compassion in an Internet World
ISBN: 1413751229

By Phyllis Jankowiak
Review by: Lynda L. Hinkle


If you enter the search term “internet chat room cancer” into Google, you will get over 800,000 hits; a true testimony to the power of the internet to connect people in need of emotional support. Phyllis Jankowiak was one such in need person, who turned to her internet chat room to get support after a diagnosis of breast cancer added to her already complex series of physical problems including multiple sclerosis.

One day in the chat room, Jankowiak is convinced by her supportive friends to write a book of her experiences, and thus her “Journey From Pain to Love” is born. She attempts to present to us a series of voices, the clever aliases used in chat sliding off to reveal real human beings who spend an almost endless amount of time; it would seem, online, supporting each other through diagnosis, survival and sometimes death.

Unfortunately, beyond what I have constructed above, there is very little narrative flow to this book that jumps back and forth between seemingly unconnected stories, voices and opinions. For example, in the midst of her cancer survival tales she talks of opposing the war in Iraq without giving a convincing reason why these two ideas should be presented together. The theme of the book, the journey that the author herself periodically has to pull out and examine, but never quite gets a total grip upon, is the process of healing from terminal illness, both physically and emotionally. But in addition to being disorganized, the book frequently lapses into horrible grammar and typographical faux pas that detract significantly from its intention: to capture the spirit of survival and love for one’s fellow humans evident in Jankowiak’s chat room experiences. Instead, it reads like a first draft that should have been far more carefully edited and reworked before being published.

This is not to suggest that Jankowiak fails to offer anything of value. For someone currently struggling with a cancer diagnosis, this book may very well offer some real comfort. Jankowiak invites survivors to enter into her internet world and locate understanding. Oddly, though, she does not actually suggest a chat room to go to or provide a list of places one might visit or how to go about it, so this book is not for those without some internet savvy already.

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