What is War On Cancer?
We’re a Swedish tech company on a mission to radically improve the mental health of everyone affected by cancer. The first step has been the creation of the War On Cancer social network, available as a free-to-download app on both iOS and Android, that acts as a storytelling platform for patients, survivors and loved ones. Ultimately, the platform aims to facilitate real and authentic connections between people. Through the platform, users can share stories and experiences, follow others, search and locate people in similar situations, and find strength in the knowledge that they are not alone.
How did War On Cancer begin?
In 2015 I was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). I was given a 60-70% chance of surviving and told that the treatment would take around two and a half years, involving 900 days of chemotherapy. To me, it felt like my life was ruined. It felt like everything I had worked for was gone.
Thousands of questions popped into my head, all surrounding what exactly life with cancer looked like. How would I be able to maintain my career? What should I eat? Could I exercise? When asking these questions to the healthcare professionals around me, I began to see their inability to see the human needs behind the patient needs. They were able to discuss my treatment journey, but not advise on the realities of what my life would look like. I was determined to find answers, so took to social media.
I wrote a post asking people to help me find others in a similar situation. That post was shared more than 12,000 times on social media, and led to thousands of messages of support. Aside from the expressions of support, love and real experience, almost all of the messages contained one thing: gratitude. Many people started their messages by saying “thank you for sharing this so openly, I’m going through the same thing and this is really helping me”. From here, I made the decision to share my entire journey in a blog that I named ‘Fabian Bolin’s War on Cancer’.
The blog became my savior in what would be the most painful and traumatic period of my life. Cancer is a very tough experience, especially in the first couple of months when the chemo doses are at their highest. Naturally, I experienced a flow of different emotions and my blog was my way to vent them all. It really made me understand the true power of storytelling. Not only was it a way for me to process in real-time, but I also knew that I was in some way helping others.
Sharing my experience gave me a greater sense of purpose and meaning than I have ever felt before. This, together with an urge to help people in a similar situation to me, was where the idea for War On Cancer came from, which I founded together with my childhood friend Sebastian Hermelin, who helped me create the company when I was too weak to do so on my own.
Fast-forward three years to today and I can genuinely say that this journey has been beyond anything I could ever imagine. War On Cancer has evolved from a blog portal into a full-scale social network available on the App Store and Google Play, and our team of two has grown to 13 wonderful employees across three countries, Sweden, England and Bosnia.
What is one thing you wish people understood about cancer?
Cancer doesn’t always have to mean the end of life – it sometimes means the beginning of a new one. Most people in this world have suffered or are suffering from the fear of cancer or maybe even cancerphobia. Most people think cancer is a death sentence and there are a lot of people who have lost many family members because of it. I want people to remember that two out of three patients survive and many people who come out of cancer are going to come out of it a happier person because living through the illness gives you invaluable knowledge and appreciation for life.
What do you want to say to our readers this Movember?
I want to encourage people to prioritise their wellbeing, which means taking care of their minds and emotional wellbeing equally as much as taking care of their bodies. And making time to prioritise it even when life is at its busiest. Also, it is important to learn and teach yourself about your own body, that is the only way to proactively notice if there are changes. It is important to determine and ask yourself “what is my ‘normal’” so that you, at an early stage, can identify when and if you need to seek professional help. If you ever feel concerned always know that you can find comfort in talking to others – be it in person, with a loved one or trusted friend, or by seeking help online, via a specialist platform like War On Cancer.
Responses from Fabian Bolin, CEO and co-founder of War On Cancer (waroncancer.com)