Make way for a new global cancer movement
“Our vision is to bridge the gap between cancer patients and the rest of society,” says Fabian Bolin, co-founder of WarOnCancer.com.
A year after Fabian first shared his leukaemia story with This Is Medtech, the former Made in Chelsea actor is back to tell us about his recently launched WarOnCancer.com, a place where those affected by cancer can describe their journeys online and get much-needed emotional support. “Having cancer is of course painful but it’s the mental trauma that’s the hardest,” explains Fabian, whose world was rocked when he got his blood cancer diagnosis in July 2015 at age 28.
After documenting his journey via a tell-all blog ‒ something that Fabian firmly believes helped with his recovery ‒ he and his best friend, Sebastian Hermelin, decided to set up the free online platform. “Writing is therapeutic. It’s a way to talk about what you’re thinking and feeling. It’s not just about the treatment,” he explains.
What makes WarOnCancer.com unique, aside from the fact that it lets people from all over the world share their stories with a special language translation feature, is that it aims to bring these cancer stories to the wider public. “Cancer patients are really isolated. Even though there are loads of forums out there where patients can talk to each other, they’re still going to feel ‘different’ because they’re only interacting with other people who are affected by cancer,” he says.
For Fabian, being treated differently, like being stared at by strangers when he lost all his hair, was one of the most difficult parts of the whole journey. “Having cancer is hard enough as it is. The isolation and pitiful looks don’t help. We’ve got to change people’s attitudes so that the disease isn’t considered weird anymore,” he adds.
“We also want to eliminate the fear around cancer. People do live. It’s not all about death and we need to educate the general public about that,” he stresses. “Rather than pitying cancer patients, we want people to look up to them and be inspired. WarOnCancer.com tells these inspiring stories. Hopefully they will encourage people to better themselves, whether they have cancer or not.”
WarOnCancer.com currently has 115 storytellers from 15 countries covering 36 different forms of cancer. It’s funded through the sale of the extremely popular #WarOnCancer bracelets, which Fabian hopes will one day be “on every wrist that’s been affected by cancer”.
To this end, he sees WarOnCancer.com as a global movement rather than simply as a cancer-fighting organisation, a storytelling platform or a fashion brand (there are also #WarOnCancer t-shirts and necklaces in his online shop, for which half of the profit is donated to cancer research charities Worldwide Cancer Research and Leuka).
Fabian and Sebastian have big plans for expanding this movement and supporting its growth. This includes establishing a group of high-profile professionals, like a Board of Directors that can mentor the growing WarOnCancer.com team (Melinda Gates is on their wish list ‒ if anyone knows her, please get in touch).
Although WarOnCancer.com is a full-time job, Fabian still has a passion for acting and intends to continue pursuing that career at the same time. “I still plan to do WarOnCancer.com, but at some point I have to separate myself from the brand. I want it to fly on its own,” he comments. And with that, he’s off to the gym, like any ordinary 29-year-old.
Interested in this topic? Fabian will be sharing his experience at the 2016 MedTech Forum in Brussels from 1-2 December. Click here to check the programme and register. Last year’s interview with This Is Medtech (Part 1 and Part 2) took place three months after Fabian received his leukaemia diagnosis, while he was undergoing regular chemotherapy and bone marrow biopsies.