How one man’s #WarOnCancer inspired millions

Cancer is one of the greatest, and most damaging diseases of our time. Almost everyone knows someone who is, or has been affected by it.

In 2015, right at the beginning of a promising acting career, 28-year-old Fabian Bolin received the news that he had leukaemia, and his whole life was turned upside down.

After searching for as much information as possible on the disease, Fabian felt alone – and realised that this didn’t have to be the case:

“During cancer treatment, many people are forced into depression. I quickly saw that there is little room for questions about mental health and lifestyle in health care. The focus is always on the fact that patients should rest and be healthy.”

When Fabian wrote a Facebook post announcing his diagnosis, it was shared 13,000 times, demonstrating to him the power of social media. As a result, he started a blog called ‘Fabian Bolin’s War on Cancer’ which quickly grew to over 70,000 visitors a week. It was through this blog, that Fabian met other cancer patients and their relatives.

“By sharing my experiences in my blog, I understood that I could help other people. It gave me the feeling of having a purpose. To give to others, healed me,” says Fabian.

A month into his blogging, Fabian’s followers had grown further, and he felt that he wanted to create something bigger than just a blog. To help other sufferers on their own journey, Fabian and his best friend Sebastian created waroncancer.com – a platform for mental health for cancer and relatives, powered by a #WarOnCancer movement.

“I wanted to do something bigger that could really change the world for people affected by cancer. Sebastian and I launched WarOnCancer, a blog where everyone can share their stories,” Fabian continues.

Fabian Bolin and Sebastian Hermelin, Co-founders, WarOnCancer

The digital war against cancer
Within a few weeks, the blog had grown to 150 bloggers who together represented over 40 different forms of cancer diagnoses. Fabian and Sebastian soon also noticed that the blog not only attracted patients, but also their relatives. The success of the blog brought new and unexpected opportunities to the founders, who soon were invited to talk at various medical fairs and conferences.

“We barely knew what medical technology was when we started our journey in the industry. Instead, we talked about our vision to give patients a voice. We wanted to challenge the prevailing norm in which, today, many cancer patients feel like they are victims. We decided to make the fight against cancer something cool, that everyone can gather around,” says Fabian.

WarOnCancer is well on the way to growing into a global movement that cooperates with health care, pharmaceutical companies and even tech companies. The site attracts expertise from large tech companies and other platforms, such as, for example, in the form of UX designers with previous experience from Lifesum, Spotify, supported by technical solutions from Microsoft.

“We are proud to participate in the WarOnCancer’s mission to support all individuals affected by cancer today and in the future. WarOnCancer is more than just a platform. Their solution is a good example of how the individual, but also the healthcare can benefit from social networks to improve for patients and relatives,” says Mathias Ekman, Responsible Business Development Healthcare at Microsoft Western Europe.

The collaboration with Microsoft enables WarOnCancer to combat one of the major public illnesses of our time with the help of modern technology. Today, patients make other demands and the technical possibilities offered by digitalisation offer new ways of improving the efficiency of health and social care. In 2016, Microsoft conducted a cancer hackathon to test and evaluate new innovative methods in cancer care. Now, the hope is to involve WarOnCancer in new projects.

Data can save lives
The founders soon noticed that their platform had a value beyond being simply a community. They saw the value of the data that started to accumulate on the platform. Their hope for the future is that their data can help health care institutions to understand their patients better, and give value to the pharmaceutical industry.

“We have decided that WarOnCancer will always be in a beta so that we can constantly evolve according to our users’ needs. We want to meet a need that the health care sector struggles to find time for – mental health,” says Fabian.

Now the blog has closed, to instead make room for a WarOnCancer community. In September 2017, a new platform solution was launched in the Microsoft cloud. WarOnCancer is currently a community where users produce their own content, using the power of storytelling to share their stories and help other cancer patients with their own journeys.

For more information, please visit WarOnCancer, and the original news article on Microsoft News Centre Sweden.