When diagnosed with leukemia at the age of 28, Fabian Bolin decided to allocate his pain and energy into something bigger than him. It all started with a Facebook post that was shared over 13.000 times; continued into a blog where Fabian was documenting his battle on cancer reaching more than 200.000 readers in a couple of months; and turned out into a company called WarOnCancer.
Events in Fabian’s life led him to embark on what he now feels is his purpose in life: helping everyone affected with cancer. Following business studies at Stockholm School of Economics in 2011, Fabian went on to pursue a career in investment banking in London. After two years of working as a bonds trader, Fabian resigned to follow his passion to work in the film industry. In 2015, Fabian was diagnosed with cancer and his life took a completely different turn.
I had the pleasure to meet Fabian Bolin and listen to his amazingly inspirational story a few months ago at Sarajevo Unlimited, a regional innovation forum. His story is definitely one worth sharing. His journey, energy and enthusiasm can leave no one indifferent.
Sweden recognized his work and impact–Fabian won the award “Journalist of the Year 2015” for his blog by CancerRehabFonden and was selected as a Swedish Super Talent 2018 by Veckans Affärer. Recently he was ranked No. 1 on the list of most influential in the Swedish MedTech industry 2018.
This is his story.
1. It all began with a Facebook post
“I wrote the first post on social media because I wanted to get in touch with someone with experience from leukemia. I had so many questions that the healthcare couldn’t provide answers to. Questions surrounding life with cancer, career, diet and exercise. When I asked the healthcare about diet advice, they told me to “eat whatever made me happy”. So I turned to social media to get my answers. The post was shared 13,000 times and what followed was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever experienced. Thousands and thousands of people from literally all over the world got back to me with messages of love and support, and what I also noticed was that there was a lot of gratefulness in those messages. Many started out saying “Thank you for sharing this, I am going through the same thing as you are, and just so you know – this is helping a lot of people.”, Fabian explains.
2. Continued into a blog called “Fabian Bolin’s War on Cancer”
Fabian’s post resulted in over 100.000 messages, emails and letters of support received. He says that the instant gratification he felt from helping others made him happy. Hence, he made the decision to share his entire journey in a blog named ’Fabian Bolin’s War on Cancer’.
He goes on to explain, “The blog became my savior in the chaos that followed and made me realize the power and potential of storytelling. Firstly, I found sharing to be very therapeutic. Secondly, it helped me to normalize the situation around me, so that friends and family got a better understanding of what I was going through, and hence could treat me more like a person and less like a victim. Thirdly, the knowledge that my story was making a positive impact on people’s lives had a profoundly positive impact on my own mental wellbeing. The altruism healed me. Within a couple of months, the blog had reached more than 200,000 readers, and I can honestly say that I was feeling happier mentally than I ever have before in my life, even though I was undergoing one of the worst challenges of my life physically. This made me expand the vision. If I could feel this way, then we could build a product that would make others feel the same way and ultimately have a large impact on the mental health of people affected by cancer.”
3. And grew into a social platform for cancer called WarOnCancer
Fabian recognized the power and potential of storytelling and combined with his strong urge to empower others affected, he got the idea for WarOnCancer which he founded together with his friend Sebastian Hermelin.
WarOnCancer is a tech company on a mission to improve mental health for everyone affected by cancer. The company is currently developing a social network for patients, survivors and loved ones–a niche community for cancer focused on storytelling–through which it also aims to become a global provider of patient-reported data to the healthcare and biopharmaceutical industry. Their vision–“A world where people affected by cancer are seen as humans–and treated that way”.
“We have partnerships with six leading pharmaceutical companies within oncology and immune-oncology. We are currently beta-testing the app together with members from two earlier versions of the platform. We also recently launched Search by WarOnCancer – our very own search engine that donates to cancer research. Just like other search engines, ads will appear with your search results, whenever you click on one of the ads money will be donated to cancer research. We are using simple everyday technology to modernize the way people can make an impact.”, tells Fabian.
A year ago they did a small pre-seed funding round and are currently in the process of raising angel capital in a late-seed round. Besides from the fundraising, Fabian says they are financing the operation through their paid partnerships with the industry, sales of #WarOnCancer bracelets as well as various speaking engagements in and around Europe and the US.
Up to date, they have over 2500 users on the mobile app. Majority of the users come from Sweden (42%). The development team is from Bosnia and Herzegovina so the 34% share of users is a bit biased due to the test accounts. However, the app also has users from Slovenia, USA, UK, Ireland, Norway, Denmark, Italy, Netherlands and other countries.
Fabian tells me his vision about WarOnCancer, “Five years from now, WarOnCancer is the world’s largest social network for cancer with more than 5 million active users across all continents. We’re also the world’s largest provider of patient-reported data to our partners within healthcare, research and the biopharmaceutical industry. Through our data, we’ve helped healthcare to better understand how to put the patient at the center of care, we’ve deepened the understanding of cancer, and we’ve supercharged the pharma R&D process, and our platform acts a global match-making portal for clinical trials. By then, we will also have scaled out the platform horizontally into WarOnAlzheimers and most likely also WarOnDiabetes. Most importantly, we will have erased the stigma surrounding cancer and marginalized the level of cancer phobia which is inherent in today’s society.”
Next time you face a problem or difficulty in your life remember Fabian Bolin’s enthusiasm, and how he succeeded to turn a devastating situation into something amazing that helped and inspired millions.