Fabian Bolin was 28 years old when he learnt he had leukemia. It was 2015, and he was about to move to Hollywood to pursue an acting career. Everything was put on hold as treatment began. Little did Bolin know his diagnosis would not only impact his life, but thousands of others as well.

After posting an update for family and friends on Facebook from his hospital bed, Bolin was surprised to wake up and find it was shared over 13 000 times. Encouraged by this engagement, he began to blog about his experience. Seeing the positive effect this had on Bolin, childhood friend Sebastian Hermelin suggested that they offer the same kind of platform to others in similar circumstances.

They developed the War On Cancer app, a social network by cancer patients, for cancer patients. “What you need is empathy – people that understand you,” Bolin says. Through the app, people facilitate authentic and honest dialogue around everything from treatment routines to shared interests outside of one’s diagnosis. About 3 000 users support each other on the app, joining hands across countries and cultures with notes, photo updates, and posts. “We need to normalise the conversation and communication about cancer,” Bolin says.

As of November 2020, Bolin has been declared leukemia-free. “I’ve been able to cultivate a community of compassion as well as help accelerate global research and cancer care,” Bolin says. While he is rid of cancer, his experience of the disease will permeate his outlook with gratitude and kindness.