App for Cancer Patients: Memes and Metastases

AAt first glance, Yes!App appears to be a completely ordinary social network. But the discussions, posts, and profiles are way too thoughtful and overly grateful for a regular social media app. It’s more than casual wear, a late train ride, and cat videos. It’s about cancer. A disease that strikes more and more of us the older we get and the more accurate the diagnoses. Only from cardiovascular diseases in this country more people die. Every second person has cancer at least once in their life.

So it’s only natural that the non-profit company Yeswecan!cer created this app. He brought self-help groups, which are so important in destigmatizing the disease, to the Internet and thus made them available to every patient and all his relatives. In the Yes! no one will complain that it is always a disease – that is their goal.

Digital persistence slogans

Patients and relatives can also exchange information about the smallest details of treatment, sometimes with the participation of specialists. When the side effects become unbearable, other users send insistent slogans: “Please don’t stop taking the pills!”

Funda, 43, whose cancer is untreatable, gets help here with all the bureaucracy involved in applying for a pension. Laura, whose mother was diagnosed with bladder cancer three years ago, asks for “every little idea” of how she can help. Just holding hands and wiping tears is not enough. Other users write about fixed meal plans, homemade juices, and how sometimes they are less rich than you think. Your messages will end with a shamrock emoji and Happy Birthday.

Goal: To be more open about cancer

Alexander Wünsch, head of the department of psycho-oncology at the University Hospital of Bern, calls the app “special”. Because it offers so much to help patients: chats and groups, podcasts, expert information. Wünsch and his colleague Natalie Roederer from Freiburg are also working on the app. It should have the same features as the Yes!App, but will come from Cancer Advice Centers and not self-help like the Yes!App. Jörg A. Hoppe founded Yes!App in 2018; Two years earlier, the music manager had been diagnosed with leukemia. That’s why he wanted to help people talk more openly about cancer.

In fact, talking is “a very, very powerful strategy,” Wunsch says, especially when it comes to fear. All cancer patients suffer from fears, whether it be the fear of treatment, more suffering, or relapse. A number of studies have shown that 30 to 40 percent of those affected are so severely affected that they develop depression or another mental disorder.

Even online self-help has its limits

“Which helps me a little to cope with fear,” writes Claudia (39, diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019) in the Yes!App group: “Give her a shape (for me she is a scary but cute green alien) and yourself, fear sits opposite you and speaks to you. Then you send them back.” Alexander Wünsch thinks this is a good thing and rejoices when he hears about the idea of ​​an alien.

But online self-help also has its limits. In a conversation about death, they become clear. “The fear of death is one of the most difficult topics,” says Wunsch. Few patients dared to talk about it. Sabina (58, diagnosed with breast cancer in 2021) writes to the breast cancer group: “Oh, I’m getting more and more scared every day. I have metastases to the lungs and bones. Do you have experience in this? How long can you live with it?” Antje and Catherine answer, but they write, do not speak, and do not think about death. It’s easier to live that way.

Encouraging posts like Karin’s (she had to have almost half of her tongue removed due to oral cancer) generated more responses. A 46-year-old woman shows a photo of her return to the office: balloons hover in front of gray chairs, confetti scattered everywhere. “I was so happy that day,” she writes.

Source: Frantfurter Allgemeine

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