February 2, 2018

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Tech’s Fight Against Cancer

By
Alex Burgos

World Cancer Day is this Sunday, February 4, and the technology industry stands in solidarity with those who are fighting this disease today and honoring the memory of loved ones we have lost.

At TechNet, our team has been personally impacted by cancer.  And it’s a big reason we are proud to work with technology companies whose innovations are revolutionizing the war on cancer, saving lives, and making a real difference in people’s lives.

Among them are tech companies making medical advancements in the field of cancer research through machine learning, artificial intelligence, and cloud computing.  These efforts are helping doctors and researchers enhance early detection, improve treatments, glean better insights from the seemingly endless body of data and medical research that exists in this area, and quickly share their findings with each other and with patients.  In doing so, they are helping save lives and improve life expectancy.

Our companies’ charitable giving includes support for hospitals and cancer research centers, and also making the dreams of patients come true through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

Families that have to travel long distances to receive cancer treatment can turn to Airbnb as a short-term housing option.  For patients facing financial strains, the home-sharing platform can also give them opportunities to utilize their properties to generate income.

For patients hunkered down in hospitals, food delivery online platforms like DoorDash and Postmates offer alternative delivery options to get them what they want and when they want it.  Because sometimes, the hospital food simply doesn’t cut it.

Social media is playing an especially important role in this battle against cancer.

When people are diagnosed with cancer, they increasingly turn to Facebook to share the news with their friends and families — and receive immediate, reassuring reminders that they are not alone in their fight.  In one of history’s first true viral video moments on YouTube, one unforgettable professor diagnosed with cancer gave us an enduring lesson on how we should live our lives when confronted with that reality.

We see inspiring acts on these platforms that compel us to do our own good works — for example, to donate to cancer research organizations and causes.  For me, part of the reason I decided to become an organ donor recently is because of a selfless act I witnessed on Facebook one day of a friend donating one of his kidneys to save the life of his relative who had been battling cancer.

Online crowdfunding platforms enable relatives, friends, and complete strangers to provide financial support to families affected by cancer — an important social media innovation since cancer is not only a life-threatening health challenge; it also brings significant financial challenges.

We see patients turn to social media to share what they are going through and help educate others, turning one individual’s experience into a teaching moment that can help save lives.  Parade Magazine recently highlighted this phenomenon, which it called “The Facebook Effect”:

Through social media, we are increasingly finding shared moments that help bring our country together in this fight.  These come in many different ways but often begin as simple tweets and posts by struggling patients and families that ripple through the world wide web and, through the simple act of “liking,” “retweeting,” and “sharing,” return to the original authors as giant waves of support and solidarity that remind them they are not alone.

It used to be the case that if you blinked, important moments in life could pass you by.  But the power of social media has changed that, and I have experienced it firsthand when it comes to cancer — many times, in fact.  For example, on September 2, 2017, a movement organized via Facebook became a new University of Iowa football game day tradition involving young cancer patients at the hospital right across from the football stadium:

 

I wasn’t there in Iowa City that day.  I didn’t even watch that game. And yet, I didn’t miss it and or feel any less impacted by the moment.  That’s because the power of that moment was not isolated geographically, nor fleeting.  Because of social media, I was able to experience it too.  Sometimes we find moments, but this time, this moment found me — and many others — through social media.

And during the moments of tragedy and loss that we continue encountering along this road to eventually win the battle against cancer, we turn to social media to honor those we have lost and ensure that their memories live on.  Others, like this family, combined their sense of loss with their technological skills to create a video game that is really more a work of art and expression of love for the young child they lost:

 

We have a long way to go in this fight.  But we are making progress.  And part of the reason we know that is because of the many stories of triumph we see on our social media feeds.  It is there where people who once shared the news of their cancer diagnosis are coming to share the news that they are cancer-free (!).  It is there where people come to share how, months and years after beating cancer, they just finished a marathon, an Ironman, or accomplished some other feat that gives us all a sense of what life after beating cancer can look like: in a word, unprecedented; we can be even better than we were before cancer.

As we mark World Cancer Day on February 4, TechNet and our members pledge to continue our work in promoting the kinds of innovations that don’t only provide economic opportunities but also help our nation and the entire human race tackle global challenges like cancer.

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