Interview with founder of new social media site for those touched by cancer

Mailet Lopez, founder of I Had Cancer

I Had Cancer is a new social media network which launched last month and today on Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer, you can read my interview with founder Mailet Lopez .

JBBC:  First of all, congratulations on the successful launch of I Had Cancer. Perhaps you could tell us a little more about what led you to set up this site

M.L. Thank you so much! What led to the start of I Had Cancer was that I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer in 2008 when I was only 33 years old. I saw a real need for people dealing with cancer to be able to easily connect with each others in the same shoes and share their unique experiences. My doctors were great and my family and friends were so supportive, but I still had questions that only someone who had been through what I was going through, would be able to answer. There was no easy way to find and connect to these people online, which is why I created I Had Cancer.  

JBBC:  How do you think the growth in new social media platforms and social networking helps cancer survivors?   

M.L. That is a great question. For a long time cancer was taboo to discuss in society. If someone was sick they would keep it to themselves and experience incredible isolation while going through this awful disease. Finding people who were afflicted with cancer was incredibly difficult. But social media and social networking makes it so much easier to connect with others in the same shoes. You do not have to use your real name or give up identifying information to find others you can bond with over this experience. Online social networking creates communities that are crucial for anyone dealing with cancer.  

JBBC: What do you think is the biggest challenge facing cancer survivors today?  

M.L. The biggest challenge facing cancer survivors is dealing with the side effects of treatment. The term survivor is relative, you survive cancer and that is great and so empowering. Yet often, there are so many side effects from intense chemotherapy and radiation, as well as other unexpected health issues such as Chemo Brain and osteoporosis. The challenge is to not only survive but to thrive and continue moving forward. 

JBBC: I Had Cancer is also aimed at friends and family of cancer survivors. They may be unsure what to say or do for the best for their loved ones. What advice would you give them?   

M.L. Simply communicate openly. Offer to help but make it sincere. Ensure to lend an ear to those who might want to talk and get their feelings out. Offer to help around the house and try to be aware of how you act. Most cancer survivors and fighters do not want pity but a real friend. But the site is also available for them to be able to connect with other supporters who know what it’s like being so close to the disease. Supporters themselves need support and connecting with someone who’s been there can help out.  

JBBC: I am interested in the experiences of survivors transitioning from active treatment, how was that experience for you? What kind of support do you think cancer survivors need when they finish treatment?  

M.L. They need closure – they need therapeutic support that can only come from a fellow survivor who can help in the steps necessary to get back to your routine. You also  need to face, understand and accept what you just went through. I found that journaling the experience as tough as it was helped me put it behind me. Cancer will always be out there, use your experience to help others because in the process you’re helping yourself. That’s what I did. But you don’t have to go to this extent just sharing your experience will help and lets you do this easily.  

JBBC: Part of your site includes the opportunity to write a letter to cancer. If you were to write a letter to cancer, what would you say? What did you learn from your own experience of cancer?  

M.L. Here’s a copy of what I told cancer: “You put me and my family through the wringer and we prevailed. We will continue to do that. I do want to thank you because it was me you tried to take and not them. I wasn’t afraid; I knew I could take you on. In the process we learned a lot especially how much stronger we are then you.”  

I learned that having some form of support to be able to fight this head on is crucial. That’s why I think is going to be a really valuable resource for anyone touched by cancer.  

JBBC: Can you share a little of your long term plans for I Had Cancer. You are at the start up stage now but how do you see it developing over the next few years?  

M.L. Our ultimate goal is that the minute someone is diagnosed with cancer or someone they know is diagnosed they think of They’ll know that they can search for someone who’s been in a similar situation and that they can find support immediately. They are not alone in this fight and there is a community of really great people ready to connect with them. 

JBBC: Thanks for taking the time to share your vision of support for cancer survivors Mailet and continued good health and success to you.