Gems of Hope has licensed an app developed by a Cedar Rapids-based entrepreneur to offer cancer patients and their families a virtual support group during their treatment and recovery.
Gems of Hope is a Cedar Rapids not-for-profit organization that was “founded with the mission of inspiring hope in cancer patients and their families,” said Executive Director Norah Hammond.
And Levi Bostian’s app fits right in with that mission, she said.
Gems of Hope licensed Cancer Really Sucks!, a brand within Bostian’s mobile platform called Your Circle that he developed three years ago.
The app, which is sponsored by grants from the Witwer Trust and the Cedar Rapids Area Association of Realtors, is free for users on Apple and Android.
It went live in fall of 2017, but currently only has demo users. Hammond said they hope to have 200 users by the end of the first year.
HOW IT WORKS
Cancer Really Sucks! takes a more personal approach to online forums and chat rooms, with the intention of helping people find others to glean advice or support from, Bostian said.
“The app is very much about building relationships,” Bostian said. “There are people online right now in forums, but feedback I’ve been hearing is that people are tired of going to some general online community ... and all you get is ‘thinking about you’ or ‘god bless’ or ‘I’m so sorry.’”
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Users get started on the platform through access cards with individualized codes. These cards are handed out by local not-for-profits and hospital social workers, ensuring only those who need it have access to the app, Bostian said.
“The whole idea here is to keep things safe,” he said.
From there, the user is asked a series of questions and is placed into virtual groups of about eight to 10 people who are impacted by cancer in the same way. For example, mothers of cancer patients would be paired together, but a 20-year-old cancer patient would not be put into the same group as a 55-year-old cancer patient.
From there, users are free to use the app’s chat rooms as little or as often as they want. Either way, both Hammond and Bostian said the hope is that they create a lasting support network.
“I simply believe in peer-to-peer support and I believe that it’s not a very accessible thing at this moment,” Bostian said. “All I wanted to do was use the power of the internet to connect people and to help them have peer-to-peer emotional support.”
The app is open to all ages, but Bostian said he is targeting a demographic of 18- to 22-year-olds.
Levi said he currently is in talks with other national and local not-for-profits looking to license his platform Your Circle for their own support groups, such as caretakers of family members with Alzheimer’s disease or for those with diabetes.
For more information on Cancer Really Sucks!, visit the app’s website at findyourcircle.co/crs/.
Access cards can be obtained through Gems of Hope, which can be reached by calling 319-393-9681.
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