A 27-year-old who survived cancer twice is aiming to raise around £250,000 to expand an app that helps patients connect with each other for support post-diagnosis.
Brad Gudger was diagnosed with chronic myeloid leukaemia aged 19 in 2013, and went into remission before relapsing aged 24. The second time around the app founder had to leave his life in London and return to his parents' home in Yorkshire. He felt isolated and lonely while in a hospital ward awaiting a bone marrow transplant, as his immune system was so vulnerable he was not able to leave his room.
The advocate decided to try to create something that would allow himself and fellow patients to feel less alone, to easily talk with others going through the same things - even if they could not meet in person.
Working with contacts in the charity sector and using donations from generous survivors, Mr Gudger spent the past few years building a team and creating non-profit app, Alike.
The app, which can be downloaded on the Apple App Store and on Google Play, soft-launched earlier this year and has since seen more than 600 sign-ups.
It provides a social media platform for people with cancer, or who are in remission. The entire operation is entirely led by cancer survivors, and users can connect based on a mixture of diagnosis, stories and interest.
More than 80% of young people diagnosed with cancer experience loneliness during and after treatment, according to recent research. The idea is to provide a platform for peer support - to enable people to have a space to ask questions, to make friends, or just to talk with people who completely understand their situation.
The founder said: "Initially I was nervous about the launch. This has been with the team for the past two years, and now there are people I've never met before sharing their stories and experiences. I'm seeing real people connect. It's an indescribable feeling."
Jay McLaughlin, 41, a fashion photographer from London is currently in the middle of treatment for Stage 3 Colon Cancer.
He said: “Treatment is brutal and it’s invaluable being able to ask a bunch of people who have gone through it or are going through cancer weird questions, like 'is this normal to crave this kind of food' or 'should I be feeling this?' – all of that stuff. It’s more humanising to know there’s a person attached to the label of cancer."
The app's designer Max Kramer, who lost a close friend to cancer, donated his time for free over the past year to design and build the app.
It can sustain itself at this level with volunteer support, but needs around £250,000 in further funding to enable the founder to pay for new features providing additional support, and for full-time team members to help the app "achieve maximum impact".
Mr Gudger, who has also been supported by Soho House and works from their outlet on The Strand, said: "Technology is expensive. We've been supported by a few major donors, who have generously supported us. But now we've built the app, and we're really looking to scale it up and we need financial support to do that. We need the funds to grow.
"I can't wait to take this to the next level... We want to develop technology that helps our partners as well. We want to utilise a location services feature that would help survivors find people in their own area, and also build a signposting tool helping cancer patients and survivors find local professional mental health support."
To find out more or contact Alike, see here