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Social network connects local, national cancer community

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When a friend’s dad was diagnosed with cancer, Alex Marsh and his friends banded together to try and help.
Marsh, a third-year in entrepreneurship, will be participating in Pelotonia, The James’ annual bike tour dedicated to raising money for cancer research, for his third time this August. He rides every year for his friend’s dad, who lost his battle with cancer.
“I know that when my friend’s dad was diagnosed with cancer, all of our friends tried to get together and talk about what we could do to help her,” Marsh said. “If there could be some type of online forum for that, I think it would definitely help to have that support system.”
But now, cancer patients and caregivers have The James CancerConnect, a place to come together online to share information, advice, support and personal testimonies.
The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard Solove Research Institute recently partnered with OMNI Health Media to launch The James CancerConnect. The free social media network aims to connect the local and national cancer community.
“I think (CancerConnect) sounds like a great idea,” Marsh said.
Dori Klemanski, the clinical director of survivorship at The James, said CancerConnect is an important support group for patients outside of the hospital. Klemanski, who worked as a nurse practitioner in an oncology unit for eight years, said patients often want to speak with someone who has personally gone through what they are experiencing.
“There are so many other needs that patients have besides what we can address all the time in a clinical environment,” Klemanski said. “This is another way for them on their own time, in their own space and in their own readiness to be able to go ahead and reach out to other people that have gone through a similar track.”
The James CancerConnect can be accessed with a specific member password, and users can learn about and engage in more than 60 disease communities. Along with providing discussion forums for diagnoses such as breast cancer, melanoma and colon cancer, users can discuss topics like exercise, spirituality and nutrition.
Danielle Benson, a second-year in pre-health sciences and committee member of Buckeyethon, an annual dance marathon at OSU that raises money for pediatric cancer, said after witnessing her 4-year-old nephew undergo treatment for acute lymphocytic leukemia at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, she understands how important it is for cancer patients to have peers throughout the treatment process.
“My family was there for my nephew … but until it happens to you, you don’t know what it’s like to find out that you have this almost incurable disease and you’re going to be battling for your life,” Benson said. “I know my nephew had a ton of friends down at St. Jude and I felt like he needed that connection because they were going through the same thing together and it was something he could relate to.”
The James online cancer community is managed by OMNI Health Media, which, according to OMNI’s website, publishes health-related information. Other organizations involved with the network include hospitals in Buffalo, N.Y., Nashville, Tenn., New York City and Seattle.

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