• Humanly: A Social Network for People Impacted by Cancer {+ Founded by a Jersey City Local}

    Written by:

    “Cancer is inopportune. Cancer, like life, just happens — without planning, without control, and without clearly defined rules. And without rules, we’re left to learn from what has worked and failed for others.”

    That’s Lauren Wood speaking, the founder of Humanly — a social network for those impacted by cancer. After losing her mom to breast cancer as a teenager, Lauren {who lives in Jersey City} knew she wanted to help people impacted by cancer, whether they are survivors, currently battling cancer, or have a friend, family member, or neighbor that had or has cancer. Read on to learn more about Humanly, Lauren, and the work she and her organization do. 

    humanly cancer

    {Photo courtesy of @live.humanly}

    The Story Behind Humanly

    “I lost my mom to cancer shortly before my 15th birthday and like so many who’ve experienced cancer and loss, it was an inflection point in my life that shaped me in ways I couldn’t have imagined,” Lauren tells Hoboken Girl. “Over the years I came to realize that people who don’t have cancer or who haven’t lost someone to this disease don’t realize, that it is OK to talk about it.”

    And that’s exactly what Humanly does: provide a resource for people whose lives have been touched by cancer – whether they need to grieve, whether they need to start planning for the future, no matter the emotionality involved.

    See More: A Therapist Shares How to Prioritize Your Mental Health

    “You don’t have to avoid the topic,” Lauren says.

    “It is OK to grieve. It is OK to discuss potential eventualities, even if it’s not the most uplifting conversation. It is OK for the flurry of emotions — happiness, sadness, anger, and surprise — to rear their heads at inopportune times.”

    In fact, one could even argue that Lauren learned to channel her grief for her mom into something profound, something that others impacted by cancer could benefit from. Lauren says that even still today, her mother very much guides her in her career.

    “It is this complexity of the human experience of living with cancer, the lack of supportive care options, and my background in human-centered design that inspired me to join oncology biotech, Immunomedics, as Head of Patient Experience and Corporate Communications,” she says. “It was another milestone I wish I could have shared with my mother, but also a once in a lifetime opportunity to make a difference and give a voice to those who often go unheard.”

    lauren from humanly

    ^Lauren Wood, founder of Humanly

    “And my mother has very much been a part of my work thus far, helping me connect more deeply with patients, their caregivers, physicians, and nurses, to better understand the impact cancer has had on their lives.”

    Lauren continues, “Not just in the context of treatment options or clinical outcomes, but in the context of day-to-day experiences and moments that define their lives with cancer.”

    Why NJ + Beyond Need Humanly

    While Humanly is for everyone, regardless of state or origin, it’s nearly impossible to deny New Jersey’s relationship to cancer. In fact, the most recent data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention {2014} suggests New Jersey is one of the top states in America for the development of new cancer cases.

    leading cancer cases and deaths

    {Photo courtesy of CDC}

    New Jersey ranked seventh in the nation, with neighboring states New York and Pennsylvania ahead of it {New York ranked #5 and Pennsylvania, #4). However, the data also showed that while New Jersey was more prone to higher cancer rates, New Jerseyians were less likely to die from cancer than patients in the southwest and midwest regions.

    According to the 2014 data, the most common new cancer cases were most likely to be breast cancer {in females}, prostate, and lung cancer.

    types cancer new jersey

    {Photo courtesy of CDC}

    “All of this work has revealed real human stories, needs, and connections,” Lauren says. “It has revealed vulnerable and powerful moments that we — and the medical community — seldom pay attention to or communicate. Like how cancer competes for your identity — as a mother, daughter, or wife — or how the fear of recurrence manifests in a desperate race to cram all of the parenting in before your time runs out.”

    Lauren adds, “This need drove my team to create Humanly, a web-based platform that strives to be a space for people living with cancer to feel seen, heard, and understood.”

    “Our hope is that Humanly will humanize cancer, be the catalyst for self-advocacy, and shift the focus from disease to life with disease. “

    How Humanly Works

    “Humanly is a web-based space for cancer patients, survivors, caregivers, and nurses to share their own stories and experiences with others — what they care about, what has been most difficult to overcome, and what brings meaning to their lives,” Lauren explains. “It launched in 2018 with Our Story, an online community that reflects a series of short and long form moments and resources from community members. The moments are categorized by themed playlists and explore how experiences like physical intimacy, self-identity, the holidays, and more are experienced while living with cancer. Listening to a playlist provides a broader view of lives with cancer.”

    If you’re not sure where to start but are interested in checking out all that Humanly has to offer, Lauren suggests starting with Our Story.

    “If you are someone who has been impacted by cancer, I encourage you to head to Our Story where you can listen to the submissions of others and share your own with the community. We’ve received amazing feedback from users on both ends and appreciate all of the support!”

    As for Lauren’s favorite part of what Humanly does for people affected by cancer, it’s the sense of community.

    “I feel proud that Humanly is giving a voice to those who have been affected by cancer and providing a space for them to connect with others.”

    “The authentic and honest voices from our community members are what make this platform unique — there’s no script, no protocol, no ulterior motive,” Lauren says. “Humanly was intentionally designed to be of the people, by the people, for the people in an effort to create a new patient paradigm.”

    “It’s beautiful to see how people are talking about the moments that we all take for granted — celebrating the holidays, catching up with friends, planning for the months ahead,” she continues. “We can all learn a lot from these reflections whether we’ve experienced cancer or not. Life is short and fragile, but if we stay focused on what is most important, we’ll get the most out of the life we have to live.”

    The Goal of Humanly

    Humanly aims to make sure no one impacted by cancer feels alone. “First and foremost, we want people to feel that they are not alone. We’ve had the opportunity to meet many people who have experienced cancer from around the world and while all of their stories are unique, there’s a common thread that ties them together. Humanly can help people find the words to express themselves — their needs, fears, and desires — with friends and family during a time when it can seem impossible to do so,” Lauren adds.

    Read More: Everything You Need to Know About Your Thyroid

    Humanly is a space for people impacted by cancer in all ways, whether it’s mental or emotional health that’s lacking in the cancer community. It’s a place to share stories, listen to others’ stories, connect online, and share resources.

    “At its core, Humanly wants to encourage conversation about vulnerable moments that offer insight into the lives of people living with cancer,” Lauren adds. “It wants to wake the industry up to the day-to-day moments that we all experience, and seldom pay attention to, or communicate, that are both humanizing and universal.”

    Have you or a loved one been impacted by cancer? Humanly might be for you.

    Have you joined our Facebook group yet? Request here to gain access to even more local tips, and connect with fellow Hudson County residents.


    Written by:

    Steph Osmanski is a freelance writer who specializes in sustainability and health and wellness content. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at Stony Brook Southampton.


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