Cancer grows in our bodies, and in our culture, from literature to movies. Some have tried using books. John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars details the lives of two cancer stricken children in love. TV shows like The Big C find a way to laugh at the ridiculousness of dying. Then there’s Tom Street, a Norwich native, and graphic designer, who sees the world through interactive maps and diagrams. For his final project at Cambridge School of Art, he wanted to make cancer easier to look at.
“Personally, I’ve had grandparents diagnosed with cancer. When I was in school, my mom had a benign brain tumour,” Street said. “You go to the Internet. You have a Google, and you’re sort of hit by all these horrible images. You don’t want to see them, really, when you can show them in a soft illustration that’s so much more friendly for the eye and not so worrying. That’s my inspiration for making an iPad app”.
He decided to make an app for bowel cancer because there’s not a whole lot of information about it online, even though it’s the third most common type of cancer. Plus, it’s gross, bloody, and not located in a place people like to discuss over dinner. The app features an interactive map where anyone can scroll down and learn about the different stages, treatment, and hear personal stories from bowel cancer patients.
“It was really important to make the information style really soft, really friendly, as approachable as it could be,” Street said. “So I went with pastel colours. It’s almost child-like. It explains everything from the diagnosis to treatment. When most people do search the internet and see the horrible things, they don’t want to see them again. I had to look at them for two months and get my head around them. That was my inspiration more than anything else. It just makes you think this needs to be solved soon and we need to get this sorted out”.
For two whole months, Street had no choice but to keep looking at bowel cancer. He has no medical background, but what he knows are images and graphs. The app is like an e-book, and people can scroll through it to find information about the disease, treatment, and cures. When Street was finished, he needed a name. He went with Help, because it sounded good and matched his intention.
Street has recently been approached by Beating Cancer and Norwich’s cancer research group, The Big C, about his work. The intention is to make Helpavailable on the App Store. Cancer is always a difficult subject to address, and while Help may not make cancer easier to bear, it’ll at least make it easier to look at