FCancer Founder: We Need More 'Authentic' Cancer Conversations


Talk about cancer is everywhere. There are pink ribbons slapped on sneakers and oven mitts. Entire shows, like "The Big C," revolve around the disease.


But are we really talking about cancer, or just what we’re comfortable addressing?

FCancer CEO and founder Yael Cohen thinks it’s the latter and decided she wanted to create a safe space for people to talk about what cancer is really like, even the ugly parts, after her mother was diagnosed in 2009. The site, which has struck a chord with people for its unvarnished realism, is an invitation to participate in a conversation.

“I think we talk around cancer, I think we don’t shut up about cancer, actually,” Cohen told Fusion’s Alicia Menendez. “But we don’t talk about it enough. We don’t have authentic, uncensored conversations about it.”

Cohen, who just became engaged to Justin Bieber's manager Scooter Braun, appears on Alicia Menendez Tonight’s Young Women To Watch list.

She founded the site FCancer in late 2009 because she was shocked, she said, by “how censored and prescribed” the cancer space was.

“We don’t like to see people being uncomfortable,” she said. “We feel guilty and confused and we don’t know how to talk to cancer patients and so we gave people a safe space.”


Take biopsies for example. Many sites explain what they are and why they have them, but F*ck Cancer aims to go further and tell people what the biopsies actually feel like, even if it isn’t pretty. It offers advice for uncomfortable conversations, like telling a child they have cancer without making them feel they’ve done something wrong. There are also posts about songs to listen to during chemo and foods that made people feel a little better.

Cohen also sees the site as a way for her generation to harness the fact that young people today have access to more information than any previous generation and are in a position to help educate their parents. It’s an opportunity to engage young people who “were being left out of this conversation.”


“Let’s use that information,” she said, “and teach our parents something that can save their lives.”

Emily DeRuy is a Washington, D.C.-based associate editor, covering education, reproductive rights, and inequality. A San Francisco native, she enjoys Giants baseball and misses Philz terribly.