The Cancer Hive – a platform of support for patients and their loved ones - RSA

The Cancer Hive – a platform of support for patients and their loved ones


  • Picture of Caroline Leek
    Caroline Leek
    Combining cancer education with artistic practices to make understanding accessible for all.
  • Crowdfunding
  • Fellowship in Action

Caroline Leek FRSA is the director and founder of a multi-award winning not-for-profit organisation, Fruit Fly Collective. She tells us about their work, improving the public’s understanding of cancer, and supporting individuals and their families affected by cancer, and how you can support their latest project.

Our mission

We want to create a new quarterly magazine called The Cancer Hive that is co-directed by us and the cancer community to help change the conversations around cancer, whilst providing support to those who are living with it. The magazine will explore stories, thoughts, and wisdom from people who have been there, using artistic methods to be inclusive.

The Cancer Hive Kickstarter campaign target is £8000 and ends 01 August 2019.


Our purpose

When a person gets diagnosed with cancer - when cancer comes crashing into their lives -finding an anchor to hold on to is key to keeping steady whilst they try to make sense of their world.

People with cancer report losing their identity after diagnosis, and how this contributes to a decline in mental well-being. Feeling isolated is commonly described as is feeling overwhelmed with not knowing what the future looks like.

What if there was a space or a platform that could help people feel less alone, help them navigate the journey they face? What if we could capture the positive impact of sharing similar experiences and turn it into a magazine? The Cancer Hive is that platform.

Our offering

The Cancer Hive is a space where the cancer community can emotionally support one another, and a place that can help change the conversations around cancer, making it less of a taboo, whilst providing support to those who are living with it.

A quarterly printed and digital publication that isco-directed and co-edited by the cancer community, exploring their stories, thoughts, wisdom and advice.

Non-clinical care

Fruit Fly Collective, led by founded and directed by myself, has been working with people living with cancer and their families for over five years, and have identified common themes expressed about non-clinical cancer care:

  • The difficulty of reading, absorbing and retaining text information about cancer and its psychological side-effects
  • The diversity of people living with cancer is not often reflected in material given to them during their care
  • The struggle for people living with cancer to express their experiences to their carers, family and friends

The Cancer Hive provides an opportunity to address all of these themes. It uses artistic and creative methods to be more inclusive, to reach diverse, broader audiences, (e.g low literacy or non-native speakers); remove cultural or learning barriers; provide mental models for invisible entities, such as emotions, and make challenging issues seem less frightening.

A connected cancer community

We know that connecting with other people who have faced similar experiences is key to better mental health but that culture is a huge barrier to seeking support. People from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities, those from lower socio-economic backgrounds and male patients are less likely to participate in support groups. The Cancer Hive aims to give support to every patient regardless of background, ethnicity or gender by providing the benefits of support groups in a magazine which can be picked up in the clinic waiting areas. Also by collecting stories from unheard cancer groups, using our community engagement partners, will ensure the content reflects the diverse community we live in.

The three main anticipated social benefits of our project are:

  1. Improving the mental well-being of people living with cancer by reaching out and engaging with them whether this is by providing a platform for them to tell their stories, or simply by collecting stories in one accessible place for them to read themselves. Access to the magazine will be online through paid subscription, or for free in NHS cancer centre waiting rooms around the UK.
  2. Removing barriers to understanding the emotional impact cancer has on a person by providing culturally sensitive content produced in an accessible, easily digestible, visual language.
  3. Empowering people diagnosed with cancer, enabling them to take ownership by either joining The Cancer Hive’s advisory board, or submitting content for the magazine. Calls for submissions will be posted four times a year.

Issue 1 has been published with the support of Macmillan Cancer Support. The response has been incredible, both from people living with cancer and their families, as well as healthcare and charity professionals working in the cancer field. People identified with the illustrations which had been informed by stories collected from people living with cancer, and came forward to share their own narratives and emotional reactions; this sent a clear message that The Cancer Hive has a purpose.

How you can help

To help fund the future of The Cancer Hive, we have launched a crowdfunding campaign with the RSA and Kickstarter to raise £8000. With the money, we can cover the fees for the publication of Issue 2:

  • Fees for the creative team (twoillustrators, guest writers, an editor, a photographer and graphic designer)
  • Printing
  • Postage and packaging to NHS cancer centres

Issue 2 will have a subscription fee that will cover the costs of Issue 3 so we can sustain the publication. Rewards for backing the campaign include publishing personal thank yous in Issue 2; early copies of Issue 2; donating Issue 2 to be delivered to cancer centres, GP waiting rooms, or cancer support groups of your choice; beautiful Giclee prints of any artwork from Issues 1 & 2 and lifelong membership to The Cancer Hive.

When cancer comes crashing into a life, finding an anchor to hold on to is critical. We want The Cancer Hive to be a part of that anchor.


If you would like to donate to The Cancer Hive's cause, please visit their Kickstarter page. For more information about their work you can visit their website

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