For and about Cancer Survivors in Second Life, and for anyone who has been touched by cancer

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Breaking the ice

What better way to break the ice than by holding an icebreaker?

Willow Lundquist, new Cancer Caregivers chair, held a party on the ice for the caregivers in celebration of the fact that this is National Caregivers Month in the USA, and invited the survivors group to join in.

Willow Lundquist, the new Caregivers Chair

The party was held at Stormy Dragon which is run by Stormy and Dragonlord Moonlight. As you can see, we all skated brilliantly - thanks to their trick skating pose.

Stormy Moonlight atop the beautiful ice carousel

Poppy (L) and Cinders (R) dressed up to keep the winter winds away

There is much more to see on Stormy Dragon and it is one of the most tranquil spots in SL. Stormy has very kindly invited the caregivers and survivors to visit her land at any time.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Experience the London Oncology Clinic ... virtually

I was 14 when I was referred to a consultant physician in Harley Street, London, to look at some strange lumps in my neck. A visit that led to a diagnosis of thyroid cancer and many, many more visits to see the same doctor, stretching over the next ten years.

So it was with some trepidation that I stood on the steps of the London Oncology Clinic in Second Life, because it, too, is in Harley Street. The green door somehow looked SO familiar ...

I pulled myself together, went inside and saw that the waiting room was on the other side of the corridor from 'my' consultant's practice, and the decor was different, and somehow that was a relief. I went in and sat down, glancing - as I remember doing all those years ago - at the magazines on the table, and immediately heard my mother's voice echoing in my head, saying 'young women don't cross their legs like that!'

The other avatars in the room were not very communicative so I went exploring further.

I smiled at the fact that although the Clinic is in London, the floors are numbered American-style.

Up the stairs, to the 'second' floor, and ... oh boy, turned left straight into 'my' consultant's room. I sat down on the same chair that I remember sitting on so often. Glanced over to the modesty screen in the corner with the examination couch behind it. I remembered my consultant telling me after several visits that he thought he had been mistaken in his initial diagnosis and so he was referring me to an endocrine surgeon at the nearby Middlesex Hospital. And how I felt a strange relief, that he was taking my symptoms seriously, and something was at last going to be done.

Down the stairs again (am I the only one who dislikes elevators in SL?) into the basement and the treatment center. I said 'hi' to the receptionist, Eliza, who wasn't very communicative, either, and walked through to the cubicles where several patients were having treatment.

I noticed that one of the patients, Dexter, was using his laptop. Others were reading, or chatting with the nursing staff. It was all pretty laid back.

By this time I was feeling quite at home so I tried sitting in one of the treatment chairs.

In real life, the London Oncology Clinic is a private clinic that was set up in 2005 and offers a high level of cancer treatment by over 20 top oncologists, many of them internationally renowned, and most of whom practice or have practiced in the National Health Service in and around London. This representation is designed to help patients and/or their carers to get to know the clinic before attending and to help reduce the stress of the experience.

This is a great initiative, although I could think of some tweaks that would make it work still better, such as, making better use of the robot avatars to explain what is happening, and notegivers to explain the purpose of each area or a running commentary on the audio stream.

To tour the LOC go to:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Virtual peer support

Now that I've finally started to master Flickr I've uploaded a shortened version of the slides I presented at the Second Life Community Convention in September on "Virtual Peer Support for Cancer Survivors in Second Life":

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Virtual worlds for healthcare information

The Fall meeting of the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) featured a panel on virtual worlds as a healthcare information platform, which was held in world in the conference center on the Center for Connected Health island. I couldn't attend even virtually because I was on holiday, but it looks like an interesting program, and although not cancer-related it is yet more confirmation of the potential that people see for delivering health information and education via virtual platforms such as SL. See:

And here is Namro Orman's photographic record of the session:

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"Meet the professors" in Second Life

Gabriel Hortobagyi, Chairman of the Department of Breast Medical Oncology at the M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston, TX and Pier Franco Conte, Director of the Department of Oncology and Haematology at the University of Modena, Italy, are the joint directors of the Advanced Course on Breast Cancer being held this week in Modena. As DrHortobagyi Bravin and PierfrancoConte Blinker they came in world and answered questions put to them by avatar physicians, the press, and other interested people at an open Q&A session at the Virtual Cancer Institute.

Professors Hortobagyi and Conte answering questions over a live video stream put to them by physicians and others attending the conference at the Virtual Cancer Institute.

The professors, who answered questions live from Modena, were enthusiastic about the potential of holding conferences in Second Life and for people to 'attend' from different countries without having to travel. Italian physicians are able to get Continuing Medical Education (CME) credits for attending the course in Modena. Although virtual attendance does not, yet, qualify for CME credits, they foresee that this is a real possibility in the future once the practical issues are overcome.

M Linden addresses the inworld conference

Later, M Linden (Mark Kingsdon , CEO of Linden Labs) addressed the conference. He spoke enthusiastically about the important work this group is doing and about the increasing use that is being made of Second Life by health care providers and educators.

This was a good example of how virtual medical conferences can work. I've attended many real life medical conferences in my previous role as a scientific and medical publisher and the experience was very similar, except that this time, I could type my questions in the 'chat' box from the comfort of sitting at my own computer, or take a discreet break and refresh my coffee when I felt like it. And of course it saves on travel and accommodation! The one drawback is that you can't meet your colleagues face to face during the breaks, but you can always IM the other delegates and make new contacts that way.

The conference still has two days to run. For more information and a link to the detailed program, see my earlier blog piece:

Virtual breast cancer conference in Italy

In an exciting development, the Policlinic of the University of Modena is hosting a real life three-day "Meet the Professor" advanced course on breast cancer which is also being streamed into Second Life.

SL residents can follow the conference in real time at the Virtual Cancer Institute on the ISN Visions sim today, Thursday and Friday from Midnight to 10.30 am SLT.

The Virtual Cancer Institute in Second Life

I sat in on some of the first sessions and was impressed to find that the program features some heavyweight names, including experts from the United States, United Kingdom and Switzerland.

Professor Luca Gianni

Professor Luca Gianni (Head of the Medical Oncology A Division of the Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, Milan, Italy) was one of the speakers. He spoke live from Modena about gene profiling of breast cancer to a mixed live and virtual audience.

Most of the program is targeted in the first place at physicians (oncologists, radiologists and surgeons) but there is a Q&A session today at 9 am SLT (18.00 local Italian time) that should be of interest to other health professionals and to anyone whose life has been touched by cancer. ISN Visions has also announced that M Linden - Mark Kingdon, CEO of Linden Lab - will be joining the guests later today, at 10.30 am SLT (19.30 local Italian time). It is being held at the Virtual Cancer Institute (Teleport:

Hyoozan Hax, the Virtual Activities Manager in SL for ISN, told me that this is the second virtual cancer conference that the island has hosted, but this is the first time that it has been held in English.

The full program can be downloaded at:

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Looking good helps you to feel better

Aryon Dagger was one of the survivors who was given a totally new look as part of the Makeover Magic program. She has blogged her experiences on -

Her story reminded me of a time, long ago, when I had a recurrence of thyroid cancer. I came out of hospital with an embarrassing large red scar across my neck. Without my asking, a friend scooped me up and took me shopping. We found some pretty, high-neck blouses. Her gesture helped me hold my head up and look life in the face as I went through the next stages of treatment and waited anxiously to hear if it had spread. The scar has faded, and I'm disease-free, and my friend has moved on. But her action touched me deeply and the memory will always stay with me.

I love your new look Aryon, but above all I love you as a person. Thankyou for reminding us that it is not the new look alone, it's the friendship, the listening, the understanding, and above all the acceptance that counts. That helps us to feel better about ourselves.

And that's what the American Cancer Society's real life program - Look Good, Feel Better - is about too. For more information about this program see:

Applause for our designers

"Makeover Magic" would not have been possible without the generous contributions of our designers ---

Minnu Palen & Thora Charon - MM Skins
Hair & CachetMaddox Dupont - KMADD City & MADesigns Shapes
Nicky Ree - Designing Nicky Ree
Rosemary Galbraith - M&R CUPCAKES
Mavis McGettigan - Skin Flicks
Blaze Columbia - Blaze*
Torrid Midnight - TorridWear
Fallingwater Cellardoor - ShinyThings
Machang Pichot - AOHARU
Onyx LeShelle - Maitreya
Annyka Bekkers - Blowpop
LeeZu Baxter - LeeZu Baxter Designs
Lion Jonesford - Lion Skins
Barbara Nicholls & GM Nikolaidis - Spork
CheerNo Destiny - a.C Store
Scar Ayres - A. D. Studios

All of the designs were great, but I want to make special mention of Lion Jonesford. One of the fashion mentors passed along the information that this event was special to Lion because she lost her real life sister recently to cancer. Her Suzana skin is designed in her sister's memory. Lion, we appreciate what you do for us, and understand your pain. You are our hero.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Grand Makeover for ACS in Second Life

On Sunday, November 2 the American Cancer Society sim was officially reopened. Over the last several months, the island has been completely 'made over' to meet the growing needs of cancer patients and American Cancer Society volunteers in Second Life. The island rebuild was in the hands of Boro Rossini and Mirco Dinzeo who have done an amazing job of interpreting these needs.

As Jeff Montegut, who as Stingray9798 Raymaker is the ACS Strategic Director in Second Life, said: "The American Cancer Society plans to utilize the virtual office no differently (in concept) than any other office in any other city... the same services that are offered in a real life office should be available to the Second Life community, because there are real people facing real issues behind each and every avatar. The American Cancer Society recognizes that, and fully supports our volunteers in Second Life."

There was a festive atmosphere, with quirky Japanese-style lanterns lining the canal and the paths that people could light to honor a loved one who is facing cancer or who has passed on. And, importantly, the Tree of Hope and the Survivors Wall (this time, redesigned as a 'Walk') returned to the island!

Lanterns line the pathways and the Tree of Hope can be seen in the distance

Volunteer greeters were situated around the island to give tours and to explain the various activities that take place there.

Then we moved on to another kind of 'makeover'. Five survivors were nominated for an avatar fashion makeover, see: Trader1 Whiplash hosted a panel discussion on T1 Radio with the chosen survivors, who modelled their outfits later in the morning in the fashion show "Makeover Magic", along with their fashion mentors. The makeover program was sponsored by FACES, led by Aradia Dielli and Serenity Nerd, and with Cinders Vale responsible for the liaison between the survivors and the FACES team. The program was supported by a host of top flight designers who donated skins, outfits, hair, shoes, and jewelry for the makeovers.

Evus Alter, who was one of the survivor models, sent this note to the Makeover Magic team after the event: "To everyone who organized the event: You have no idea have much respect I have for each of you. All the talent, time, effort that you placed into it! Thank you. To my mentor, Scar, what a wonderful human being! To have someone, half way across the world, doing something so nice for a total stranger – truly touched me. To all my fellow survivors: I am so honored to have this connection to you."

For a list of the designers who took part see my next blog:

The ceremony finished with a wonderful firework display courtesy of Racerx Gullwing.

Jeff Montegut (Stingray 9798 Raymaker) Strategic Director of ACS in Second Life, addresses the audience and describes the new plans that ACS has for increasing access in SL to its RL support services

LadyKay Gable sets out down the catwalk and shows off her beautiful new look

Cinders Vale, a volunteer with ACS who coordinated the makeovers, relaxing after the show with one of the survivor models, Hylonome Quintessa