Holy Shit, My Friend Has Cancer is a resource for friends of young people experiencing cancer and other life-threatening conditions. We’ve been there, we know what’s up.

What's the story behind Holy Shit, My Friend Has Cancer?

At age 26, our friend Crystal was diagnosed with Stage IV Melanoma. Crystal was the best — a spunky redhead, independent and so much fun, Crystal was an awesome friend and coworker.

Crystal Ruth Bell

We helped her deal with ongoing treatments, set calendar reminders for her bucketloads of pills, and went out for burgers after every test result. Crystal passed away in August of 2014, and we miss her like crazy. Read more stories about Crystal

In the waiting room during one of Crystal’s last surgeries, Jess told Kira she wished there was a self-help book for what we were all going through. Kira figured they might as well write it, since no one else had. So we set to work on Holy Shit, My Friend Has Cancer. In the year following Crystal’s death, it helped us all cope, and we’re hoping it will help many others (at least until cancer is eradicated from the face of the earth).

Read the Handbook

Who created this site?

Well, we’re just a bunch of Crystal’s friends.

Kira met Crystal a few years ago in China, and started a nonprofit called China Residencies together to help artists do cool things out there. They lived a few blocks from each other in Brooklyn, rode bikes to concerts and art openings and just for the hell of it, came up with apps to make the world suck less, and went on all kinds of adventures. Crystal and Julie met while working for a cool nonprofit in New York called DoSomething.org. They were on the product design team together, built lots of beautiful stuff, drank green juice after green juice, and made Trello boards to manage their busy dating lives. Jess and Crystal met in college in Florida. They roomed together, partied together, and traveled together all over the world. They even got matching tattoos of paper airplanes.

There are a lot of people who helped out on this project. The talented Stacey Toseland designed and built this website. She was with us every step of the way and we owe her a big thanks. We had a few sharp editors, including Ysebelle Cheung, Ben Kassoy, and Priscilla McEver who fixed our grammar and gave great feedback. We had some pros check it out too, like Dr. Omar Ishaq and Dr. Anna Pavlick, who took great care of Crystal and are figuring out ways to rid the world of melanoma right this second, and Dr. Paulette Kauffman, who knows all of our secrets and helps us get better at life. Big ups to our parents (who told us we swear too much and probably won’t know what big ups means, but that’s ok). Thank you for all of your help.

Crystal had a million friends, and a lot of them contributed ideas, stories, and hugs too, including Jana Quigley, Fei Liu, Francis Tseng, Ani Simon-Kennedy, Ben Kassoy, Amos Posner, Kristen Prasetyo Utomo, Ben Bravery and many more. If you knew Crystal and would like to write a story, please send it over for us to include in this growing archive of tributes, tips, and memories.

Read More About Crystal Submit a Story


We’re not doctors, psychologists, or counselors. We’re not life-coaches, or your parents, or experts on cancer. We’re not here to tell you what to do, we’re just sharing what we went through, and what we think was helpful for Crystal and for us while dealing with cancer. Our hope is that what you read here helps you in some way, but remember to think for yourself and use your own judgment! And always, if you’re experiencing a medical emergency, don’t google it or rely on what we've said here, call 911.