How YouTuber Technoblade’s death boosted sarcoma fundraising

By Andrew RogersBBC Newsbeat

grey placeholderYouTube A young man lies on his side in a hospital bed, one thumb up and the other above his head, pointing downwards. He's wearing a hospital gown and has an oxygen tube in his nose. Next to him on the bed is a gold helmet with a silver triangle stuck to the front.YouTube

Technoblade was just 23 years old when he died

The death of Minecraft YouTuber Technoblade two years ago devastated fans across the world.

Alex, to use his real name, was just 23 years old.

He’d been diagnosed with a sarcoma, a rare type of cancer that affects the bones and soft tissue, just a year earlier.

But his millions of followers and fellow big name YouTubers have picked up his legacy, going on to raise money for further research into the condition.

Charity Sarcoma UK tells BBC Newsbeat gamers getting behind the cause has helped to “revolutionise” its work.

Sarcomas are one of the rarer types of cancer, affecting just over 5,000 people each year, figures from the charity suggest.

About 400 of those are young people, such as Tom, from south-west London, who was diagnosed with an osteosarcoma two years ago.

The 21-year-old is a gamer himself and says that before Technoblade revealed his condition, he hadn’t heard of anyone famous with sarcoma.

“It’s good to know he got people talking about it,” says Tom.

grey placeholderTom Boczkowski  A young man with brown eyes smiles at a camera while wearing a blue denim shirtTom Boczkowski

Tom had to drop out of university when he got his diagnosis, but is now back studying again

When Technoblade revealed his cancer diagnosis in August 2021, he said he’d thought a pain in his arm was due to repetitive stress caused by gaming.

But when his arm swelled up he went to hospital, where doctors diagnosed him with cancer.

It mirrors Tom’s own experience, where a pain in his leg was initially put down to a physical injury.

“I didn’t have a massive lump, didn’t have any more symptoms, it was just hard to walk on,” he says.

Tom received a relatively new type of treatment developed thanks to new breakthroughs in cancer research.

But he says that his sarcoma was difficult to distinguish from a sports injury, and it was only when he was able to see a specialist that the true cause was revealed.

“It’s a difficult disease,” he says.

Lots of big streamers have been following in Technoblade’s footsteps, including TommyInnit – another huge Minecraft YouTuber with almost 15 million followers.

“Technoblade was an absolute legend in the Minecraft community and someone I really looked up to immensely,” he says.

“When he told us all about his sarcoma diagnosis, it was pretty devastating.

“Losing him has been really terrible, but it has also ignited a fierce determination within me to raise awareness and support the fight against sarcoma.”

Tommy is planning to raise cash for Sarcoma UK as part of the upcoming Jingle Jam fundraiser – a big charity event where streamers and their followers donate through telethon-style live feeds.

grey placeholderSarcoma UK A young man with blond curly hair wears a red and white t-shirt and folds his armsSarcoma UK

TommyInnit will be raising money for Sarcoma UK when he takes part in the next Jingle Jam charity event

Sarcoma UK’s boss Richard Davidson says the attention from the gaming community has turbo-charged what they’re able to do.

“Technoblade’s story really spoke to the impact that content creators and streaming can have in raising awareness,” he says.

Richard estimates that fundraising inspired by the YouTuber has raised about £1m – a massive amount for a relatively small charity like Sarcoma UK.

“Getting the gaming community on board has really revolutionised the work we can do and the research we can invest in,” he says.

He says it’s also been important to get the message out among a community he describes as “passionate, engaged and young”.

That’s because early detection is crucial when it comes to treating sarcomas.

“Early diagnosis – that’s key. You’re much more likely to have a successful outcome,” says Richard.

“People should be looking out for bumps, lumps, bone pain, and changes in bone pain.

“And any kind of changes like that, just go to your GP, get it checked out and put your mind at rest.”

grey placeholderEleni Dodds A woman who has lost her hair from cancer treatment smiles at the camera. She's wearing a green dress and has several gold earrings in her left ear. Behind her is a crowd that appears to be at some sort of dinner event.Eleni Dodds

Eleni says attending events to raise awareness has led to her making lifelong friends

It’s not just gamers getting the word out though.

Before her diagnosis, 20-year-old Eleni from Portsmouth had planned to join the Navy. Now she’s helping to advocate for young people with cancer.

Like Tom, she says her primary tumour in her shoulder was mistaken for a sports injury multiple times before she found out she had cancer.

“When I got the diagnosis, it was such a shock. So ever since I’ve been campaigning to spread awareness,” she tells Newsbeat.

She’s glad gamers have helped to raise the profile of the disease, and there’s another benefit beyond fundraising.

While it’s a “horrible thing to have in common”, Eleni says, speaking to young people like her has helped to make lifelong friends.

“It’s something really special and really important,” she says.

After six rounds of chemotherapy, Tom’s now in remission and works to raise awareness and funds for further research.

Like Eleni, he says knowing there are others out there in the same situation has helped him with his mental health.

“It’s really comforting to talk to other people who have gone through treatment,” he says.

“When I come out of sessions, talking to others, I just feel a lot better about it.

“And I would say to people who are struggling, to reach out to other patients because it’s helped me a lot. It really has.”

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