The following article features in Issue One of the ST BREAST magazine.
It was a few weeks before Christmas in 2008, when Rachael Lonergan found a lump sitting in the crease under her right breast. She wasn’t checking for anything in particular, just scratching an itchy spot. But that itch has saved her life.
After further investigation, Rachael was diagnosed with stage 2B triple negative breast cancer and underwent surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy over the following year.
At the same time, her sister Katherine was also undergoing cancer treatment. Katherine had been diagnosed more than 10 years earlier but had experienced an aggressive recurrence of synovial sarcoma. The family’s attention was focused on helping Katherine and her children manage their day-to-day life. While there was no shortage of people willing to help Rachael as well, she found taking people up on their offers of assistance difficult to accept.
“But then I had a lightbulb moment when, soon after a friend had gone home from a visit, I wanted to change my sheets,” Rachael recalls.
“But I couldn’t lift my arms and I realised that had I asked her to help, she would have. It’s awkward to admit you need help. I started thinking that there has to be a better way to connect people who want to help, with the tasks people need help with.”
So the advertising executive approached the conundrum as a strategist – clearly defining the problem before working through to a solution.
The result was CanDo, a software tool launched in early 2018. It is basically an app, which is free for patients to download and use. It’s functionality is broad. Inside the app, you can build a team, set and allocate tasks, diarise appointments and events, and update your personal ‘team’ on how you’re feeling and what you need from them.
“I wanted to make it okay to ask for help, but also wanted to provide a tool to manage all those offers of help that can otherwise feel a bit burdensome because now you have to give people a job to do,” Rachael says.
“Currently we have more than 3000 users and we grow by around 50 users every week. I get letters and emails from people from all walks of life and from all over the world, telling me they love the app or have recommended it to a friend.
“Lots of doctors have recommended it to their patients and I’m very grateful to say that CanDo is recommended by most patient support programs in the cancer sector.”
Rachael is working on a new offering from the CanDo platform, where organisations will be able to own a branded and customised care environment.
“It’s an exciting opportunity to bring CanDo to even more people and deliver more care. We see people getting all sorts of help from walking the dog, to making a meal, to helping with financial paperwork. And it’s all powered by the people who already know and love you, so it’s a fantastic validation of relationships. It’s a truly win-win proposition for patients, their carers and their medical teams.”
The CanDo app is available to download from both the Apple Appstore and Google Play.