Thrivor: the patient revolution

How a shock diagnosis lead to an innovation aimed at easing the physical and emotional burden for those living with cancer.

Justin McLean hates the words ‘cancer survivor’. He believes ‘sufferers’ deserve the opportunity to strive for more than that.  

The father of three was a fit and active 40-year-old in the prime of his corporate career, when a dirty C word changed everything: cancer.

His path that seemed so clear - suddenly felt out of his control and deeply unfair.

“I keep coming back to these two words, you don’t have a choice and you don’t have control,” says Justin. “It’s hugely disempowering experience.”

His determination to regain control of his health pushed him through a grueling 13 months of treatment. But with one battle behind him, another emerged. His mother was also diagnosed with cancer and died a year later.

Having lived through the emotional and physical turmoil as a sufferer and a carer, Justin was aghast that at such a deeply personal time, the patient experience felt so impersonal.

“I was shepherded into a system fragmented, technologically bereft and horribly inefficient to navigating these disconnected pillars,” says Justin. “It took an enormous amount of energy...oh, and did I mention I had cancer and was in a bit of pain?”

Justin saw an opportunity for what he calls a patient revolution. 

Thrivor – a play on that loathed word survivor – is an app Justin designed to help those living with cancer and their loved one manage the everyday aspects of life.
By inviting loved ones to join Thrivor, it sets up an online army of supporters. You can log, record and share medical appointments, how you are feeling, identify gaps in care and let people know how they can help.
“Even if it’s as simple as feeding the dog or picking up groceries, people want to help but may not know how,” says Justin.

It also helps connect the user with everyday services like transport, gardening, cleaning and babysitting.

Catherine Ross, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer three years ago, uses Thrivor to share important updates on her treatment. It also gives her permission and a platform to ask for help - something she finds hard to do.
“Cancer makes people really awkward and sometimes people go the other way and don’t even talk about it, so this platform makes it really normalized, and helps you share what you are going through,” she says.
“In a good way it’s a little bit businesslike, this is what needs to be done, this is what’s going on and this is the information,” says Catherine. “It also gives carers the feeling that they are part of the team and they are being helpful.”

Catherine wishes Thrivor was around when she was first diagnosed in 2014. 

“I think there are lots of gaps in our health care system, obviously the doctors and nurses care that’s why they are there but at the end of the day you can feel like a number and you can feel quite lonely and quite isolated from your friends because you feel quite different because of what you are going through,” she says.

“Anything that helps connect people, in this time, is a good thing.”

Bupa has partnered with Thrivor to offer members the opportunity to be part of a 3 month trial. Click here to find out more.
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